Try these essential nutrients as you age

Many seniors are taking charge of their health by choosing the right Medicare plan to meet their personal health needs.

But that’s not the only way to take charge of your health. Many seniors are doing so by eating foods their body needs as they age.

The following is some food for thought: As you get older, your body doesn’t need as many calories, according to the American Dietetic Association. That’s because it uses energy at a slower rate. Calorie needs may vary from person to person.

What is true for everyone is that he or she needs to make those calories count because all of us need nutrients. Experts say the following eight essential nutrients can help you stay healthy.

• Protein — Older adults need at least five ounces, or two servings of protein a day. You can get that protein from meat or dairy — milk, cheese and also yogurt supply protein. Try other protein sources, such as eggs, beans and peanut butter.

• Vitamin D — Vitamin D helps deposit calcium in bones and keeps bones strong.

The body makes vitamin D after sunlight hits the skin. Twenty to 30 minutes of sun exposure two to three times per week is plenty. Most milk and cereals are fortified with vitamin D.

• Calcium — It’s never too late to consume more calcium. If you are over age 50, you should get at least 1,200 milligrams of calcium each day. Milk, cheese and yogurt are the best sources of calcium.

Dark green, leafy vegetables, calcium-fortified fruit juices and cereal also have a lot of calcium.

• Vitamin A — Dark green, leafy and yellow and orange vegetables — such as cantaloupe, carrots and yellow squash — all help eyes adjust to dim light and protect skin tissues.

• Vitamin C — One common problem with aging is iron deficiency. It can lead to anemia. Eating vitamin C in iron-rich foods helps your body absorb iron. Choose iron-enriched cereals, beans, whole grains, lean meat and poultry. Eat vitamin C-rich fruit — such as oranges, guava or papaya — or fruit juice at meals.

• Folate — It helps red blood cells develop to carry oxygen through the blood.

Good sources are kidney beans, spinach, strawberries, green peas, broccoli and romaine lettuce.

• Vitamin B12 — Too little vitamin B12 can also lead to anemia. Eat meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy foods for this vitamin.

• Water — Older adults need at least eight eight-ounce cups of fluids per day — especially water. Remember that juice, milk and soup offer other nutrients as well.