This is the fourth and final part in a series of guest posts by Elizabeth Somer, MA, a registered dietician and the author of nine books including Food & Mood: The Complete Guide to Eating Well and Feeling Your Best. She is also the spokesperson for 8th Continent Complete Soymilk.
Elizabeth has carved a unique professional niche as an expert on nutrition research who can relay technical information in a fun way to the general public. I’ve learned so much from her over the past few months. Previous posts addressed your best diet at 20 , at 30, and at 40. Today she speaks to the unique needs and challenges of women over 50.
The 50s and Beyond: Vitamin B12, Antioxidants, and Anti-Aging
The sooner you start to prevent aging, the better. But it’s never too late. Older women are less efficient at absorbing certain nutrients, yet have all the same requirements, if not more, of their younger years.
1) Vitamin B12: This B vitamin is very important in protecting your memory and nervous system function, yet people are less efficient at absorbing vitamin B12 as they age. That’s because you need stomach acid to absorb B12 and people often make less and less stomach acid as they age. Or, they take acid-blocking medications to curb symptoms of heartburn. Several studies report memory loss and even a few cases of dementia that were reversed or improved when people increased their vitamin B12 status. B12 also helps cut heart disease risk, since it lowers a compound in the blood, called homocysteine, that otherwise increases the risk for heart disease.
What to do: Boost intake of B12-rich foods such as chicken breast, black beans and bananas.
2) Antioxidants: Most of the age-related diseases (from heart disease and cancer to cataracts and memory loss, even premature wrinkling of the skin) are a result, at least in part, of exposure to highly reactive oxygen fragments called free radicals. Luckily, our bodies have an anti-free radical system, called the antioxidants. Hundreds of studies, spanning decades of research show that people who maintain a strong antioxidant arsenal are the ones least likely to face these health conditions. Eating these foods is critical throughout life, but especially by your 60s, because the damage from free radicals escalates as we age.
Antioxidant-rich foods are the most colorful fruits and vegetables, from mangos, blueberries, and papaya to carrots, sweet potatoes, and broccoli. These are packed with antioxidant vitamins, as well as the 12,000 phytonutrients. Hot-off-the-press new research is even showing that the phytonutrients in colorful produce may affect, in a good way, your DNA, the genetics within your cells. So, even if you have a family history of heart disease or high blood pressure, you are less likely that those genes will be switched on if you are eating lots of colorful produce!
What to do: 8 to 10 servings a day, please! That means 2 colorful veggies (carrots, sweet potatoes, oranges, kiwi, asparagus and strawberries) at every meal and at least one at every snack. But, it doesn’t mean 2 different ones. You can just double a serving to meet that quota.
3) Osteoporosis: Most people know that calcium is important for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, but many don’t realize that if they don’t get enough vitamin D, they won’t absorb that calcium, so they remain at high risk for osteoporosis. Women manufacture less vitamin D as they age, so dietary sources are increasingly more important.
What to do: Include lots of Heritage Foods Organic nonfat milk and 8th Continent Complete fortified soymilk with fiber, calcium and omega-3 DHA. Important FYI – yogurt and other dairy foods are poor sources of vitamin D.
Want to learn more? This week you can win one of two copies of Elizabeth’s book, Food and Mood: The Complete Guide to Eating Well and Feeling Your Best. Details are here.