Essential Nutrients for Maintaining Health and Wellbeing as We Age. Are We Getting Enough?
Table of Contents:
Our children’s adopted “granny Lorraine” lives in a retirement village. When she was a young girl, she lived on a farm with her family, working the farm, planting, and harvesting their own food. She was used to wholesome food prepared by the loving hands of the family. Adopting such healthy eating habits, our granny started her family with a large self-planted vege garden and raised her children based on these traditional healthy eating principles. As a swimming and dancing teacher of young children for her whole life, our granny Lorraine had kept active and fit all her life.
At age 91, she now lives in a retirement village. She pushes herself to go out for walks regularly, though her degrading strength and progressive health issues were making this more and more impossible. She always chose the fresh fruits and produces that the village provided. It had been a great help, though her reduced appetite had affected her enjoyment of her favourite foods and the village tended to cook the fresh veggies a little more than she liked.
Our granny’s story highlights a little realized but widespread issue in our seniors’ lives: undernutrition. As we age, getting enough nutrition is ever more important, all the while with the age-related obstacles and challenges in healthy eating.
Importance of Nutrition
Nutrition is from the nutrients we take and absorbed from the foods that we eat. Getting sufficient nutrition not only heavily relies on what we take in, but also on our body’s ability to absorb, convert and utilize the nutrients in our foods.
Eating a healthy and balanced diet is the first step in providing us with the nutrition that our body needs to grow, function, and repair. A lack of nutrition can contribute to our body’s inability to fight infections,  lack of energy,  less active cognitive functions,  compromised bone integrity,  muscle weakness,  and more severe issues such as organ failure  and malnutrition.  Good nutrition is an important part of supporting the body to maintain a healthy state away from some chronic diseases, such as type II diabetes, high blood pressure, heart conditions, osteoporosis, and certain types of cancer. [8,9,10] Sufficient nutrition is also associated with positive mental health with lower risks for anxiety and depression. 
Nutrition in our modern world is getting ever more confusing, with society’s emphasis on overeating, and the regularly emerging studies to revise what we should and should not eat. After all, despite our ages, we still need fuel to function properly. And not just to function properly, but to experience the joy of life, have the energy to create memories with our loved ones  and stay healthy enough to do the things that we enjoy for as long as possible. 
As we age, there are other potential real challenges that we face in eating a healthy diet, therefore, getting appropriate nutrition for our body’s functions. These challenges include but are not limited to situations such as isolation, illness, and disability. Many other natural body physiological changes also contribute to the importance and as well as challenges that we face in getting enough nutrients for healthy living.
Healthy Eating Challenges as We Age
As for our granny Lorrain, aging brings many changes to our body and lifestyle, leading to challenges in our eating habits. Studies found that malnourishment affects 43% of senior patients admitted to an intensive care unit.  Some of these changes include:
Reduced activity levels and age-related loss of muscle mass generally mean that we need fewer calories as we age. This in turn naturally leads to a loss of appetite in older adults.  This benign loss of appetite, though fitting in its nature of less energy needed as we get older, can cause deficiencies in multiple vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients as our level of food intake declines. 
Other less benign contributing factors to loss of appetite in seniors include hormone changes,  medications that suppress appetite or cause nausea, digestive tract changes and other medical conditions. Different types of gut hormones are essential in the regulation of appetite. The decreasing levels of these hormones with aging can lead to a reduced feeling of hunger and increased feelings of fullness.  Many medications interact with foods differently and it is important for our seniors to learn to take their medications the right way so as to minimize their effect on appetite and food absorption.
With age the ability of contractions and movements of our digestive tracts reduces, leading to less ability to cope with a large amount of food and reduced speed of food passing from our stomach to intestine. Our stomach lining is also less able to resist and repair damages. Key nutrient deficiency, such as vitamin b12 can cause reduced production of stomach juice, which further worsens the absorption of such key nutrients. Our gut bacterial environment and balance also change with aging. Overgrowth of certain bacteria can become more common as we get older, leading to poor absorption and discomfort. 
Factors such as slowed contraction and movements, medication side effects, reduced activity levels and weakened muscle strength can also lead to slower movement of waste through the large intestine and higher risks of constipation in older adults. 
