Essential vitamins and minerals may become more

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essential vitamins and minerals may become more important than ever, according to the National Institute on Aging, or NIA. Reduced activity and lean tissue mass can lower your metabolism, so you burn fewer calories throughout the day. According to the NIA, a physically active woman over 50 needs about 2,000 to 2,200 calories per day to maintain a healthy weight. A physically active man needs about 2,400 to 2,800 calories per day. Most of these calories should come from vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat or nonfat dairy foods and unsaturated fats. Tissue and Fluid Loss A loss of lean muscle tissue as you age may increase your need for lean dietary protein to maintain muscle mass, according to an article published in the 2004 issue of the "Journal of the American College of Nutrition." Getting adequate protein from fish, poultry, low-fat dairy products, along with increasing your weight-bearing activity, may help prevent lean tissue loss. If you increase your activity level, you may also need to increase your fluid intake. Because your body can lose some of its ability to detect thirst and regulate fluid balance, you may need to consciously remind yourself to drink water and other low-calorie beverages throughout the day to prevent dehydration.
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Vitamin Absorption Your body's ability to absorb certain vitamins decreases with age. A reduced production of stomach acid makes it difficult for your digestive tract to absorb vitamin B12 from the foods you eat. This vitamin, which contributes to healthy brain and nerve function, occurs in meats, eggs and dairy foods. Your skin's ability to produce vitamin D, a nutrient that's essential for absorbing calcium, also decreases with age. Egg yolks, fatty fish and fortified milk products contain vitamin D. If you can't get adequate amounts of these essential vitamins from the foods you eat or from spending time in the sun, your health-care provider may recommend that you take vitamin supplements to meet your requirements for these nutrients. Risk of Disease Because your risk of chronic disease increases as you age, staying healthy and active as you get older may require that you focus on disease prevention when you're planning your diet. Eating fish two or more times a week may help you stay mentally sharp, as well as protecting your cardiovascular health. Eating regular servings of brightly colored fruits and vegetables may lower your risk of cancer, help you manage your blood pressure and boost your immune system. The fiber in fruits and vegetables, dried beans and whole grains promotes healthy digestion, may help you control your cholesterol and reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to the American Dietetic Association. To maintain bone density, prevent osteoporosis and protect your bones from fractures, you may need to add more calcium-rich foods, such as milk products and dark green vegetables, to your diet.
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