menopause is nigh, and the risk of chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes begins to increase. And while it is always important to eat well, no matter your age, it becomes especially essential in our forties. By the time we hit our forties, our body starts to change. Muscle mass starts to deteriorate, the likelihood of putting on weight increases, the onset of
So, to ensure that you are getting key nutrients in your diet, these are the 7 essential vitamins you should be stocking up on in your 40s and beyond.
1. Vitamin B12
Essential for normal blood and brain function, vitamin B12 should most definitely be on your radar once you've turned 40 (and more so after turning 50). Children and young adults, are likely to get the B12 they need from food (you can find it in meat and animal products including chicken, fish, dairy and eggs), however, it tends to be more poorly absorbed as the body ages, especially around 50, when stomach acid levels deplete. So, taking a supplement is generally advised.
The current recommended dietary allowance is 2.4mg per day, but should you get more, there's no need to worry about taking too much. Since it is a water-soluble vitamin, your bladder expels what you don't need.
Our bones absorb most of the calcium they need early in life (typically before age 30). Nevertheless, this nutrient does play an essential role in maintaining bone health later in life too. It's also needed for other basic body functions, like muscle contraction, nerve and heart functioning and other biochemical reactions.
And, one other important factor to keep in mind is that if you're not getting enough calcium from your diet, the body steals the nutrient from your bones, weakening them. So, while you still need calcium in your 40s and beyond, you need not go overboard. A well rounded diet with calcium-rich foods like dairy, tofu, sardines, broccoli, almonds and spinach ought to be enough.
3. Vitamin D
In your forties and beyond, vitamin D is essential, as this nutrient helps protect against age-related changes that tend to arise in later life. Deficiencies in vitamin D have been linked to diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis and breast and colorectal cancers. Vitamin D is also essential for the absorption of calcium in the body. You can get it from dietary sources including fish, fortified dairy, grains and cereals - though vitamin D in food tends to be poorly absorbed.
One of the best sources is the sun. However, since not everyone lives close enough to the equator to be exposed to its strong rays, the supplement vitamin D3 (a type of vitamin D closest to what you get from the sun) will suffice.
This nutrient is vital as it helps regulate blood pressure. It's especially important for women aged 40+, who are already at risk of high blood pressure due to age. Heart disease, diabetes and inflammation have all been linked to a deficiency in magnesium. Getting enough is also essential as it helps the body absorb calcium. It also plays a role in muscle, nerve and heart function, as well as blood glucose control.
If you think that you may be deficient and are in need of a supplement, your doctor can test your magnesium levels. But, you'll likely get the levels you need if you eat a healthy balanced diet. It is found in dark leafy greens, beans, soy, nuts, seeds and avocados. Too much of this nutrient doesn't pose a health risk, however, it may cause diarrhea, nausea or cramping.
No matter your age, potassium keeps your blood pressure in check. In fact, research has found that among postmenopausal women, a higher intake of potassium-rich food means a decreased risk of stroke. You can get the potassium you need from a well-balanced diet, making sure to include a variety of foods like bananas, sweet potatoes, chard, beans and lentils.
Supplements should be taken with caution, and should be carefully monitored if prescribed by a doctor. Too much potassium can damage the gastrointestinal tract and the heart, causing potentially life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias.
Though technically not a vitamin, omega-3 fatty acids deserve a place on this list due to their myriad health benefits. They also help counteract some of the negative changes that come with aging, such as increased heart disease risk and cognitive decline. The fatty acids found in Omega-3 help lower blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. They also play a key role in keeping memory and thinking sharp.
In one study, it was found that people with higher levels of omega-3 in their blood, had larger brains and performed better on memory tests, planning activities and abstract thinking. You can get omega-3 from foods like fish, walnuts, flaxseeds and leafy vegetables. Taking a supplement, however, is a good way to ensure that you are getting enough.
Like omega-3, probiotics are not technically vitamins or minerals, but they are an essential requirement, playing a key role in keeping the gut healthy and your weight down. Probiotics also lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Probiotics can be found in some dairy and fermented soy products like seitan, however, foods typically won't contain as many strains as a supplement.
See, each strain comes with its own benefit - some are used to help control weight, and others to prevent diarrhea. You also won't be able to get them in foods that are cooked or heated.