Necessary Nutrients

Boosting vitamin and mineral intake can help you stay healthy and active.
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As we age and our bodies change, so, too, do our nutritional needs. The one-size-fits-all multivitamin you might have been taking for much of your life may no longer be supplying an adequate dose of some vitamins and minerals, while giving you more than you now need of others.

“While supplements are no substitute for eating nutritious food, sometimes the nutrients you receive from diet alone may not be enough,” says Julene Stassou, a Waldwick-based registered dietitian “This is especially true as we age. Always consult your doctor and pharmacist before taking any vitamin or mineral supplements, as they may interact with medications you’re taking.”

According to the National Institute on Aging, a division of the National Institutes of Health, an adequate intake of the following vitamins and minerals is essential to maintaining good health in people age 50 and older.


Why you need it: B6 is essential for the brain and is needed to maintain healthy nervous and immune systems. It helps the body produce another important B vitamin, niacin, and the neurotransmitter serotonin. It also helps to regulate blood sugar levels. Those with kidney disease may have a higher risk for B6 deficiency.

Recommended dose: Men need 1.7 mg every day. Women need 1.5 mg every day. Get it naturally: You can get vitamin B6 from fortified cereals, whole grains, organ meats like liver, poultry, chickpeas, bananas and fortified soy-based meat substitutes.


Why you need it: B12 is vital for manufacturing red blood cells and DNA, and for maintaining healthy nerve cells. Recommended dose: Men and women need 2.4 mcg every day. Some people over age 50 have trouble absorbing the B12 found naturally in foods, so even if your diet contains enough, ask your doctor whether you should take it in supplement form. Get it naturally: You can get B12 from fortified cereals, meat, fish, poultry and milk.


Why you need it: Vitamin D helps maintain bone strength and density and helps to protect you from chronic diseases, including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune diseases. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to increased risk of falling and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The body produces its own vitamin D from exposure to sunlight. As older people tend to be less active outdoors, their risk for deficiency increases significantly.

Recommended dose: People age 50 to 70 need at least 600 IU, but not more than 4,000 IU daily. People age 70 and above need at least 800 IU, but not more than 4,000 IU.

Get it naturally: You can get vitamin D from fatty fish, fish-liver oils, fortified cereals and fortified milk products.


Why you need it: Although this mineral is most closely associated with strong bones and teeth, calcium plays many other roles in the body. People tend to consume less of it through their diet as they get older. If your body doesn’t get the calcium it needs from outside sources, it will “steal” it from your bones, causing brittleness and fragility. Recommended dose: Women 51 and older should consume 1,200 mg daily; men 51 to 70 1,000 mg daily, and men 71 and older 1,200 mg daily.

Get it naturally: You can get calcium from milk and dairy products, tofu, dark green vegetables (especially kale and broccoli), soybeans, canned fish (especially sardines and salmon) and calcium-fortified foods. The body uses calcium and protein together for bone health, so consuming calcium naturally through your diet works best.


Why you need it: Folate helps prevent high levels of homocysteine, an amino acid carried in the blood that’s linked to heart disease. It’s also used in the production of proteins used to build, maintain and repair healthy tissue, and may help the body protect itself from certain forms of cancer.

Recommended dose: Men and women need 400 mcg daily.

Get it naturally: You can get folate from dark green leafy vegetables (especially spinach), beans, peas, oranges and orange juice. While folate is found naturally, folic acid is the form used to fortify grain products like flour and cereals and the form added to dietary supplements.

Other Notable Nutrients

  • Potassium is crucial for healthy cell functioning, bone strength and healthy blood pressure, among other things. But many seniors don’t consume the recommended 4,700 mg daily. Fruits and vegetables are the best dietary sources of potassium, especially bananas, plums, prunes and the skins of potatoes. Too much potassium could be dangerous, so consult with your doctor before taking any potassium supplements.
  • Magnesium is a key “helper” in a variety of areas, from your immune system and heart to your bones.

Bodies absorb less magnesium as they age. Unfortunately, magnesium gets removed from foods during processing, making it an even greater challenge to get enough. The recommended daily allowance for men over age 50 is 420 mg, and for women over 50 it’s 320 mg. Rich, sources include fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, beans and seeds.

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