(BPT) - Parents often use the adage “You are what you eat!” to encourage children to make healthy food choices, but the saying is equally true for mature adults. Providing your body with a variety of nutrients lets you feel your best, and may even prevent disease and help you live longer.
Allison Tannis is a nutritionist, author and professional consultant. She believes that aging well means eating well. She recommends these five super nutrients to help baby boomers and older adults age well and stay healthy.
“It can be hard to see fat as healthy, but omega-3 fatty acids are potentially one of the most important nutrients for our health,” says Tannis. “Omega-3 fatty acids are vital to the maintenance and function of our eyes, brain and nervous system – parts of us that start to weaken with increasing age. In addition, these healthy fats have great ability to fight inflammation that is the cause of painful joints, cardiovascular disease and even wrinkles.”
How can you get your daily dose of 1 to 2 grams of omega-3s, as recommended by the American Heart Association? Wild-caught fish like salmon, sardines and Arctic char are good sources of omega-3s. Plant sources of omega-3s include flax, chia and hemp. It can be difficult to get enough omega-3s from food sources, so supplements are a good alternative.
“Every morning I wake with the best intentions of eating healthy, but then life can get in the way,” Tannis says. “Using daily supplements ensures my body gets all of the essential nutrients it needs to be at its best. I take Nordic Naturals fish oils, available in liquids, soft gels and even an effervescent drink.”
2. Vitamin D
“Vitamin D is really only available to us from the sun,” explains Tannis. “Sure, there are foods such as milk and orange juice that have added vitamin D. For some, these foods are a great choice, but for others, it can be hard to ensure you're getting enough of this essential vitamin through fortified foods.”
Older people are prone to vitamin D deficiency, and therefore, may experience muscle weakness or impaired intestinal absorption. Tannis suggests that everyone, no matter their age, consider a vitamin D supplement if diet and sun exposure aren’t adequate. From tasteless liquid drops to pills that combine multiple nutrients, there are a variety of options for vitamin D supplementation.
“Probiotics fight inflammation, promote digestive health and much more,” says Tannis. “With age, there is a decrease in the most prominent probiotic in the colon, Bifidobacteria, leaving the colon prone to inflammation, which increases the risk of disease and discomfort.”
Foods like kefir and yogurt are common sources of probiotics, but often it’s not enough to get the full benefits. Probiotic supplements are a great way to maintain and rebuild probiotic levels in your digestive tract. “Seek out one with lots of different probiotic species,” recommends Tannis. “You've got hundreds of kinds of probiotics in you. Each probiotic offers its own unique health benefits to your body, so having lots of different kinds in your system can help your body be at its best.”
4. Green foods
“Greens are packed with more nutrients per bite than almost anything else on your plate. They are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes and more,” says Tannis.
What green foods are the best?
“The best greens to eat are the ones you like – you don't have to hate your food. Love your food! Choose some greens that you enjoy and then, once a week, try something outside your comfort zone,” Tannis suggests. “If you simply can't stomach enough greens, there are plenty of powders available, from simple single ingredient products to complex formulas.”
No matter what your age, eating a balanced diet provides your body with plenty of nutrients. “Try to ensure that at some point each day you enjoy foods from each color of the rainbow, and artificial coloring doesn't count,” says Tannis.
Taking a multivitamin is one way to ensure your body has the minimum amounts of the essential nutrients it needs each day to function properly. If you are considering a multivitamin, look for one that is designed for your age, activity level and gender.
“Food hasn't changed, even though it feels that everyone is telling you something new about it,” says Tannis. “Enjoy a well-balanced diet, rich in colorful fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains and fish. Nutrition really can be easy to swallow.”