Nutritionists and other medical professionals often worry about the nutrition of growing children or seniors over 65.
Most people realize that young children need all the building blocks that good nutrition brings so that they can grow and develop. Aging seniors also need good nutrition to fight chronic diseases, stay healthy and prevent functional decline as they age in place.
But what about adults who are over 50 but not yet 65? Are they being overlooked by the experts?
Research has shown that this age group can prevent chronic diseases associated with aging with good nutrition. It has also found that there are specific nutritional deficits shared by people in this age group.
The life expectancy average for Americans is 78 years, so it is important that adults who are 50 years old and above can and should be filling gaps in their nutritional intake to help them face the years to come from a position of strength.
What is a Nutritional Gap?
A gap in nutrition occurs when our daily diets are unbalanced in overall essential nutrients meaning we eat fewer nutrients than our bodies need each day.
Our bodies require macro- and micro-nutrients such as protein, carbohydrate, fats, water, vitamins, and minerals to function at their peak, provide energy, build tissue, strengthen immunity, and restore cells (heal).
We need to eat foods that will provide our bodies with a balance of all nutrients. When we eat only certain types of foods, eliminate food groups or avoid specific foods, we could be missing essential nutrients.
Essential nutrients can’t be manufactured by your body and their deficit will lead to medical conditions that those over 50 (or any age) will not be welcome.
But we can fill these gaps when we are aware of the nutrients that might be lacking and find foods to meet these essential needs.
Nutrients of Concern Over 50
A recent report from the NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination) Survey indicates that for adults aged 51-70, the nutrients of concern that are most found to be deficient include:
When we skip meals especially breakfast, skip the recommended number of fruits and vegetable servings needed each day, eat out more than you eat in, limit a variety of food groups to avoid increasing weight or to help you lose weight or to restrict whole classes of foods all lead to shortfalls in our essential nutrient intake.
Tips to Fill the Gaps
The nutrients of concern detailed in the graph above can be found in a variety of different foods. Including them will help you stay healthy.
Those over 50 should be finding ways to incorporate some of these foods into their daily routine to avoid health complications in the future.
Vitamin C is used to make collagen in the skin, wound healing, repairing bones and tissues. Inadequate intake can lead to scurvy.
The best source of Vitamin C is in fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C levels can be diminished with cooking. Several types of foods have been fortified with Vitamin C.
Vitamin A promotes good vision, builds skeletal and soft tissue, mucus membranes and skin; is an antioxidant. Night blindness, corneal damage and dry skin can result from too little Vitamin A.
Food sources include orange and yellow colored fruits and vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots and cantaloupe as well as spinach, beef liver, eggs, fortified cereals and cod liver oil.
Magnesium is important for bone building and is needed for nerve transmission, muscle contraction, energy, coagulation, and cell formation.
Using a magnesium supplement has not been recommended by most health experts but you can get this mineral in fruits and vegetables such as bananas, avocadoes, dark green leafy vegetables, nuts like almonds, peas and beans, whole grain foods, soy products like tofu, and milk.
Calcium is essential to bone building (prevent osteoporosis and fractures), keeps teeth strong; role in nerves, blood clotting and muscles, and helps keep a normal heartbeat.
Calcium can be found in diary products like milk, yogurt, cheese and buttermilk. (Low fat versions do not contain less calcium) You need vitamin D to help use calcium so be sure your supplement contains both. Other foods with calcium include green leafy vegetables like broccoli, kale, collards, bok choy or turnip greens; salmon and sardines with their soft bones, almonds, dried beans, sunflower seeds, molasses.
Calcium is also added to other food products such as orange juice, cereal, and breads.
Vitamin E is needed for antioxidant support protecting cells and the skin, bone building, red blood cell formation and immunity. Anemia can occur when intake of Vitamin E is too low.
Food sources include vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, and fortified foods such as cereal and juice.
Vitamin D is needed for both bone and heart health, as well as immune health. It helps maintain calcium and phosphorus in the blood.
Vitamin D is made by the body after exposure to the sun but as we get older, this process slows down, meaning it is more important to get the necessary foods in our diet to protect our bones.
Milk is fortified with Vitamin D as are some other foods like cereal and yogurt and is therefore a good source in addition to fatty fish like salmon and tuna. Smaller amounts of Vitamin D can be found in egg yolks, beef liver, and cheese.
Learn About Individual Needs
Sometimes older adults may have difficulty eating enough of the foods required to fully meet nutritional needs and may require a nutritional supplement such as a Vitamin D/Calcium tablet.
Be sure to discuss this with your doctor or seek out the advice of a registered dietitian to see if your diet will help you meet your bodies need for essential nutrients depending on your particular medical and physical concerns.
Time for a green leafy salad with some almonds, carrots, avocados and shredded cheese drizzled with a vegetable oil vinaigrette! We got this!