Other key organs essential in digestion assist, such as the pancreas, liver and gallbladder also change in their structure and strength of functions as we age causing changes in digestive enzymes and detox ability. [21,22]
Sense of smell and taste
When we were younger, the smell of cooking would attract us to the dining table. As we get older, we tend to gradually lose the joy in the attractive smell and taste of our foods.  As our taste buds reduce in amount and sensitivity, our taste for satisfactory flavours such as salty and sweet decreases, while our tastes for bitter or sour could increase, often resulting in reduced intakes of fruits and vegetables. Many medications we take also reduce our senses of smell and taste.
Difficulty in chewing or swallowing
Age-related reduction in muscle tone and strength can lead to declining tongue pressure, lip mobility and our throat muscle’s capability in passing foods. This can contribute to our eating experience and cause reduced enjoyment of eating and increased risk of life-threatening choking events. 
Living alone or having trouble getting around
With no loved ones to share the eating experience can reduce the joy and interest in eating, especially eating nutritious meals. Lack of interest in mealtimes is one of the major factors in undernutrition as we age. 
Other health and mobility issues also contribute to our ability in getting access to our favourite ingredients, as well as our ability to cook and eat independently. Data from the United State showed that over 38% of seniors over the age of 65 had one or more disability, affecting their ability to walk, getting around the house, especially with stairs and doing chores such as shopping and cooking.  One in four New Zealanders has at least one form of disability. 35% or 370,000 of these people are over 65 years of age.  This significantly affects our senior population’s independence in healthy eating among other life aspects.
Often, fixed and reduced income in retirement can also be an overlooked factor in seniors cutting their spending on food, undermining their nutrition intake. Even those people with double the poverty income levels sometimes need to cut down on food spending. 
What to Put on Our Plate When We Eat?
Several key groups of nutrients that are essential to the healthy functioning of our body include carbohydrates, proteins, fats, water, multiple vitamins and minerals.
Nutrient-Rich Foods 
Vegetables and Fruits
Vegetables and fruits can be counted as the most nutrient-rich food in nature. They contain multiple vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Many beneficial nutrients found in plants are essential to the healthy functioning of our bodies, such as folate found in green leafy vegetables, vitamin A found in yellow, orange, and red vegetables etc. Different coloured fruits and vegetables have their unique nutrient contents and vibrational energy that will benefit the human body. Therefore, many sources recommend eating a diverse range of colours of fruits and vegetables.
The world health organization has placed specific emphasis on the health benefit of non-starchy vegetables. Though also contains some vitamins and minerals, starchy vegetables tend to be denser in energy (carbohydrates). As traditional dietary staples and with much cultural importance, starchy vegetables can be included in a healthy diet. It is generally recommended to include more non-starchy vegetables than starchy vegetables.
A higher intake of fruits and vegetables is associated with less risk of obesity and excessive weight gain.  This is because most fruits and vegetables are high in fibre but low in carbohydrates. They also help protect the body against many chronic illnesses such as heart conditions, stroke, and some forms of cancer. 
In a study in 2019 in New Zealand, less than one-third of adults ate sufficient amounts of both fruits and vegetables, while approximately half of the adults ate recommended amount of either fruits or vegetables but were less likely to eat enough of the other component. 
Grain foods come from plants. The most common ones in New Zealand are rice, wheat, oats, rye and barley. Whole grain is defined as any form of grain that still has the same proportion of its different parts, such as bran sperm and germ, as the intact grain. Many New Zealand adults eat bread as a source of grain, but only 10-14% ate the more recommended whole grain versions.  Most adults tend to eat white bread or light-grain bread.
Having more whole grain and high fibre grain foods has been associated with reduced risk of heart and blood vessel conditions, type II diabetes, excessive weight gain and some types of cancer, such as bowel cancer.  Whole grain and fibre-rich grain foods not only provide our body with carbohydrates as energy, but more importantly with dietary fibre and essential multiple vitamins, such as the vitamin B group and E, and key minerals, such as calcium, zinc, selenium, and magnesium.  One major factor that whole grain is recommended above refined grain is its higher content of fibre from the plant cell wall, which can contribute to improved healthy bowel, blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, weight and positive aging. 
Moderate dairy intake, especially the low- and reduced-fat versions are generally recommended, due to high nutrient level of protein, multivitamins, and minerals, such as vitamin A, B12 and D, calcium, zinc, and iodine. About half of New Zealand adults usually consume low or reduced-fat dairy products.
As many forms of dairies are high in calories and saturated fat, the recommendation on dairy intake has been controversial. Mixed research and study show potential negative effects of too much dairy, while some benefit from regular consumption.  some studies have shown that certain types of dairy such as fermented products of yogurt and cheese can have beneficial effects on the risk of heart disease. 
