Updated: Jul 20, 2022
The choices of adding supplements to our diet can be confusing. Our good health is subject to finding reliable, specific information to our individual needs. As always with positive health choices, talk to the best trusted source. Your doctor is the most qualified person to guide you with your health on the whole and in turn their best guidance on supplements in particular is none other than a Registered Dietitian.
As older adults, our efficiency does slow a bit when it comes to some aspects of our bodies and our good health. Digestion may slow down, certain hormone levels may decrease and certain maintenance needs may require extra support. However, more isn't always better. Further still, supplements are an unregulated industry. A lot of promise can be made in a pill without any regulating authority proving or disproving their efficacy.
Here is what we can be assured of: calcium and vitamin D are needed as we begin to decline in our bone health upon reaching mature adulthood in our twenties and thirties. The two nutrients also go best together and are often fortified as a pair in food products. We also do well as older adults to consider our intake of B vitamins for the function of the central nervous system, in particular, vitamin B 12. As we lose the efficiency of digesting and utilizing B 12 as we age, it is a commonly recommended supplement for most. Before reaching for a pill, we can make modifications to our food choices as the best place to start.
Freshness is key when we add leafy greens like spinach, chard and kale for calcium, best prepared cooked to unlock the full nutritional benefit. Fish, including the bones, like salmon and sardines. Nuts and seeds like sesame, almonds and walnuts are quality sources for your calcium from foods. If you include dairy in your diet, eggs, milk products and cheeses from goats and cows are often complete sources as they are produced, fortified and pasteurized for food safety. Interestingly, these food groups and their supplements are best absorbed when taken later in the day or in the evening hours. Portion size is proportionate to energy needs. Most older adults need no more than one large egg and a couple of dice-size servings of nuts or cheese in a given day to suffice. Paired with other foods, the recommended dose is about 1200 mg of calcium for both older men and women over age 70.
Our B complex vitamins are broken down into eight groups. Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), Pantothenic Acid (B5), Pyridoxine (B6), Biotin (B7) Folate ( B9) and Cobalamin (B12). This group gives us energy and calm and cannot be stored in the body so they need constant replenishing. The B vitamin sources are best consumed in foods like oily fish, leafy greens and root vegetables. In addition, organ meats like liver are also high in the B vitamin, especially B 12 group. Eggs, beef, shellfish and dairy are quality sources as well. If you enjoy and can tolerate beans and legumes this can be a great addition. Seed and seed butters like sunflower are an easily accessible addition to your diet and snack menu. As well, sources like nutritional and brewers yeast as a topping can add a certain flavour and meet your B nutrient needs.
So if you do not include these foods in your diet you may want to consult your doctor and Registered Dietitian about the type of supplement that may best serve your nutritional needs. As with most human health benefits we need to look no further than nature and our fresh food sources to embrace a healthy lifestyle. Depending on where we live and how we get access to our nutritional needs, we may need to add supplementation on either the short or longer term.
There is no magic pill for good health but we do need movement to promote circulation to process and get the benefits derived from fresh, safely produced foods and supplements. Calcium, vitamin D and the B complex vitamin group are the heavy hitters at the forefront of good nutritional health in an aging demographic. Whether you balance it in your food consumption or take it through a prescribed supplement, the bottom line is only your doctor knows for sure. Bon Appetit!