If you don’t take care of your body now, how can you expect your body to take care of you when you get older? As we get older, our bodies will need more vitamins and nutrients in order to sustain ourselves. And adequate nutrition may be overlooked as other major health issues might surface, like heart disease, surgery, or cognitive decline. Consuming the right amount of different vitamins and nutrients can ensure that, as you get older, your body will be functioning at an optimal level.
And according to functional medicine dietitian, Miriam Jacobson, MS, RD, CNS, CDN, there are a few vitamins and nutrients the elderly especially need to stay healthy but might not get enough of:
1. Protein – When you hit about 50-60 years old you’re more at risk at protein deficiency. And that’s because stomachs don’t have enough acid to break down the protein. Protein helps build muscle tissue and different amino acids are responsible for repairing and maintain other bodily functions. For example, glutamine is an essential amino acid that helps the body heal faster and improve immunity. Glutamine’s necessity increases should you have surgery as it will help the body recover. To make up for any protein deficiencies, make sure to have one protein with a meal, whether it’s liquid (e.g. protein shakes,) veggie or legume (e.g. dark leafy greens or black beans,) or meat-based.
2. Vitamin D/Calcium – these two vitamins work together to keep bones strong. Deficiency in either of these vitamins can result in osteoporosis or osteoarthritis, which is the weakening of bones and the inflammation of the tendons and ligaments holding the bones together. A few minutes of exposure to natural sunlight can help increase your Vitamin D levels but be sure not to stay out for too long as too much sun is not good for your skin and could lead to cancer! Dairy foods like yogurt, cheese, and milk (including plant or nut milk like from soy or almonds,) are great sources of calcium.
3. Vitamin C – Vitamin C, also known as absorbic acid, is one of the best vitamins to augment your immune system. Citric fruits like limes, lemons, and oranges are excellent sources of this vitamin in additional to supplements. A strong immune system means less sick days!
4. Vitamin B12/Folate – These vitamins work in tandem. They are not as well known as the other vitamins, but are vital for keeping our senses sharp and our response time quick. Folate assists with cell repair and cell growth. Vitamin B12 protects nerve endings and helps maintains the myelin sheath. The myelin sheath is the fatty tissue our nervous system uses to eases friction and allows fast travel of message transmission. This ensures that our automatic reflexes are in tip-top shape. So if we accidently touch a hot pan, our body can sense that pain in milliseconds and react accordingly. Fatty fish like salmon are an excellent source of these vitamins.