Food provides us with the nutrients we need to grow, develop, and repair cells and tissues. Food gives us energy for physical activity and fuels the body’s metabolic processes. Food acts similarly in all of us, but depending on our age (among other things), our nutrient requirements will differ.
Does the food you eat help you to be healthier and more vibrant at your age?
Does it also aid in your future well-being?
What you eat is an important part in achieving longevity and a good quality of life.
Everyone needs a certain amount of protein, carbs, and fat, as well as specific amounts of vitamins and minerals to help us have optimal health, but our dietary needs vary as we grow up. For example, a toddler has different needs to that of an adolescent. A deficiency in the trace mineral iron in children 6-24 month old can have drastic effects on brain growth and cognitive and motor skills development.
The growth spurts experienced by adolescents require other supportive nutrients. If in your teens you didn’t get the nutrients that your body required to grow and develop, you would suffer physical, reproductive, and cognitive problems. Did you know that approximately half of our bone mass is developed during this time? A calcium deficiency during this period in our lives would adversely affect our bone development and put us at risk for bone fractures and osteoporosis in adulthood.What you eat is an important part in achieving longevity and a good quality of life. Click To Tweet
So what to eat for your age?
Here are some key nutritional needs for the aging individual and where you can find them naturally. This isn’t an exhaustive list nor does it account for the particular needs of special populations. Consult your doctor for individualized nutrient, vitamin, and mineral recommendations to enjoy longevity and well-being. I provide non-medical food and intuitive eating guidance as a Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist and Life-Coach.
Calcium is for strong bones. Maximum bone mass is attained at the age of 30, this is where bone tissues are readily formed more so than lost. After this age, bone mass is lost more quickly than formed. If your peak bone mass is low, you will have lesser bone tissues to deplete and thus, can result in the risk of osteoporosis. Calcium may contribute in the prevention of colon and breast cancer, helps with weight control, and reduces the development of kidney stones. Calcium is readily found in milk and cheeses from grass-fed cows, and green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, collard greens, broccoli, and okra.
The protein collagen is a main building block to bones, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and your skin. As you age, these body tissues can deteriorate, stiffen, and breakdown. Eat collagen and protein rich foods to support healthy skin and bones. The best source of collagen is from other animals — preferably bone broth made from grass-fed beef and pasture-raised chicken bones.
Chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine
Chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine are natural elements found in connective tissue. As you age, your body’s ability to make these substances lessen. A body lacking in these nutrients may suffer joint pain and stiffness, arthritis, and osteoporosis. You can find chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine naturally in bone broth, but many choose to take supplements to meet their needs.
Folic acid is one of the B vitamins. B vitamins help facilitate metabolic reactions that release energy and so taking your B vitamins can help you have more energy. A common misconception is that B vitamins themselves provide energy, but that isn’t true. Folic Acid is a form of folate and aids in DNA synthesis, cell growth, and amino acid metabolism. For adults, a combination of folic acid and B12 may prevent cardiovascular disease and strokes. Folic acid can be found naturally in dark leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, orange juice, sunflower seeds, legumes, and liver. Folic acid is vulnerable to cooking and can destroy up to 90% of a foods folate and so it’s best to eat these veggies raw or with minimal cooking.
Lipoic acid is essential in certain biological activity. Think of it as a “helper molecule.” It aids in specific enzymatic processes that keep us balanced and healthy. A recent study published in the Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications journal by the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University implies lipoic acid may reset and synchronize our circadian rhythms, or “biological clock.” As you age, your circadian rhythm can “breakdown” which may interfere with your energy levels, body temperature, sleep cycle, blood pressure, hormone secretions, digestive secretions, and reaction times. Lipoic acid can be found in most foods, but slightly higher in organ meats and green leafy vegetables like broccoli and spinach. The amount of naturally occurring lipoic acid in food is minimal and so some may choose to use supplements.
Magnesium is a mineral that aids in strong bones, heart health, and protein synthesis. Magnesium partakes in over 300 enzymatic processes in your body and is essential for the production of ATP — “the universal energy source for all cells.” After your 30’s it’s recommended to increase your magnesium intake. A deficiency of magnesium in the body will halt cellular activity. Magnesium is everywhere in food so there shouldn’t be a need to use a supplement. It’s found in vegetables, legumes, tofu, and seafood. Chocolate also has magnesium. 😉
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids improves blood circulation, lowers blood pressure, lowers triglycerides, and raises high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels (HDL “the good cholesterol”) to help prevent cardiovascular disease. It may also help with improving mental function and reducing chances of Alzheimer disease. You can find omega-3 fatty acids in fish such as salmon, mackerel, and shrimp. It’s also found in vegetable oils with the best sources from walnut and flax-seed oil.
