Feed a Healthy Lifestyle With These Essential Nutrients

A balanced plate of food with lean proteins, whole grains, colorful vegetables, and healthy fats. AI generated

Key Points

  • When you're young, your body's resilient enough to function on a poor diet, but this resiliency diminishes with age.

  • As you get older, it becomes ever-more important to be mindful of what, how much, and how often you eat as well as the nutrition you get from the foods you consume.

  • This article considers seven essential nutrients that support healthy aging and which foods provide these nutrients.

If you're a practitioner of the "see food" diet (you see food, no matter how good or bad for you, and eat it), it might be time to rethink your nutrition strategies as you get older. This diet may work when you're young and your body's resilient, but it won't cut it later in life.

As you age, maintaining a healthy, balanced diet becomes increasingly important to support overall well-being. Proper nutrition plays a crucial role in healthy aging by providing the body with essential nutrients to support various bodily functions. This article explores the importance of these nutrients as well as their benefits and food sources.


Antioxidants are compounds that protect the body's cells from damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals. Antioxidants contribute to cellular health and support healthy aging by neutralizing these free radicals. They reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and certain types of cancer.

There are various types of antioxidants, including vitamins (vitamins C and E), minerals (selenium and zinc), and phytochemicals (flavonoids and carotenoids). Vitamin C-rich foods, such as citrus fruits and berries, are excellent sources of antioxidants. Nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils provide good sources of vitamin E. Nuts, legumes, meats, and poultry are good sources of zinc and selenium. Broccoli, berries, and vegetables like spinach and celery provide phytochemicals.

A New Antioxidant Source

Did you know that the process of producing bottled olive oil is wasteful and messy? Every bottle of finished olive oil generates enough waste to fill four bottles. Those throw-away materials include peel, pulp, and stone waste.

ETH Zurich mechanical engineering student Claudio Reinhard and Professor Laura Nyström have developed a potentially game-changing process that converts much of that waste into raw antioxidants that could be used in everything from skincare to supplements and any other product that benefits from or requires antioxidant fortification. Their process is detailed in an August 2023 article at New Atlas.

B Vitamins

B vitamins play a crucial role in healthy aging by supporting various bodily functions, including energy production, brain health, and DNA synthesis. They maintain proper nerve function and reduce the risk of age-related cognitive decline. Additionally, B vitamins support cardiovascular health and contribute to a healthy immune system.

There are eight B vitamins in total, each with its own unique functions. For example, vitamin B12 is essential for nerve function and is found in animal-derived products like meat, fish, and dairy. Whole grains, legumes, and leafy green vegetables are excellent sources of the B vitamins folate, thiamine, and riboflavin.


Calcium is a mineral crucial for maintaining strong and healthy bones throughout life. As you age, bone density naturally decreases, increasing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. Adequate calcium intake helps prevent the loss of bone mass, reducing your likelihood of developing osteoporosis.

Older adults — men and women alike — should aim for a daily calcium intake of around 1200 mg. Dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese are excellent sources of calcium as well as leafy green vegetables like kale and broccoli. For those who are lactose intolerant or follow a vegan diet, fortified, plant-based milks and juices offer solid alternative sources of calcium


Dietary fiber plays a crucial role in healthy aging by supporting digestive health and regularity. It aids in maintaining bowel regularity, preventing constipation, and reducing the risk of diverticulosis. Fiber also helps manage cholesterol levels, promoting heart health in older adults.

Fiber is found in a variety of foods, particularly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. Apples, berries, oranges, broccoli, carrots, oats, brown rice, lentils, and almonds are examples of fiber-rich foods that are beneficial for healthy aging.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that play a vital role in maintaining heart health as you age. They contribute to reduced inflammation, improved blood vessel function, lowered triglyceride levels, and a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.

There are three main types of omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is found in flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts, while EPA and DHA are primarily derived from fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines. While you want to avoid a "see food" diet like the one discussed above, a seafood diet with healthy amounts of fatty fish is great for your overall health.


Protein is essential for maintaining muscle mass and strength in older adults, as muscle loss tends to occur with age. Consuming adequate protein helps preserve muscle mass, promote muscle repair, and support overall muscle health.

Older adults should aim for a daily protein intake of around 1.2-1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight. Excellent sources of high-quality protein include lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, and plant-based proteins like tofu and tempeh.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is crucial for maintaining bone health and preventing age-related bone diseases like osteoporosis. It aids in calcium absorption and utilization, promoting proper bone mineralization and reducing the risk of fractures.

Vitamin D also helps build immunity, which is increasingly important as you age. According to clinical dietician at UNC Health Lana Nasrallah, MPH, RD, "It can support the immune system by fighting off harmful bacteria and viruses."

The primary source of vitamin D is sunlight. Spending time outdoors allows the body to produce vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight. Additionally, vitamin D can be found naturally in fatty fish like salmon and mackerel. Fortified dairy products and some fortified plant-based milk alternatives also provide vitamin D.

Eat Better, Live Better

A well-balanced diet that includes essential nutrients supports healthy aging and helps prevent age-related diseases. The nutrients discussed in this article, when incorporated into a healthy, balanced diet and consumed regularly, promote overall health as you age.

Consult a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalized nutrition advice based on your specific needs and medical conditions. You can't stop the aging process, but you can age better by paying closer attention to what you eat and how well you take care of yourself.

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