After all the debates and controversies, a little bit of dairy here and there in our diet can help us get some of the vital vitamins and nutrients needed. But as scientists recommended, a well-balanced diet with plenty of green leafy vegetables and nuts can be a better option in providing us with the necessary protein and calcium. 
Other plant-based dairy alternatives can provide us with the necessary protein contents but are usually not as high in calcium and some vitamins such as B12 as in dairy products.
Legumes, nuts, fish, and other seafood are highly recommended protein sources. Diet high in these nutritious foods has been associated with lowered risk of some chronic diseases, such as heart conditions, type II diabetes, weight gain and some forms of cancer. [39,40,41,42]
Seeds, legumes, and nuts are great food sources of fibre and protein. Specific nutrients can be found concentrated in specific nuts, such as calcium in almonds and selenium in brazil nuts. Though high in unsaturated fats, nuts can be a much healthier replacement for other snack foods.
Oily fish and shellfish such as tuna, mussels and salmon are good sources of essential omega-3 fatty acids, which are associated with lowered risk of heart conditions and stroke, according to the Heart Foundation. 
Eggs can also be integrated as a part of a healthy diet, providing useful nutrients. Other meat forms, such as poultry and red meat are recommended to be taken with fat removed. These meats can provide good sources of zinc and iron in easily absorbed forms. However, more than 500 g of cooked red meat per week or processed meat (salami, bacon, and ham) has been linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer. [44,45]
Among New Zealand adults, 42% ate fish at least once a week, 60% ate red meat at least 3 times a week, 85% ate chicken at least once a week, and only 29% ate nuts, within which only 7% ate whole nuts.
Dos and Don’ts
In abundance to moderation
Nuts and seeds
Biscuits, cakes, pastries, pies
Chips, crisps and other snacks
High-fat foods, such as margarine, palm oil, spreads, nut butters
The “My Plate” Recommendation
The official USDA recommendation is presented in a graphic “My Plate” format, with fruits and vegetables taking up half of an ideal “plate” and grain and protein taking up the other half. Dairy has been recommended as a side dish. This graph is included as follows: 
USDA also recommended daily intake of key food groups for people aged 50+ as follows:
Fruits — 1½ to 2 ½ cups
Vegetables — 2 to 3½ cups
Grains — 5 to 10 ounces
Protein foods — 5 to 7 ounces
Dairy foods — 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk
Oils — 5 to 8 teaspoons
Solid fats and added sugars – minimal
Important Nutrients for Older Adults
Key nutrients multiple vitamins and minerals that are especially important in maintaining and improving health and well-being as we age include the following. Some of these key nutrients particularly low in levels in New Zealand soil, such as zinc, selenium, iodine, and chromium, therefore, have increased importance in older adults in New Zealand. Gold Health Super Senior Multi XP natural supplement multivitamin was formulated based on the specific needs of our New Zealand senior population, taking into consideration the aging needs of NZ cultural lifestyles and the NZ soil quality.
Vitamin D facilitates our body’s absorption of calcium, and thus plays an important role in bone health. As our body gets its essential vitamin D3 from the sun's UV rays, vitamin D is well known as the "Sunshine Vitamin". With increased awareness of the harmful effects of overexposure to sunlight, and the promotion of reduced exposure to reduce the risk of skin cancer, it is becoming evident that more and more people have low vitamin D levels. Around 5% of adults in New Zealand are deficient in vitamin D.  A further 27% are below the recommended blood level of vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is especially apparent in elderlies.  Increasing volumes of research highlight the importance of Vitamin D in bone health and immune system modulation. [50,51] Foods that are high in vitamin D are oily fish, eggs and meat.
Vitamin B12 has the nickname “energy vitamin”. It is needed to form red blood cells and DNA.  It is also a key player in the function and development of brain and nerve cells.  People at risk of B12 deficiency include the elderly, those with digestive issues and vegans.  Inadequate B12 intake reduces red blood cell production. Some of the earliest signs of a deficiency include fatigue, confusion, and weakness. Vitamin B12 deficiency can also be caused by medications and can be mistaken for dementia. Simply loading up on foods naturally high in B12 may not solve deficiency. Certain synthetic forms of B12 are more readily absorbed, including the Methylcobalamin form in the Gold Health natural supplement formulation. 
