8 Vital Nutrients All Seniors Need

Although senior and elderly nutrition recommendations still encourage a well-balanced diet to obtain all nutrients, there are a few that deserve a little extra attention. Whether it be based on inadequate meal intake or altered digestive processes, elderly nutrition needs include the following 8 vital nutrients.

Elderly Nutrition Needs

1. Calcium

It is well-known calcium plays a significant role in bone health, which is extremely important elderly nutrition to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures. To preserve bone density, the World Health Organization heightens calcium recommendations to 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day for seniors, which can be found in both milk and dairy products, dark leafy greens, and fortified products such as orange juice and non-dairy milks.

2. Vitamin D

Along with working hand-in-hand with calcium for bone support, vitamin D has also been suggested to prevent against a number of chronic conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and autoimmune diseases. Seniors pose vitamin D deficiency risk related to a reduced appetite, less sun exposure, and altered nutrient utilization, though can be avoided or lessened by consuming natural sources, such as egg yolk, salmon and sardines, and fortified products, including cereal, milk, and orange juice.

3. Potassium

Potassium acts duly as a valuable mineral and electrolyte, working with sodium to regulate nerve impulses and muscle contractions. Reducing salt intake and increasing potassium may lower high blood pressure (or hypertension risk) along with the potential to stave off chronic diseases such as stroke, osteoporosis, and kidney stones. Abnormal levels of potassium can also lead to unpleasant symptoms, including fatigue, muscle weakness, and loss of movement in the intestine, which are already worrisome conditions in the senior population. Ensure adequate intake with these 8 foods with more potassium than bananas!

4. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is important for the growth of red blood cells along with the regulation of DNA and RNA. The vitamin is urged in senior nutrition, mostly related to a reduced ability to absorb it sufficiently from foods and poor appetite. Rich sources of vitamin B12 predominantly include animal meats and products, including beef, pork, eggs, milk, and cheese. Fish and shellfish also supply the vitamin along with plant-derived foods particularly after becoming fortified. 

5. Protein

Protein is one of the three macronutrients, carbohydrate and fat being the other two. Despite achieving adequate intake across all lifespans for essential growth, protein is extremely stressed in the senior population for numerous reasons, including maintaining muscle strength, boosting the immune system, and healing wounds. At minimum senior women should aim for 45 grams of protein per day while men aim for 60 grams. To put these numbers into perspective, an ounce of chicken and one egg each supplies 7 grams of protein. Find both animal and plant-based protein sources here.

6. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are shown to reduce inflammation in the body, limiting the risk of or fighting against chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. The notorious healthy fat is found in fatty fish and nuts, which also supply an ample amount of protein. A primary care provider can help determine whether or not you or a loved one can benefit from an omega-3 supplement.

7. Fiber

Fiber plays its most significant function in digestive health, though may also have a large impact on weight maintenance and heart health. Largely related to inadequate food intake, fiber may be less-than-adequate and raise concern of constipation, especially in inactive seniors. Rich sources of fiber include whole grain breads and cereals, fruits and veggies, and legumes such as beans and lentils.

8. Water

Although not exactly a formal nutrient, water intake cannot be stressed enough. Not only does it assist in digestive health with adequate fiber, but lessens the risk of dehydration. And the repercussions of dehydration can be mild to severe. To reduce the mild to severe repercussions of dehydration, seniors should aim to drink at least eight, 8-ounce cups (or 64 ounces) of water each day, but consulting with a doctor if managing a kidney or heart condition. Additionally, all liquid counts towards hydration status, including milk, coffee, soup, popsicles, etc.

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