The need for sound nutrition becomes increasingly important as a person ages.

From helping resist infection to keeping the nervous system healthy, vitamins and minerals serve an important purpose and aid in the proper functioning of the body.

Today we’re going to discuss five key nutrients that are essential to include in a person’s diet as he or she begins to age.

Calcium – When it comes to the building and maintenance of strong bones, calcium plays a major role. Studies show that as we age, we consume less and less calcium in our diets. If a person doesn’t get enough of this mineral, his or her body will begin to leach it out of the bones, which, in turn, can increase the risk of weaker bones and fractures. If you feel like you are missing the mark in the calcium department, incorporate low-fat milk and other dairy products, as well as other calcium-rich foods such as leafy greens and seafood, into your diet.

Vitamin B12 – This vitamin aids in the creation of red blood cells and DNA, which help maintain healthy nerve function. Just like other B vitamins, B12 works to break glucose down into fuel for the brain and assists in making connections that allow for memory creation and learning. As a person ages, the ability to absorb vitamins from foods begins to decrease, while the likelihood of a B12 deficiency increases. Foods such as fish, meat, poultry and eggs are all rich in B12. If you you’re concerned that you might not be getting enough of this vitamin, consult your doctor about taking a B12 supplement.

Vitamin D – This vitamin helps absorb calcium to maintain bone density and prevent osteoporosis. Furthermore, vitamin D can also help protect against some diseases such as cancer, osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis, just to name a few. In the elderly, especially, a deficiency in vitamin D has been linked to an increased risk of falling. To hit your vitamin D mark, add foods such as eggs, fortified cereals, milk and yogurt to your diet.

Fiber – A diet that’s rich in fiber helps promote healthy digestion by moving foods through the digestive tract. But not only can foods that are high in fiber such as beans, fruit, whole grains and vegetables help with digestion – they can also protect against heart disease. To add more fiber into your daily diet, add vegetables and whole wheat bread to your sandwiches, or create your own trail mix that’s filled with seeds, nuts and fruits.

Omega-3 – These unsaturated fats are commonly found in fish and offer a variety of health benefits, including potentially reducing the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and slowing the progress of age-related macular degeneration. Seafood, particularly salmon and tuna, is a significant component in a heart-healthy diet and a major source of Omega-3 fats. Nutrition experts recommend including at least two servings of fish per week into your diet. Flaxseed and canola oil are high in Omega-3s as well.

Though nutritional needs differ from person to person, everyone, particularly the elderly, requires a wide variety of nutrients to keep the body functioning at an optimal level.

Consult your primary care physician for advice if you feel that your diet is lacking key vitamins and minerals.

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