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Golden Age Nutrition

By Angie Krantz on Dec 19, 2016 at 07:42 PM in Santa Barbara Fiduciary News

Golden Age Nutrition

While some aspects of the 'Golden Years' might not feel so golden, this is also the time to live life to the fullest; and to do that you need proper nutrition. Perhaps now you finally have the time to do all of those things you have put off, are relishing in extra time with kids or grandkids, or creating the garden you've always wanted. Whatever the activity may be, the foundation (and the energy) comes from a well-balanced, healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. Many changes occur as we age including changes in taste, smell, dental status, and vision- all of which directly impact appetite and dietary intake. Nutrient status also changes due to age-related declines in absorption, use or activation of certain nutrients. There are a few nutrients in particular that Golden Age folks need to make sure are part of their daily diets like Vitamin D, calcium, and B vitamins; but no need to worry because you can find most of these nutrients in your own backyard.

Vitamin D

Also, known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D promotes bone health in addition to aiding in the prevention of many other chronic diseases and cancers. Elders often have low intake of vitamin D, along with decreased sunlight exposure, which is a contributing factor to the susceptibility of bone fractures, increased falls, decreased immunity, and depression. Adults need at least 5 micrograms of vitamin D per day, and we can make vitamin D through our skin with sunlight exposure. All you need is 15 minutes per day of sunshine exposure on your face or forearms without sunblock. BUT, blue sure to put that sunblock on after 15 minutes to prevent sunburn. Food sources of vitamin D include eggs, salmon, cod, shrimp, fortified milk, and shiitake mushrooms.


When it comes to bone health, vitamin D and calcium go hand in hand, and maintaining adequate calcium status reduces the rate of bone loss and incidence or fractures in seniors. You need adequate vitamin D to help your body use the calcium you eat, and many researcheers believe this is the reason for the decreased calcium status in Golden Agers. Aim for 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day. Yes, calcium is primarily found in dairy foods like milk and yogurt, but you can also get calcium from your home grown dark leafy green vegetables like spinach, collard greens, and turnip greens. 

B Vitamins

B vitamins are of special consideration in the elderly as many studies have found that a decreased intake can contribute to increased cardiovascular disease risk and dementias including Alzheimer's disease. Of particular note is folate, and adults should aim for 400 micrograms of folate daily which can also help reduce the risk of osteoporosity related fractures, prevent anemia, and allow nerves to function properly. Also noted is vitamin B12, as B12 also helps prevent anemia, helps nerve cell function, memory and assists in metabolizing the foods we eat. Absorption decreases with age and adults age 51 or older need 2.4 micrograms of B12 daily. Rich sources of folate include romain lettuce, spinach, asparagus, mustard greens, cauliflower, parsley, beets and broccoli. Vitamin B12 is found primarily in animal foods like beef or venison or seafood including salmon, shrimp, and scallops. Trace amounts of B12 are found in sea vegetables like kelp, algae, or fermented foods like tofu but amounts supplied are inconsistent. If you are a vegetarian, talk to your doctor about your B12 status. 


Often called the forgotten nutrient, water is essential for all of the body's functions. Having a decreased thirst response and adding in any diuretic medications can be a recipe for dehydration. In fact, many trips to the emergency room for seniors are related to dehydration. While how much water you actually need may vary from person to person, teh best measure of hydration status is to check the color of your urine. If it is yellow, you need more water, while light yellow or clear is a good indication you are drinking enough. Water, water everywhere-but you haven't a drop to drink! Don't rely on your body to tell you that you are thirsty. Keep a water bottle handy at all times, especially if you are working outside or are physically active, and continue to sip throughout the day. You can also dig into some hydrating fruits and veggies in your backyard to snack on like watermelon, cucumber, celery, and strawberries. 

Written by: Colleen Hurley, RD

Collen Hurley is a Registered Dietician, Certified Kid's Nutrition Specialist and Master Gardener. Colleen specializes in food product development, sports nutrition, customized meal planning and disordered eating. Currently, she provides corporate wellness consulting to Fortune 500 companies throughout California and conducts individual client consultations worldwide.