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How to Eat Right as a Senior

        Health | Diet & Aging

Meeting Mineral Requirements for Seniors

Minerals might not receive as much attention as vitamins, but they can be just as important to your diet. The following are mineral recomendations for people over 50.

Calcium

Low fat dairy foods are your best bet for getting calcium into your diet. No other natural calcium source can beat an 8-ounce glass of milk or an 8-ounce carton of yogurt (300 milligrams). Some soy milks are fortified with calcium, but they are not naturally rich in calcium. Be sure to read labels carefully.

Calcium-fortified orange juice is another calcium-rich option. An 8-ounce glass of fortified orange juice provides as much calcium as an 8-ounce glass of milk. For an extra calcium boost, you can also try adding nonfat dry milk to dishes such as casseroles, cream soups, puddings, breads, pancake and waffle batter, and even to already calcium-rich dairy foods such as yogurt, milkshakes, and even a glass of milk.

If you're not a fan of dairy, then calcium supplements are your best bet. Try to limit your dosage to no more than 500 milligrams at a time. Research shows that's the dose at which absorption is best. Calcium citrate and calcium citrate malate, the forms found in some supplements and in fortified juices, appear to be among the most absorbable kinds of calcium.

Here is a list of calcium-rich foods:

  • Black-eyed peas
  • Calcium-fortified orange juice
  • Calcium-fortified soy milk
  • Cheese
  • Cottage cheese
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Kale
  • Milk
  • Spinach
  • Tofu prepared with calcium sulfate
  • Yogurt

Chromium

You won't find a long list of foods that are rich in chromium. Unrefined foods that aren't overly processed are your best bets, since chromium is often one of the casualties of food processing. Some fortified cereals add chromium to the nutrient mix, making them good sources of the mineral.

Multivitamins usually contain 100 percent of the recommended chromium intake. However, there are several supplements that offer chromium in larger amounts for lowering blood sugar and losing weight. Studies show that chromium supplements (chromium picolinate is one of the best-absorbed forms of chromium) may help regulate blood sugar, but the jury is still out on its effectiveness as a weight-loss aid.

Here is a list of foods that have high chromium levels:

  • American cheese
  • Beef
  • Beer
  • Black pepper
  • Bran cereals
  • Brewer's yeast
  • Broccoli
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Fortified cereals
  • Oysters
  • Red wine
  • Wheat germ

Iron

To keep your iron intake down, limit or avoid iron-fortified foods. Read Nutrition Facts and Supplement Facts labels carefully to avoid fortified foods and supplements that contain extra iron. Supplements dubbed "senior" or "silver" often have low levels of iron or none at all. Don't take in more meat (a source of the readily absorbed heme iron) than you need. A small 3-ounce serving is all the iron you need.

The following are foods that are rich in iron:

  • Beef
  • Dried beans and peas
  • Fortified cereals
  • Liver
  • Molasses, blackstrap
  • Oysters
  • Wheat germ

Magnesium

Magnesium is present in a broad selection of plant and animal foods, which should make it fairly easy to get enough in your diet. But magnesium intakes are notoriously low because the mineral is usually present in small amounts. Depending on the food choices you make, you could easily be low in the much-needed nutrient.

Magnesium is also available in some laxatives (think Milk of Magnesia). Most multivitamins contain 100 percent of the recommended intake, but some bone-formula supplements provide even more. Take in too much, however, and you could feel magnesium's laxative effects.

These foods will help you meet your magnesium requirements:

  • Almonds
  • Artichokes
  • Brown rice
  • Cashews
  • Lentils
  • Oat bran
  • Peanut butter
  • Spinach
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Wheat germ
  • Whole-wheat bread

Potassium

Because potassium is present in all plant and animal cells, it's pretty easy to come by in the diet. Among the richest sources, however, are fruits and vegetables. There's no need to take potassium supplements unless prescribed by a doctor; in fact, they can be deadly, causing the heart to stop beating if you take too much.

Here is a list of foods that are high in potassium:

  • Apricots, dried
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Chickpeas
  • Dried beans and peas
  • Dried plums
  • Lentils
  • Milk
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Tomato juice
  • Yogurt

Selenium

Probably the best sources of selenium are the strange trio of Brazil nuts, organ meats, and seafood. Selenium also is in a variety of vegetables, but how much depends to a great extent on the level of selenium in the soil in which they were grown. Selenium supplements are okay, but be cautious. More than 400 micrograms a day could cause hair loss and nerve damage.

The following foods are all high in slenium:

  • Beef or calf liver
  • Brazil nuts
  • Cabbage
  • Garlic
  • Halibut
  • Lobster
  • Mushrooms
  • Oysters
  • Sardines
  • Shrimp
  • Wheat germ
  • Whole-wheat bread

Zinc

Vegetarians may have a bit of trouble getting enough zinc in their diets since red meat is one of the richest sources of the mineral, outdone only by oysters. Fortified cereals almost always have zinc added at levels of about 25 percent of the recommended intake; multivitamins usually have 100 percent or more of the recommended intake.

Be sure not to overdo on zinc supplements because you can suppress your immune system as well as lower HDLs (high-density lipoproteins), the "good cholesterol" in your blood.

Last but not least, here are foods that are rich in zinc:

  • Beef
  • Brewer's yeast
  • Crab
  • Fortified cereals
  • Legumes
  • Liver
  • Oysters
  • Pork
  • Shrimp
  • Turkey
  • Wheat germ
  • Yogurt

Credits:

Densie Webb, Ph.D., R.D. (writer) is the author of seven books, including Foods for Better Health, The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!, and Super Nutrition After 50. Webb also writes about health and nutrition for numerous magazines, including Family Circle, Fitness, Parade, Men's Fitness, and Redbook. She is a regular columnist for Woman's Day and Prevention magazines, a contributing writer for The New York Times, the associate editor of Environmental Nutrition newsletter, and a writer for the American Botanical Council.

Elizabeth Ward, M.S., R.D. (consultant) is a nutrition consultant and writer. She is the author or co-author of five books, including Super Nutrition After 50 and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Feeding Your Baby and Toddler. Ward is a contributing editor for Environmental Nutrition newsletter and a contributing writer for WebMD.com. She also writes for publications such as Parenting magazine and The Boston Globe.


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