Turning 50 doesn’t mean you have to slow down, but now is the time to maximize nutrition. Here are the top five nutrients for men over 50 and how to include them daily.
1. Vitamin B12 for energy
Vitamin B12 helps you harness energy from proteins and fats in food and produce red blood cells that carry oxygen to working cells and muscles. The suggested intake of vitamin B12 does not change after age 50, but age alters the way your body processes it.
Naturally occurring vitamin B12 uses stomach acid to facilitate absorption. Still, stomach acid production declines with age, putting many older adults at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency, leading to nerve damage that could delay it.
After age 50, try to get most of your vitamin B12 from multivitamins and fortified foods, which use a synthetic form of the vitamin that doesn’t require stomach acid for absorption.
2. Calcium to strengthen bones
When you think of calcium, osteoporosis, a condition that makes bones more prone to fractures, comes to mind. And when you think of osteoporosis, you may think of it as a woman’s disease. That’s not quite true. While women lose bone mass rapidly at age 50, by age 65 or 70, men and women are losing bone mass at the same rate, and calcium absorption decreases in both sexes. To support bone health, get the suggested 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily, about the amount found in three servings of dairy foods. If you do not consume enough calcium-rich foods, consider taking a multivitamin to reach the suggested daily intake.
3. Vitamin D helps absorb calcium
Vitamin D aids in the body’s absorption of calcium, oversees the movement of calcium in and out of the bones and is similarly involved in skeletal muscle health.
The body can produce vitamin D when the skin is exposed to intense summer sunlight. However, many people avoid the sun due to skin cancer and premature skin wrinkling concerns. Also, the older you get, the less efficient your skin becomes at helping to produce vitamin D. You need 15 mcg of vitamin D a day if you are over 70 as your vitamin D needs increase.
Some foods with vitamin D include salmon, tuna, and fortified eggs. Many people do not get enough vitamin D from foods and rely on multivitamins to make up the rest.
4. Vitamin B6 aids in the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins
Vitamin B6 helps keep the heart working and facilitates the release of glucose (fuel for cells) from the liver and muscles so you can stay active. Vitamin B6 needs to increase slightly after age 50 (from 1.3 mg to 1.7 mg)3. Salmon is rich in vitamin B6, and other sources of vitamin B6 include fortified breakfast cereals, potatoes, bananas, and pork.
5. Fiber for digestion
Fiber helps keep your digestive system running smoothly. Dietary fiber falls into two categories: natural fibers that are “intrinsic and intact” in plants and synthesized or isolated non-digestible soluble and insoluble carbohydrates.
The natural fiber in foods can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and obesity. Fiber also provides a feeling of satiety, which may help with weight control.
Men over the age of 50 should aim to consume 28 grams of dietary fiber every day. To meet the suggested fiber intake, include at least five servings of fruits and vegetables and at least three servings of whole grains in your eating plan.
Foods that are naturally high in fiber also provide many other nutrients, including carbohydrates for energy, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, and protective compounds from plants.
A well-balanced diet goes a long way toward maintaining longevity, and healthy aging also involves maintaining an active lifestyle. Seek out and participate in activities you enjoy, such as golf, swimming, tennis, gym, or home workouts.
Physical health is a valuable factor in health outcomes, but mental health should not take a back seat. Make an effort to be sociable, maintain a positive attitude and keep your perspective. Instead of being afraid of aging, we should celebrate it. If you approach it with a healthy mindset, you can improve your longevity and quality of life.
Elizabeth Ward, M.S., R.D., is a writer and nutrition consultant specializing in family nutrition, women’s health, and weight management.