Potassium helps regulate blood pressure, plays a part in muscle contractions, and nerve impulse transmissions. Potassium and sodium work together to help body water distribution and blood pressure. Many adults who suffer from hypertension may prevent or reduce hypertension by having a balanced potassium and sodium intake. You can find potassium naturally in potatoes, spinach, watermelon, bananas, meat, milk, and tea.
Vitamin A aids in vision, healthy bones, and skin. It also helps growth, reproduction, and immunity. A deficiency in vitamin A can affect vision and numerous body functions. Vitamin A is part of your first-line of defense against bacterial and viral attacks. Most Vitamin A comes from eating animal foods. Fish-oil and fortified milk are the most common sources. Other good sources are dark green and yellow/orange vegetables and fruits.
Vitamin D is made in your body from exposure to the sun and if you spend enough time in the sun, you don’t need to supplement. Vitamin D is essential to bone health, reduces cancer risk, and heart disease. A vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteoporosis and osteomalacia (soft bones). Recommendations for vitamin D increase as you get older and since getting enough sunlight may not be possible due to weather, work, or geography, your doctor may recommend a supplement. Other than the sun, vitamin D can be found in fortified milk, fish oils, sardine, salmon, egg yolks, and butter.
Inspire Youthful advocates intuitive eating — listening to your body’s distinct dietary wants and needs. Barring any negative triggers, emotional traumas, and medical conditions that may affect how your body “talks” to you — learning to listen to your body and following through with her guidance will lead you to optimum health. We also promote getting most, if not all your nutrient needs from organic whole foods, grass-fed and pasture raised meats and dairy, and other natural sources and using supplements as a last resort.
Are you eating for your activity level?
Foods are not created equal and what they provide in nutrients and energy can vary widely. Foods can be classified as being nutrient or energy dense. Foods that are nutrient dense means exactly that — they have a lot to offer in regards to vitamins, minerals, and so forth. Energy dense foods supply you with more energy than nutrient dense foods and generally, are lacking in nutrients.
The best sources for nutrient dense foods are organic whole foods, grass-fed and pasture raised meats and dairy, and wild fish. The best source for energy dense foods that also offer some nutrients are starchy vegetables. The most common sources of high energy dense foods are processed and fast food options.
Why is this important to the aging body?
As your body ages, the ratio of nutrient to energy dense foods you consume will determine if you gain unnecessary weight, become predisposed to illness and disease, and are able to enjoy a good quality of life.
Your daily activity is different now than it was five, ten, or twenty years ago. Heck, for some, it may be different from 6 months ago! For most, aging leads to a slowdown in activity. Therefore, a decrease in energy dense food consumption should accompany this change so you don’t consume excess energy which turns into fat and can bring about illness and disease.
To the ageless lifestyle enthusiast, there may not be a slowdown in activity. Speaking for myself, I’m more active in my forties than I ever was during my teens or twenties. So for individuals like me (us — hint, hint), who are vigorously participating in this wonderful thing called life, finding a balance of nutrient and energy dense foods is integral. My go-to choices for energy dense foods are rice, sweet-potatoes, and a combination of some whole grain and gluten-free breads and pastas. I try not to eat too much gluten because intuitively I know it’s not good for me, but in small quantities I do OK. (You know me — 80/20 baby!) My choices for nutrient dense foods are organic whole foods, pasture-raised chicken, and wild-caught fish when available.
Simply stated — eat for your age, choose quality foods, consume just enough, and move more often. 😉
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If you need help supporting your ageless body, check out my life-coaching services.
Get in-depth with the sources:
Adolescent nutrients: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/life-stages/adolescents
Chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine: http://www.crnusa.org/pdfs/CRN_GlucosamineChondroitin1105.pdf
All other vitamin information: Nutrition: Custom Edition, 4th Edition by Paul Insel, Don Ross, Kimberly McMahon, Melissa Bernstein
Featured photo courtesy of stockimages and freedigitalphotos.net