It is important all throughout your life to ensure you are getting the right balance of vitamins and minerals through a healthy diet, whether you are young or old. As you get older, your body’s dietary requirements change. You may need more of some minerals and to consume fewer calories, as well as exercise, to limit any possible weight gain and muscle loss.
There are many things to consider when looking at your diet as you get older, including: reducing your salt intake, drinking more water, increasing your fibre intake, and increasing vitamin D and C, and minerals calcium, zinc and iron.
Salt is found in many everyday foods like meats, eggs, milk and some vegetables, and if you are consuming a range of these foods, you should be consuming enough through your diet without the need to include extra salt as seasoning. Too much salt in your diet, over time, will increase your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease; it is important, therefore, to monitor your intake of salt.
Hydration levels are also important and as you get older you may not feel thirsty. However, your need for water remains the same, and it is important for you to continue to drink eight glasses of water per day.
Fibre is not consumed enough in our daily diets, leading to poor intestinal health and constipation. Including high fibre foods like wholegrain cereals and breads, fruits and beans/legumes, will make a massive difference to your diet. You must remember to keep up your fluid intake when increasing fibre in your diet.
Calcium is the most important mineral you need to increase as you get older. This is to prevent the onset of osteoporosis, a disease of the bones. Foods high in calcium are: milk, yoghurt, cheese, dark green leafy vegetables, and some fishes. Vitamin D also plays an important role in helping the body to absorb calcium into the bones and the best way to obtain vitamin D is by getting out in the sunshine.
Some other minerals become more important to your body as you age. Iron, for example, helps to keep your blood healthy. Low iron levels (anaemia), can arise due to poor absorption via the intestines, or some medication, and you may require vitamin C to assist in the absorption. Zinc is another important mineral, which maintains your sense of taste and helps your body to heal wounds. Rich sources of zinc include meats, shellfish, wholemeal breads and pulses.
The best way to ensure that you are getting enough vitamins and minerals in your diet is to consume a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, numerous types of proteins and dairy, and cereals and breads, and to limit the amount of processed sweets and savoury foods. Having regular checkups with your doctor and staying physically active will also ensure you are looking after your body as you get older.