As we age, our bodies can become less efficient at absorbing key nutrients. Likewise, our appetites may decrease somewhat as we get older, causing older adults to miss out on important vitamins and minerals that boost our immune systems, strengthen bone density and help us to maintain a healthy weight. Remember, before taking any supplements, it’s a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider. Here are five key nutrients that seniors may be missing in their diets.
Calcium plays a large role in building and maintaining strong bones, making it an important mineral for proper senior nutrition. However, research shows that as we grow older, we consume less calcium, in part due to changing appetites as we age. This can cause the body to absorb some of the calcium from your bones, making them weaker and more prone to fractures. Avoid this problem by consuming a recommended three dairy products per day. If you’re dairy-free, foods like kale, broccoli, and certain juices can be other good sources of calcium. Calcium absorbs more easily into your body when you get it from whole foods, not supplements, so try your best to eat more foods containing calcium.
Vitamin D pairs well with calcium, helping it absorb into the body and prevent osteoporosis. For seniors, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to falling, another serious senior health risk. The vitamin has also been found to reduce seniors’ risk of developing cancer, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and other chronic illnesses. You can get more vitamin D by eating salmon, tuna, and eggs, or by taking a supplement recommended by your healthcare provider.
Folic acid is one of the B vitamins, and it helps your body regenerate new red blood cells. Folic acid deficiency can lead to anemia, a disease that causes fatigue and weakness. You can find folic acid naturally in foods such as dried beans and lentils, oranges, whole-wheat bread, liver, asparagus, beets, broccoli, and spinach.
Another key vitamin for optimal senior nutrition is vitamin B-12. B-12 is responsible for keeping your nerve and blood cells healthy and also helps compose your DNA. The body does not produce vitamin B-12 naturally, but you can get it from animal-based proteins and fortified vegetables. Foods like fish, eggs, poultry, and milk products can help you obtain a healthy amount of vitamin B-12 each day.
Nutritionists recommend older adults get about 4,700 mg of potassium each day. Potassium helps build stronger bones, improve cell function, and prevent painful kidney stones. You can get more potassium by eating foods such as bananas, prunes, plums, and potatoes (with the skin). Before taking potassium supplements, talk to your doctor, because too much can be dangerous for your health.