People experience different changes with their bodies as they age, but one thing you’ll all want to be aware of is that nutrient absorption slows down. This means that in order to stay healthy later in life your nutrition needs will change. Nutrients like, vitamin D, calcium, vitamin B12 and fibre become especially important for older adults. Read on to learn why they’re so important, how much you need, whether to use a supplement and which food sources are the best choice.
- What it does: Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and balances calcium level for bone health.
- How much you need each day: The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is 15 micrograms (mcg) (600 International Units (IU)) for people between 51-70 and 20 mcg (800 IU) for those over 71 years old. Health Canada recommends a daily supplement of 400 IU beginning at age 50.
- Food sources: vitamin D fortified cow’s milk or soy beverage, egg yolk, and canned salmon. Click here to find out how much vitamin D is in these foods.
- What it does: Calcium is essential for healthy bones and helps prevent osteoporosis.
- How much you need each day: The RDA is 1000 milligrams (mg) for males, 1200 mg for females between 51-70, and 1200 mg for those over 71 years old.
- Food sources: cow’s milk, yogurt, hard cheese, calcium fortified soy beverages, tofu, canned fish with bones, and calcium fortified orange juice. Click here to find out how much calcium is in these foods.
- What it does: Vitamin B12 helps maintain a healthy nervous system and makes red blood cells.
- How much you need each day: The RDA is 2.4 mcg for people 51 years and older. Because many adults over age 50 do not absorb vitamin B12 very well, it’s recommended you eat foods fortified with B12 or take a multivitamin/mineral supplement that contains B12.
- Food sources: foods from animal such as meat, seafood, milk products, poultry, and eggs; and plant foods with added B12 such as B12 fortified soy beverage and tofu. Click here to find out how much B12 is in these foods.
- What it does: Fibre helps with bowel movements and prevents constipation. It can also help lower blood cholesterol levels, control blood sugar levels and keep you feeling full for longer which can help with weight control.
- How much you need each day: The RDA is 21 grams (g) for female and 30 g for male 51 years and older. If you haven’t been eating much fibre, add fibre slowly and drink more fluids to prevent gas, bloating and diarrhea.
- Food sources: 100 per cent bran cereal, vegetables and fruits (with skin on), whole grain products, nuts and seeds, beans, and lentils. Click here to find out how much fibre is in these foods.
Tips to Add These Key Nutrients to Your Diet
- Buy “FORTIFIED” milk, milk alternatives and breakfast cereals
- Drink one cup of vitamin D and calcium fortified milk or milk alternative at supper
- Have a variety of protein sources like fish, shellfish, beans and lentils
- Include snacks such as whole fruits and veggies or whole grain crackers with hard cheese
Whether you’re caring for an aging parent or concerned about nutrients for yourself as you age, choosing food sources of vitamin D, calcium, vitamin B12 and fibre will help you create balanced meals. If you find it hard to get these key nutrients from food, talk to your health care provider or dietitian about whether you need to take a supplement.
If you have more questions about healthy eating for older adults, call 8-1-1, toll free in BC, to speak with a registered dietitian at HealthLinkBC Monday to Friday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm or send us an email.
Author’s Bio: Silbi Kim is a dietetic student doing her internship with the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA). Originally form Korea, where she completed a Bachelor of Arts in Food Science – she’s now studying Dietetics at the University of British Columbia. She believes that food is the best way to prevent diseases and is a natural cure for many chronic health conditions.