4 Nutrients That Are Vital for Healthy Aging
The Egg Nutrition Center partnered with Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD to write this blog post.
September is Healthy Aging Month! No matter your age, it’s never too late to take charge of your health. Throughout the decades, several nutrients become more and more crucial to maintain physical and cognitive health. Luckily, including eggs in the daily diet is a good way to consume these vital nutrients. In fact, the American Heart Association recently provided recommendations for how eggs can fit into a heart healthy diet, and while an egg a day is recommended for most adults, AHA recommends up to two eggs per day for healthy older adults. Not to mention that eggs are affordable and easy to prepare, making them a great staple for anyone. Below are some nutrients in eggs that are beneficial for aging.
More than 90% of Americans fail to take in the recommended amount choline,1 and adults 71 and older only consume about half the daily requirement.2 The adequate intake for people over 19 years old is 550 mg/day for men and 425 mg/day for women.
Research has found that low concentrations of free choline in the blood is associated with poor cognitive performance in older adults.3 In other words, consuming the recommended amount of daily choline can have potential cognitive benefits for older adults. Fortunately, two large eggs contain about 300mg of choline, or more than half of the recommended daily intake.
2. Lutein and zeaxanthin
These two carotenoids are plant compounds that have been shown to improve eye health, as well as cognitive function in older adults. Lutein and zeaxanthin are selectively taken up into the macula – the central area at the back of the eye. There, they make up the macular pigment, which provides the central vision necessary for activities like reading and driving. Studies suggest that lutein consumption improves age-related macular degeneration.
In addition, several studies suggest that lutein-rich foods may prevent or delay cognitive decline in the elderly.4 Eggs have both lutein and zeaxanthin, and eating eggs regularly has been associated with improved cognitive performance in adults.5 It’s important to point out that the lutein is found in the yolk, so make sure to recommend eating the whole egg!
People over the age of 30 can lose 3-8% of muscle mass per year, and the rate of decline is even more significant after the age of 60. Not only are muscles important for exercise and physical activity, but they are also necessary for everyday tasks, like picking something up off the ground or opening a jar. In other words, maintaining muscle mass throughout the years helps you stay strong and healthy.
Eating enough protein is an important element of muscle mass with a minimum requirement of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight (or 0.36 per pound of body weight) each day. One large egg has 6 grams of high-quality protein and all 9 essential amino acids. Plus it’s easy to add to any meal since it cooks in minutes.
4. Vitamin D
Although many recognize calcium as a mineral essential to bone health, Vitamin D also plays a crucial role. Vitamin D contributes to bone formation and mineralization, and Vitamin D deficiency is associated with osteoporosis in seniors.6
The main source of Vitamin D is the sun, but absorption is limited based on time spent outdoors, skin tone and weather. Vitamin D isn’t naturally present in many foods, but two large eggs have about 12% of the daily value!
No matter the month, it’s always a good choice to add eggs to your diet. With their rich nutrient profile, ease of preparation and affordability, eggs are a go-to staple for everyone. Add a dozen eggs to your grocery list today to make the most of Healthy Aging Month!
Wallace TC, Fulgoni VL III. Assessment of total choline intakes in the United States. J Am Coll Nutr 2016, 35(2), 108-112.
Choline, Memory & Cognitive Development. The Choline Information Council website. http://cholinecouncil.com/consumer/cognitive_development.php. Accessed May 23, 2019.
Nurk E, Refsum H, Bjelland I, et al. Plasma free choline, betaine and cognitive performance: the Hordaland Health Study. Br J Nutr. 2013;109:511–519.
Hammond BR, et al. Effects of lutein/zeaxanthin supplementation on the cognitive function of community dwelling older adults: A randomized, double-masked, placebo-controlled trial. Front Aging Neurosci [Internet]. 2017 Aug 3;9.)
Ylilauri MPT, et al. Association of dietary cholesterol and egg intakes with the risk of incident dementia or Alzheimer disease: The Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. Am J Clin Nutr.2016;105:476-484.