When do I Need to Start Taking Supplements?
BY CARLYE WAXMAN RD, CDN | We all strive for increased energy, healthy metabolisms, maintenance of body tissues and increased muscle mass. But what supplements do we need to stay healthy, and when do our bodies start to need more vitamins?
After the age of 50, you may need to take supplements…but not necessarily. Either your body might not be absorbing as much as it used to, or it needs more nutrients. Here’s a list of the main nutrients that you should consider increasing your intake of.
As we get older, we don’t absorb B12 as well as we used to. Your stomach lining starts thinning as you age, causing a decrease in hydrochloric acid (HCl) production. HCl production in your stomach activates B12 from the proteins in food, before it gets absorbed. This vitamin helps your body to metabolize protein, carbs and fats — and supports the production of red blood cells. If you have intestinal disorders or anemia and have difficulty absorbing B12, a supplement may be warranted.
Should we start taking B12 supplements or overdosing on B12 foods? What happens if we don’t have enough? How do we even know how much we need? The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) for B12 in the senior population is 2.4mcgs per day. Confused about that number? Here’s what it looks like:
FOODS WITH A LARGE AMOUNT OF B12
• 3oz Light tuna, canned in water contains 2.5mcg (wow, there’s your whole days’ worth!)
• Beef, round and chuck (4-6mcg)
• Liver, beef (70.7mcg)
• Trout (4-5mcg)
• 1 cup of low-fat milk (1.2mcg)
• 1 yogurt (1.1mcg)
• Clams (84.1 mcg…who needs a B12 shot with a serving of clams every day?)
IS THERE A TOLERABLE UPPER LIMIT FOR B12?
Low B12 status has been linked to cognitive decline. However, if you’re not feeling as smart as you used to and start eating clams and yogurt all day long, it won’t improve your brain function. But you can can get your DRIs from the foods above to help prevent cognitive decline. Speak with your doctor before deciding to take a supplement. Even though there are no real effects of too much B12, people who are on certain medications (like proton-pump inhibitors, H2 receptors or Metformin) may have potential interactions with supplements.
We need more calcium as we age because our bones aren’t as strong as they used to be. What does that mean? Why are we breaking down? The truth is, out bones are constantly undergoing break down and deposition, with continuous remodeling. When you are a child or adolescent, your bones do more remodeling than breaking down. In your 20s through 40s, you’re evening out that score. The bones are essentially done forming as you get older (let’s face it, they’re tired and already did their job), so they’re happy with what’s left and aren’t about to change. They’re pretty much set in their ways (sound familiar?). Breakdown exceeds formation resulting in bone loss.
So how much do we need to keep our bones from continuous breakdown? Well, the truth is 1 percent of what you eat is used for basic metabolic processes and the other 99 percent is bone health. Absorption of calcium decreases as the years go on. You absorb around 15-20 percent of your intake of calcium in adulthood and that number gets smaller and smaller as you age. An increase in protein, sodium and alcohol will all cause an excretion of calcium. Your diet should be modest in protein (0.8-1g/kg of body weight), low in sodium (stop buying takeout) and low in alcohol (no more than one drink per day for women, two for men).
You need about 1,000-1,200 International Units (IUs) per day (1,000 at 50 years old and 1,200 IUs at 70 and over). What does that high number look like? As I’m sure you know at this point, dairy foods will give you the calcium you need. Here are the numbers and what they mean:
FOODS WITH CALCIUM
• NON-GREEK YOGURT (8oz) = 415 IUs — have two yogurts per day to maximize your intake (about 830 IUs)
• PART-SKIM MOZZARELLA CHEESE (1.5oz) = 333 IUs. Add mozzarella to your lunchtime salad or snack
• NON-FAT MILK = 299 IUs (have it with your cereal every morning)
As the fat content goes up in dairy foods, the calcium content lowers. So to sum it up: If you eat three to four dairy group foods per day, you should hit the 1,000-1,200 IUs number.
What if you’re lactose intolerant and it’s difficult to digest dairy foods? Usually, aged soft cheeses like blue cheese have less lactase and are easier to digest. Soy milk contains 299 IUs, fortified orange juice is 261 IUs and turnips and kale have 100 IUs per serving. You can also buy cereals fortified with calcium or eat tofu (253 IUs).
IS THERE A TOLERABLE UPPER LIMIT OF CALCIUM?
Here’s the kicker: You can have too much calcium — so don’t supplement on your own. If you need a supplement, it should be a medical professional who told you that (not somebody who runs next to you on the treadmill). Having too much calcium from supplements can cause kidney issues, lead to kidney stones and decrease your absorption of zinc and iron. If that wasn’t enough to stop you, how about constipation? I mean who wants that? But, if you consume a lot of calcium-rich foods and exceed your DRI, don’t worry. There hasn’t been a link to too much dietary calcium…only supplements.
PREBIOTICS & PROBIOTICS
There is no special limit for seniors, but this happens to be a hot topic as it relates to digestion. What are the differences between the two, and how can you utilize them to maximize my digestive system?
Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates, which act as food for probiotics. It is thought that regular intake of these prebiotics, along with a probiotic food, can help the good gut bacteria and aid in digestion, keeping your body working like the good machine that it is. Prebiotics are in whole grains, bananas, honey, garlic and artichokes.
Probiotics are live active cultures we find in fermented dairy (like yogurt and kefir). These probiotics eat prebiotics and together form a symbiotic relationship enhancing your gut flora and digestive process. How do we get these two together?
Below are suggestions for a weekly or daily regimen. This is your Youth Cocktail:
• PLAIN YOGURT WITH HONEY AND ½ BANANA: This little combination will help aid in digestion and keep your bones strong at the same time.
• CLAM PIZZA WITH LOW-FAT MOZZARELLA: A hefty serving on B12 (enough for the week), combined with calcium rich mozzarella cheese.
• TOFU WITH PEANUT SAUCE: Heart healthy and full of calcium. See sweetnutritionnyc.com/spicy-peanut-ginger-tofu/ for a delicious, low-calorie tofu recipe.
• MEDITERRANEAN BULGUR SALAD: Your whole days’ worth of B12, a prebiotic from bulgur that may feed your morning yogurt’s probiotics and feta cheese to top off a well-balanced, bone-healthy lunch. See sweetnutritionnyc.com/mediterranian-bulgur/ to work bulgur into your life.
• KALE CAESAR SALAD: Mix three cups of chopped raw kale with 2 tbsp of light Caesar dressing topped with baked tofu. This calcium-rich lunch will also give you tons of energy!
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