As your loved one ages, it can be hard to determine when they need additional support through their diet. Knowing the most important vitamins for common health concerns — such as bone density, immune system strength, metabolism, and more — can help you protect your senior’s health both now and in the future.
It’s never too soon to start thinking about healthy aging and building nutritious habits, says Angel Planells, a dietitian who specializes in aging and gerontology and former president of the Washington State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Planells shares five vitamins for seniors and how to obtain them through natural, delicious sources that could help fight a variety of ailments, including memory disorders.
“Consuming a wide variety of foods will improve your chances of getting all vitamins naturally through your diet,” Planells says. If you’re considering taking a vitamin or multivitamin, meet with a registered dietitian or your doctor first, he says, because “there could be drug-nutrient interactions, medications, and competing factors that may increase or decrease your absorption.”
Take advantage of these delicious sources of the five most important vitamins for healthy aging, with amounts listed per serving size according to the National Institutes of Health.
Vitamin A stands out as one of the most important vitamins for seniors because it promotes bone health.
Having a sufficient amount of vitamin A could help prevent bone issues, such as hip fractures. A 2015 study of more than 5,000 men and women 55 and older found those with a sufficient vitamin A intake had a significantly lower risk of fractures.
The right amount of vitamin A can also help fend off osteoporosis, a bone disease that causes bones to become brittle. According to the Bone Health and Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis and low bone mass affects an estimated 54 million Americans — one in two women and one in four men 50 and older may experience bone injuries because of osteoporosis.
In addition, vitamin A may help you see better at night. It produces rhodopsin, a photo pigment found in the part of the retina associated with night vision.
Vitamin A also benefits your largest organ — your skin. It boosts hydration and repairs damaged skin, such as bruises.
Take advantage of the following vitamin A sources:
The recommended daily vitamin A intake is 700 mcg for women and 900 mcg for men.
“B vitamins play a role in maintaining optimal health and well-being,” Planells says. “The B vitamins have an impact on your energy levels, brain function, and cellular metabolism.”
Vitamin B assists in converting food to glucose, which provides energy. Similarly, the eight B vitamins metabolize carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Vitamin B deficiency can lead to excessive thirst, diarrhea, and blurry vision, Planells says.
Pack your plate with these delicious, dietary sources of vitamin B2 (or Riboflavin):
Foods rich in vitamin B3 (or Niacin):
Nutritious sources of vitamin B6:
The best foods for vitamin B12:
Most of vitamin C’s power comes from its ability to enhance immune defense — it’s commonly touted as a treatment for everything from high blood pressure to a cold. The vitamin helps produce much-needed white blood cells to fight sickness and infection. Due to this important function, vitamin C benefits also include helping wounds heal and producing collagen. Additionally, vitamin C facilitates the body’s iron absorption, making it a good vitamin for seniors.
“People with vitamin C deficiencies may develop scurvy, which resembles tiredness, weakness, irritability, weight loss, and muscle aches,” Planells says.
The recommended daily vitamin C intake is 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant, meaning it protects cells from damage. Vitamin E strengthens the immune system and promotes a healthy nerve system. A 2019 study in Circulation Research, the journal of the American Heart Association, suggests that long-term vitamin E intake may be beneficial for your health.
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Boost your immunity with foods rich in vitamin E:
The recommended daily vitamin E intake for both women and men is 15 mg.
Yet another vitamin that bolsters bone health, vitamin K may help defend against osteoporosis. The vitamin has also been shown to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to its ability to control blood flow and protect blood vessels. Vitamin K helps blood clot when necessary, preventing excessive bleeding.
Enjoy the benefits of vitamin K with these nutritious foods:
The recommended daily vitamin K intake is 90 mcg for women and 120 mcg for men.
These vitamins for seniors are commonly recommended to boost your loved one’s health. Consider consulting a dietitian or doctor for help addressing specific dietary concerns. A doctor can also help determine if there are any vitamin deficiencies that you should be aware of and offer advice on how best to treat them.
Circulation Research. “Vitamin E: Objective Marker of Healthful Diet and Long-Term Mortality.”