Key nutrients for women over 60 – and the foods you need to get them

Oct 05, 2020
Dark chocolate is an excellent source of magnesium — an essential nutrient all over-60s need in their diet. Source: Getty.

Your nutrition needs change throughout your life and that’s also the case when you are over 60. Eating well is important to prevent disease and keep your brain sharp and your body strong.

As you get older, you still need a nutritious diet, but you need fewer calories. Reduced levels of oestrogen and other sex hormones may mean that you’re more at risk of storing fat in the belly area. So, it’s as important as ever to exercise and eat smart. And as a woman over 60, there are certain vitamins and nutrients that are especially important. Read on to learn more.

Calcium

Getting enough calcium is important to protect your bones and teeth but also your heart, muscles, and nervous system. Age-related changes to the gut mean you absorb less calcium. You can find calcium in tofu and some soy products made with calcium, dairy products, canned fish such as salmon and sardines, and green vegetables.

Vitamin D

The major source of vitamin D is the interaction between sunlight and a cholesterol-like substance in the skin. But it becomes difficult to absorb as the skin gets thinner.

First things first, ask your GP to test your blood vitamin D levels. If your levels are low, think about adding some more vitamin D-rich foods into your daily diet. You can find vitamin D in fatty fish such as salmon and herring, cod liver oil, fortified foods like cereals and fruit juice and mushrooms. Your doctor may also recommend a vitamin D supplement.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is a large water-soluble vitamin needed for healthy blood cells and maintaining healthy brain function. But between 10 to 30 per cent of people over age 50 find it harder to absorb vitamin B12 from their diet. Taking antacids and other medicines that suppress stomach acid can make it even more difficult to absorb vitamin B12, which can result in a deficiency over time. That’s why it’s super important to add more vitamin B12 in your diet after a certain age.

The good news is you can find B12 in eggs, fish, meat, dairy and fortified foods including breakfast cereals and our iconic Vegemite. If you’re consuming a restricted diet, you may want to consider fortified foods or a supplement.

Turns out, good old’ vegemite is a great source of vitamin B12. Source: Getty.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Heart disease is still the leading cause of death in older people. After menopause, a woman’s risk of heart disease increases. But studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids can lower heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure and raised triglycerides (a certain type of fat).

Choose oily fish such as salmon or fresh tuna two or three times each week. If you’re considering taking supplements, be sure to talk to your GP first, especially if you’re taking blood thinners.

Magnesium

A low intake of magnesium, the use of medications and age-related changes in the gut function mean that you may benefit from an increased intake of the nutrient. You can find it in almonds, soybeans, peanut butter, spinach and other leafy green vegetables, dark chocolate, and flaxseeds.

Iron

An iron deficiency can result in impaired immunity even in well-nourished, healthy women over 60. Red meat, offal such as the liver and whole grains all provide good sources of iron. Eating vegetables or fruits with wholegrains (uncooked preferably) helps your body absorb more iron from plant sources.

red meat
One of the best sources of iron is red meat.

Potassium

Healthy blood pressure is vital to protect your heart and prevent stroke. As well as providing a whole host of vitamins and minerals and water, some vegetables and fruits like banana are also good sources of potassium, a mineral that is associated with a lower risk of hypertension, kidney stones, osteoporosis and heart disease — all of these are more common with age.

Protein

Every decade after the age of 30, you can lose up to 8 per cent of your muscle mass, which can eventually lead to weakness and fractures. Which is why getting adequate protein is important. In fact, studies have found that eating adequate protein or taking a protein supplement may help to slow down the rate of muscle loss, increase muscle mass and help build more muscle. Plus, regular weight-bearing exercise helps to retain muscle mass. You can find protein in fish, soy products, meat, dairy, eggs, lentils and pulses, and nuts. Team your protein with plenty of veggies and fruits as recent research has also found that older people who eat plenty of vitamin C have the best muscle mass.

Fibre

Oestrogen and progesterone affect many areas of your body, including your digestive tract. With reduced levels, you might experience constipation from time to time and some medications can trigger constipation as well. Not to mention, constipation is two to three times more common in women.

The good news is a high-fibre diet with plenty of water can help. Fibre binds to water encouraging waste out of the body faster. It also decreases inflammation and helps to lower cholesterol by binding to it. Plus, it helps to ensure a slow and manageable trickle of energy-rich carbohydrates into the blood. Good sources of fibre include berries, whole grains, brown rice, pasta, lentils and pulses, prunes, and dried fruit.

Shoppers are often urged to buy Australian produce over cheaper, imported goods. Source: Getty.
Berries are a good source of fibre. Source: Getty.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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