Which Supplements Should You Take After Age 50?
By Rebecca Chopin
With age comes change. And with change comes challenge. Just when you thought you’d mastered good nutrition,eating a healthy breakfast, cutting back on unhealthy fats, switching from coffee to green tea,you’re told your diet needs another overhaul. Now that you’re over 50,
Certain nutrients become more important, while others shouldn’t be consumed in excess. Add to this the fact that you may not be eating as much as you used to,and figuring out what to put on your plate can become a problem.
One of the most popular solutions for covering gaps in nutrient intake, at any age, is to take a multivitamin. In fact, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of American adults take dietary supplements, with multivitamins being the most commonly used type. While they’re a great start, especially when your diet isn’t optimal, multivitamins aren’t the only supplements that can supply nutritional support later in life.
Most typical “once-daily” formulas provide at least the recommended Daily Value for some essential nutrients. But, as hard as manufacturers try, it’s impossible to condense everything into a single, convenient capsule. To get what you need, focus on diet first,then consider adding the following supplement formulas to your regimen:
Why it’s important: Well-known for its role in maintaining healthy bones and teeth, calcium is also needed for proper function of the heart, nerves and muscles. Over time, the body becomes less efficient at absorbing and utilizing this essential mineral, and increased amounts are recommended, especially for postmenopausal women. The number increases from 1,000 mg to 1,200 mg daily for women over age 50 and for men over age 70.
How to get more: Calcium is plentiful in dairy foods, such as milk, cheese and yogurt, but it can also be found in plant-based and fortified foods, from broccoli and baked beans to orange juice and breakfast cereal. When getting enough through diet is difficult, many people opt for calcium supplements. The most widely available and least expensive kind is calcium carbonate; however, it can cause side effects including bloating, gas and constipation. Calcium citrate is often better tolerated and can be taken with or without food.
Helpful to know: Adequate vitamin D levels are necessary for proper calcium absorption, so many formulas feature a combination of these two nutrients. Be sure to always take calcium in divided doses throughout the day for best results.
Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
Why they’re important: Essential fatty acids, sometimes called “good fats,” are compounds the body needs for health but can’t make on its own. The National Institutes of Health notes that these nutrients have been linked to cardiovascular health and may benefit other areas of concern to aging individuals, from joint comfort to healthy cognitive function. Although there isn’t a recommended daily value for omega-3s, the American Heart Association advises eating at least two servings of omega-3-rich fish weekly for heart health.
How to get more: Coldwater fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines are the best source of omega-3s, supplying two of the most studied types: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). You can also get them from dark green leafy vegetables, flaxseed, walnuts and some vegetable oils, as these foods provide alpha linolenic acid, (ALA), which is converted to EPA and DHA in the body. For consistent amounts, in purified form, take an omega-3 fish oil supplement.
Helpful to know: Fish oil is available in softgel or liquid form. Look for three parts EPA to two parts DHA, which is the ratio some research has suggested is most beneficial.
Why it’s important: You hear it all the time: You need more fiber. The National Fiber Council reports that only 10 percent of American adults get the daily recommended amount of 32 grams a day. So even though needs don’t increase with age (they actually decrease slightly when you reach age 50, down to 30 grams for men and 21 grams for women), chances are you could use more than your diet provides. Fiber supports healthy digestion, weight maintenance and, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), can reduce the risk of heart disease when combined with a healthy diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
How to get more: Fiber is found exclusively in plant foods’fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts and whole grains. Eating whole foods is the ideal way to increase fiber intake, but fiber supplements can also help you squeeze in extra grams. They come in capsule form or powders that can be easily mixed into water or juice.
Helpful to know: If you try to increase fiber intake too quickly, you’re likely to experience cramping and gas. Add additional fiber to your diet over a period of two to three weeks, and drink plenty of water to help lessen side effects.
Why they’re important: Similar to beneficial bacteria found naturally in the body, probiotics are live microorganisms available in some foods and as supplements. Natural bacteria colonies play a part in digestion and immune health, helping with the breakdown of foods, nutrient absorption and crowding out “bad” bacteria that can harm health. It’s well-known that taking antibiotic medication can deplete levels of healthy bacteria in the body; but most people aren’t aware that aging also negatively affects the balance.
How to get more: Eating foods such as yogurt, kefir (fermented milk), tempeh and miso provides probiotics; but for sufficient amounts, supplements are generally recommended. Look for products that clearly specify the number of microorganisms (colony forming units, or CFUs) per serving, as well the names of the featured strains. Different types of probiotics offer different benefits, so do some research to find out which ones are right for your needs.
Helpful to know: A superior probiotic supplement will contain “prebiotics,” which are indigestible plant fibers that serve as a source of nourishment for bacteria colonies, further promoting healthy levels in the body.
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