Folic Acid (Vitamin B9)
Folic acid is a member of the vitamin B group. Elderlies are at higher risk of deficiency.  It may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart conditions, anaemia, some forms of cancer and the general feeling of weakness and fatigue.  It also has essential roles in DNA synthesis and amino acid metabolism.  Good food sources for folic acid include dark-coloured vegetables, citrus fruits, whole-grain bread, and cereals. Folate is the natural form of folic acid, which is used in supplements and other fortified foods and drinks. Folic acid is more easily absorbed by our body than the naturally occurring form of folate. 
Vitamin A is vital for healthy vision, especially under the condition of low light.  Good food sources of vitamin A are green leafy vegetables, carrots, eggs, and beef liver. Our Gold Health XTR-Vision natural supplement has an appropriate amount of vitamin A with other key eye health nutrients to provide potent support to our senior’s vision health.
Did you know that our bones break down faster as we age? Older adults need more calcium due to this fact. Calcium is especially vital for older women who are at the highest risk of osteoporosis and fractures. [47,48] Dairy is commonly recognized as a good source of calcium, though other less controversial sources include almonds, brazil, hazel nuts, whole grain bread, and cereals.
Iron supports our body’s ability to transport and utilize oxygen through our blood. A sufficient level of iron supports a healthy immunity system, cognitive functions and muscle integrity and strength.  Good food sources of iron include red meat and fish.
Sufficient potassium together with an appropriate lower ratio of sodium in our diet is associated with lowered risk of high blood pressure.  Good food sources of potassium include fruit and vegetables. Adding less salt to cooking, but using spices and herbs instead, can help with the balance between the two minerals.
Zinc supports our immune system, the production of proteins and DNA, wound healing, and senses of taste and smell.  New Zealand soil is low in zinc content.
Selenium is a trace element and an antioxidant in the healthy functioning of the thyroid. Lower than normal thyroid function contributes to excessive weight gain and chronic fatigue. Its deficiency has also been associated with increased risks of heart conditions and cancer.  Good food sources of selenium include brazil nuts, eggs, liver, tuna, and poultry. New Zealand soil is low in selenium.
Similar to selenium, iodine is another trace element that is important in thyroid function.  Good food sources include fish, seaweed and eggs. New Zealand soil is also low in iodine.
Chromium helps insulin in maintaining healthy and stable blood sugar levels. It also supports the body in utilizing carbohydrates, fats, and proteins to generate energy. It contributes to calcium absorption and bone health and is beneficial to eye health.  Chromium levels decrease with aging, making deficiency a particular concern in the senior population. An appropriate supplement formulation is great for getting the right amount of this key nutrient. New Zealand soil is also low in chromium.
Other Lifestyle Tips
Making eating a social enjoyment
Drink enough water
Stay physically active
Manage stress and worries
Getting good quality and sufficient sleep
Taking supplements to support a healthy diet
Natural Health Supplements
Due to the age-related biological changes in our bodies, we need more nutrition in the forms of multiple vitamins, minerals, trace elements, proteins, and fibre. At the same time, our reduced appetite and other associated challenges pose risk for our aging population to get sufficient key nutrients to support their health and well-being. Due to these facts and considerations, many doctors recommend that “Most people do not consume an optimal amount of all vitamins by diet alone. Pending strong evidence of effectiveness from randomized trials, it appears prudent for all adults to take multivitamin supplements.” [67,68]
Multiple key vitamins and minerals are often poorly absorbed or not sufficiently consumed by older adults, such as vitamin D, magnesium, and vitamin B12. Natural supplements may provide the much need health benefits these key nutrients bring.
Gold Health Natural Health and Wellbeing Support
Gold Health Super Senior Multi XP is one of the most comprehensive natural supplement formulations available. All nutrients at meaningful levels are Specifically designed for the needs of our senior customers, both men and women. The complex of multiple vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other nutrients provides general nutrition insurance. Fill gaps caused by inadequate diet & resist the attacks of free radicals. The researched based formulation includes 36 key nutrients based on New Zealand seniors’ needs, lifestyle, and soil quality.
Another very popular Gold Health formulation among our senior customers is our Activated Vitamin B12 with NZ Kelp. It provides highly absorbed vitamin B12 fortified with NZ-grown and sourced natural ingredient, kelp. The formulation provides potent support for cardiovascular, brain, nerve, gut, and mental health.
Our Gold Health Wellbeing Pack couples the overall thorough health benefit of our Super Senior Multi XP and the positive aging hero Co-Enzyme Q10.
Other key natural supplement formulations for our seniors’ needs are: