March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
Eating right and staying fit are important no matter what your age. As we get older our bodies have different needs, so certain nutrients become especially important for good health.
Calcium and Vitamin D
Older adults need more calcium and vitamin D to help maintain bone health. Have three servings of vitamin D-fortified low-fat or fat-free milk or yogurt each day. Other calcium-rich foods include fortified cereals and fruit juices, dark green leafy vegetables and canned fish with soft bones. If you take a calcium supplement or multivitamin, choose one that contains vitamin D.
Many people older than 50 do not get enough vitamin B12. Fortified cereal, lean meat and some fish and seafood are sources of vitamin B12. Ask your doctor or a registered dietitian nutritionist if you need a vitamin B12 supplement.
Eat more fiber-rich foods to stay regular. Fiber also can help lower your risk for heart disease, control your weight and prevent Type 2 diabetes. Eat whole-grain breads and cereals, and more beans and peas — along with fruits and vegetables which also provide fiber.
Increasing potassium along with reducing sodium (salt) may lower your risk of high blood pressure. Fruits, vegetables and low-fat or fat-free milk and yogurt are good sources of potassium. Also, select and prepare foods with little or no added salt.
Know Your Fats
Foods that are low in saturated fats and trans fat help reduce your risk of heart disease. Most of the fats you eat should be polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Check the Nutrition Facts panel on food labels for total fat and saturated fat.