4. Omega 3
Some studies have linked omega-3 fatty acids, found in foods like fish and flaxseed, to improved brain health. In addition, some research in middle-aged and older adults has shown that omega-3s may have benefits for heart health, “in terms of triglycerides or lipids and possibly with a slight reduction in cardiovascular disease risk,” says Sesso. This may be beneficial, since heart disease remains the leading cause of death in American adults and is more common in people over 65 years of age.
explains Marissa Moore, registered dietitian and author Plant Love Kitchen.
How to get enough: After the age of 50, men should consume 1.6 grams per day and women 1.1 grams per day. Levine suggests getting this with salmon, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, or anchovies. “If someone eats fish, three or four times a week, they are probably getting enough, unless a doctor has done a blood test and noticed elevated triglycerides or there is some other reason to take omega-3 supplements on a regular basis,” Pouya Shvipur, MD, MD Family and Obesity is board certified, from Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica.
If you are taking an omega-3 supplement, be sure to ask your doctor for the exact dose you should be taking, as taking too much of the supplement can cause side effects. “Omega-3 supplements thin the blood,” says Schfebauer. “So if someone is at risk of falling and bruising, or if they are on blood thinners due to heart problems or for stroke prevention, we have to make sure they don’t overload, because they could lose a lot.” [and] Then it can increase the risk of bleeding.”
“Most of us get about half of the recommended amount of fiber each day,” says Amy Fox, a registered dietitian and founder of the Food & Mood Lab. “As we age, our digestive system slows down, which can lead to constipation and weight gain,” she says. Fiber can keep you regular and comes with additional health benefits, such as a reduced risk of diabetes and some types of cancer. Fox adds that one of the greatest benefits of fiber is related to cardiovascular health. Several studies have found that people who eat the most fiber have a lower risk of heart disease. “Eating large amounts of fiber — especially soluble fiber, the type that dissolves in water and includes plant-based pectin and gums — appears to protect against many heart-related problems,” explains Fox.
How to get enough: The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that women over 50 consume about 22 grams per day and 28 grams for men. Half a cup of bran cereal contains about 10 grams. Additional sources are legumes (1/2 cup cooked has 7 to 8 grams) and fruits such as apples (1 apple has 4.8 grams) and berries (1 cup has 8 grams). Nuts, seeds, and vegetables, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and sweet potatoes, are also great sources.
6. Vitamin D
“Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin because our bodies can produce it when exposed to sunlight,” says Kaur. But spending less time outdoors or wearing clothing that covers more skin can make it harder for older adults to get enough vitamin D from the sun alone. This difficulty is compounded by the fact that adults over the age of 65 are most likely to develop skin cancer.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which is especially important as we age because it’s needed to maintain strong, healthy bones. It is also important in fracture healing and possibly metabolic function.
How to get enough: This nutrient is found in some foods, such as salmon, tuna, and other fatty fish. However, Schfebauer points out that adequate amounts cannot be easily obtained through diet alone.
“Some foods high in calcium are supplemented with vitamin D to increase calcium absorption, so adults over 50 should include foods like fortified dairy milk or fortified plant-based dairy alternatives to get more vitamin D,” says Kaur. Adults up to age 70 need 600 IU of vitamin D daily, and people 71 and older need 800 IU, according to the National Institutes of Health. One 3-ounce serving of salmon provides about 450 IU of vitamin D, and a cup of whole milk contains approximately 120 IU. To get enough vitamin D through food, adults should aim to eat four servings of dairy products per day, and include fatty fish twice a week or more, Kaur explains.
Many people, especially the elderly, are deficient in Vitamin D. [they are] Supplementing with D3, and even those supplements usually don’t maintain optimal levels,” says McClain. It’s a good idea to have your levels checked by your doctor, who can advise on foods to eat or supplements to help you get to an appropriate daily level.