Discover the essential nutrients that can help you maintain your health and vitality as you age. Learn about calcium, vitamin D, and more in our guide to aging gracefully.

9 Nutrients You Need More of As You Get Older

9 Nutrients You Need More of As You Get Older

Getting adequate nutrition can be a challenge as you get older. With age, the number of calories you need begins to decline. Every calorie you consume must be packed with nutrition in order to hit the mark. Even then, you may fall short.

As we age, our bodies undergo various changes, and our nutritional needs evolve. Ensuring that you get the right nutrients becomes crucial for maintaining good health and well-being. In this blog, we will explore nine essential nutrients that become increasingly important as you get older. These nutrients play a vital role in supporting various bodily functions and can help you age gracefully and maintain your quality of life.

Also see: Study Finds 8 Habits That Can Increase Lifespan

1. Protein

Older adults may need more protein than younger adults to preserve muscle and prevent loss of muscle and bone tissue. One study that looked at adults over 70 found those with the highest protein intake had less bone loss relative to those who consumed less protein. Plus, older adults need protein to preserve muscle mass, combined with strength-training to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Without strong bones and muscles, adults have a higher risk of falling.

Protein doesn’t have to come from animal sources. Consuming a variety of plant-based protein sources is effective too, although you have to consume more plant-based sources since most plants don’t have as much protein as meat and dairy.

  • Why it's important: Protein is essential for muscle maintenance, immune function, and wound healing.
  • Sources: Lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, tofu, and dairy products.
  • Recommended intake: About 0.8-1.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.

Also see: 9 Best (and Worst) Foods for High Blood Pressure

2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of heart-healthy fat. They come in two forms: long-chain and short-chain. Long-chain fatty acids are abundant in fatty fish and fish oil supplements, while short-chain forms of omega-3 are in certain plant-based foods. Ground flaxseed, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, chia, and some vegetables are good sources of short-chain omega-3s.

Long-chain omega-3s may have benefits for heart health, although studies are conflicting. However, their anti-inflammatory benefits are clear-cut, and if you get omega-3s from fish, you also get a healthy source of protein.

  • Why it's important: Omega-3s reduce inflammation, support heart and brain health, and may help prevent cognitive decline.
  • Sources: Fatty fish (salmon, sardines), flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.
  • Recommended intake: At least two servings of fatty fish per week or supplements as needed.

Also see: The Best and Worst Foods for Acid Reflux and Heartburn

3. Vitamin D

The best source of vitamin D is exposure to sunlight. However, older people are less likely to get the sun exposure necessary to meet their vitamin D requirements. Plus, they aren’t as efficient at converting vitamin D to its active form Food, except fatty fish, eggs, and fortified milk and cereals, and mushrooms exposed to ultraviolet light isn’t a good source of vitamin D.

Why do you need it? Vitamin D plays a crucial role in bone health and also helps regulate the immune system. Various studies show many people over the age of 50 have a low vitamin D level. Unfortunately, this is a hard situation to correct through diet, so it’s best to check a vitamin D level and take a vitamin D supplement if it’s low.

  • Why it's important: Vitamin D aids in calcium absorption and supports bone health. It also plays a role in immune function and mood regulation.
  • Sources: Sunlight, fatty fish (salmon, mackerel), fortified foods, and supplements.
  • Recommended intake: 600-800 IU (or 15-20 mcg) per day.

Also see: 7 Foods That Are High in Vitamin D

4. Fiber

Fiber is important for bowel regularity and a healthy gut microbiome. Adults of all ages fall short in fiber. In fact, the average American gets only half of the recommended fiber intake for males of 38 grams of fiber and 25 grams for females. The best way to get more fiber is to eat more whole, plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Ultra-processed foods are low in this dietary component, so it’s not surprising that constipation is a common complaint of people who eat a junk food diet.

  • Why it's important: Fiber aids in digestion, helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels, and supports heart health.
  • Sources: Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts.
  • Recommended intake: 25-30 grams per day.

Also see: 10 Ways to Get Rid of Indigestion Fast

5. Calcium

Calcium is a mineral your body needs in substantial quantities for minute-by-minute activities like muscle and heart function, but also for bone health. Some medications also cause loss of calcium through urine. According to Mayo Clinic endocrinologist Dr. Wermers, it’s harder to keep a healthy calcium balance after the age of 50. However, calcium supplements increase the risk of kidney stones, whereas dietary calcium does not. So, it’s best to get calcium from dietary sources. Although dairy is a standout calcium source, you can also get calcium from fish that contains bones, calcium-fortified foods, leafy vegetables, and dried beans and peas.

