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Make the Most of Food
Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD
It’s a fact: You need fewer calories with age, yet the suggested intakes for certain vitamin and minerals increase. Here’s how to make smarter choices to get the most out of summertime eating, and the most out of life.
Take Advantage of Summer Foods
Nutrient-rich fare, such as tomatoes, melon, and berries, offer the biggest bang for your caloric buck because they supply substantial amounts of nutrients for relatively few calories. In addition to vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients to support energy levels and overall wellness, produce is packed with water to hydrate you for warm weather fun.
Including summer’s bounty of fruits and vegetables at every meal may promote longevity. A recent American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2013/06/26/ajcn.112.056119.abstract) study found that in people ages 45 to 83, eating five servings of fruits and vegetables daily was linked to living longer than eating less produce.
Delve Into Dairy
MyPlate, the government’s guide to healthy eating, suggests eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods, including fat-free milk and yogurt, every day. Dairy products provide protein, calcium, and vitamin D for strong bones that allow you to be as active as you’d like.
Calcium needs increase to 1,200 milligrams a day – the equivalent of nearly four servings of dairy foods – in women over 50. Women who don’t drink enough milk or eat adequate amounts of other calcium-rich foods should consider taking a calcium supplement with vitamin D to support bone health.*
What about that summertime staple, ice cream? Ice cream contributes to your calcium quotas, but it’s not a particularly nutrient-rich food. While it provides protein and calcium, ice cream comes with a relatively high calorie price tag because it has fat and added sugar. You’d need to eat a lot more ice cream than low-fat yogurt to get the nutrients your bones need.
Mind Your B Vitamins
Aging increases the suggested intake for vitamin B6, a nutrient that supports heart health‡‡, energy levels, the brain, and your nervous system.*
Animal foods, including salmon and pork tenderloin, are among the richest natural sources of vitamin B6. Vegans, and those who skimp on animal foods may need the amount of vitamin B6 found in a multivitamin to fill in gaps in their diets. The same goes for vitamin B12; it’s also found naturally only in animal products.
While vitamin B12 needs do not change after age 50, the way your body processes vitamin B12 is altered with age. Many older people are unable to use the vitamin B12 found naturally in foods. For that reason, health experts recommend that most of your vitamin B12 intake be supplied by fortified foods, such as breakfast cereal, or dietary supplements. The synthetic form of vitamin B12 added to foods and supplements is readily available to the body to help you feel your best.