  • Why it's important: Calcium is essential for maintaining strong bones and preventing osteoporosis.
  • Sources: Dairy products, fortified plant-based milk, leafy greens, and almonds.
  • Recommended intake: 1,000-1,200 mg per day.

Also see: The Incredible Potato for Vitamins and Minerals

6. Magnesium

Magnesium takes part in over 300 chemical reactions in the human body, including those you need for healthy heart and blood vessel function, muscle contractions, and bone health. It also supports healthy blood sugar control. Studies suggest that up to 40% of Americans of all ages don’t get enough magnesium. The best sources are nuts, seeds, whole grains, and green, leafy vegetables.

  • Why it's important: Magnesium is involved in over 300 bodily processes, including muscle and nerve function, bone health, and energy production.
  • Sources: Nuts, seeds, whole grains, leafy greens, and legumes.
  • Recommended intake: 320-420 mg for women and 420-520 mg for men per day.

7. Potassium

Many people over the age of 50 don’t get enough potassium, a vitamin that plays a crucial role in heart heath and blood pressure regulation either. One reason older people fall low in this vitamin is they don’t consume enough fruits and vegetables. The other reason is certain medications, like diuretics and some blood pressure medications, increase potassium loss through the urine. The best way to add more potassium to your diet is to consume more fruits and veggies. If you have kidney disease, talk to your doctor before increasing your potassium intake.

  • Why it's important: Magnesium is involved in over 300 bodily processes, including muscle and nerve function, bone health, and energy production.
  • Sources: Nuts, seeds, whole grains, leafy greens, and legumes.
  • Recommended intake: 320-420 mg for women and 420-520 mg for men per day.

Also see: 5 Tips to Lower Blood Pressure Naturally

8. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 deficiency becomes more common after the age of 50, mainly due to absorption issues. A deficiency of vitamin B12 can cause anemia and neurological problems, like balance issues and numbness/tingling in the legs and hands. It can also cause brain fog, confusion, and long-term damage to the peripheral nerves, spine, and brain if it goes without treatment. Plus, vitamin B12 deficiency can mimic some symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease or multiple sclerosis. People who don’t consume meat and dairy are at higher risk because vitamin B12 is only in animal-based foods. However, poor absorption due to aging is the most common cause in people over 50.

The risk of developing vitamin B6 deficiency goes up with age, too. Like vitamin B12, deficiency can cause cognitive changes. One study found that people with the lowest vitamin B6 levels in their blood developed greater loss of cognitive function over five years relative to those who had the highest levels.

  • Why it's important: Vitamin B12 is crucial for nerve function and the production of red blood cells.
  • Sources: Animal products (meat, fish, dairy), fortified foods, and supplements.
  • Recommended intake: 2.4 mcg per day.

Also see: Cooked or Raw? The Best Ways to Eat 9 Healthy Veggies

9. Vitamin E

A study found that 92% of adults over 50 fall short of the estimated average requirement for vitamin E, an antioxidant vitamin that supports heart health. It’s difficult to get the recommended 15 milligrams of vitamin E daily without consuming nuts, seeds, or seed oils. Seed oils aren’t the healthiest way to get vitamin E, so consuming a handful or two of nuts or seeds, like pumpkin or sunflower seeds, is a good alternative. Wheat germ oil is another excellent dietary source of vitamin E.

  • Why they're important: Antioxidants (such as vitamins C and E) combat free radicals, which can cause cell damage and aging-related issues.
  • Sources: Berries, citrus fruits, nuts, seeds, and green leafy vegetables.
  • Recommended intake: A varied diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables.

Remember, this blog provides general information and should not replace professional medical advice. The risk of nutrient deficiencies goes up with age because of a variety of factors. Make sure you’re eating a nutrient-dense diet and talk to your doctor about health problems and medications that may increase your risk of nutritional deficiencies. It's also advisable to seek professional help from your healthcare provider or call or visit our Closest Emergency Room for medical help. We have board-certified physicians, nurses and staff to help you recover and give appropriate treatment and medical advice.

We have ER locations across the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area that are open and here to help you 24/7 If you or your family have a medical emergency.

We have 9 facilities spread across the DFW area with average wait times of less than 10 mins that are OPEN 24/7 located in Hurst, Colleyville, Frisco, Highland Village, Hillcrest, Uptown, Little Elm, Mansfield, and Texoma.