Vitamins are substances needed by your body for normal cell development, growth and function. Vitamins play important roles in bodily functions like digestion, immunity and metabolism.
There are several vitamins out there, but some of them are important for you as you age. Here are some of the vitamins you need as you age:
1. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 helps make blood and nerve cells. It is derived naturally from animal foods such as dairy, eggs, fish and meat. Shots, pills and “B12-fortified” such as breakfast cereal, are other sources.
Most people eat enough of it, but age can change that. About 30 percent of people above 50 have atrophic gastritis, which makes it difficult for the body to absorb vitamin B12 from foods. Weight loss surgery, antacids and some meds can contribute to a lack of vitamin B12.
As you age, you can start losing more of calcium than you absorb. When you don’t have much of it in your body, your bones can break easily (osteoporosis), especially for women after menopause.
Calcium helps your blood vessels, cells, nerves and muscles work right. Your bones get some of it from foods. Women above 50 and men above 70 should get around 20 percent more than other adults. Cheese, milk and yogurt are good sources.
3. Vitamin D
Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. So you need them to prevent osteoporosis. Vitamin D also helps your immune system, nerves and muscles work right. You can also derive vitamin D from sunlight.
But as you age, your body is less able to convert sun’s ray to vitamin D. It is more difficult to get it from foods, but fatty fish such as sardines, mackerel and salmon are a great source.
Magnesium helps your body make bone and protein and keeps blood sugar stable. It can be derived from leafy greens, seeds and nuts. But older people tend to consume less of it. They are even more likely to have long-term health issues or take many medications, which may leave older people short of magnesium.
5. Vitamin B6
The body uses vitamin B6 to make energy and fight germs. It also helps the brain of the baby grow. As you get older, you need more of it. Some studies have found links between better memory and high B6 blood levels.
However, the vitamin does not look to improve mental ability in people with dementia. Liver, fatty fish, chickpeas and fortified breakfast cereals are some of the good, but inexpensive sources of it.
Probiotics are friendly bacteria that are good for your gut. You can get them from fermented foods such as sauerkraut or yogurt, or supplements. Probiotics can help with digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome or diarrhea, and may also help protect against allergies.
If you are healthy, probiotics are likely safe for you. But be sure to talk to your doctor if you have medical problems or weakened immune system.
Some American seniors don’t get enough of zinc. It helps your taste and smell senses, and fights inflammation and infections – all vital jobs in older bodies.
This underappreciated micronutrient may also protect your vision. Oysters are the best source of zinc. You can also get it from crab, beef and fortified breakfast cereals.
Omega-3s are called essentials because the body can’t make them. They are important for your sperm cells, brain and eyes. They could also help protect against age-related disease like arthritis, Alzheimer’s and macular degeneration that can cause blindness.
The best foods that give you Omega 3 fatty acids are fatty fish, flaxseed, walnuts or canola oil.
Potassium plays a big part in almost everything in your body, including nerves, muscles, kidneys and heart. It may also help protect against osteoporosis, high blood pressure and stroke. Unfortunately, many Americans don’t get enough of it.
Yogurt, milk, spinach, bananas and dried apricot are great sources of it. Before you take supplements, ask your doctor because they can interfere with medication for migraine, high blood pressure and other conditions.
This important vitamin protects your cells from infections and damage and keeps your thyroid working perfectly. Selenium can also keep your muscles strong, and help prevent age-linked illnesses such as thyroid disease, dementia and some types of cancer.
One or two Brazil nuts a day is enough. But don’t overdo it because too much of it can make your hair fall out and turn your nails brittle.
Folate (vitamin B9) can be found naturally in leafy greens, beans, nuts and other foods. Pregnant women take a lab-made form of vitamin B9 known as folic acid to prevent birth defects. Folate helps you with cell growth and may also protect you against stroke and certain cancers.
Folate found in food is safe. But too much fortified foods or folic acid from supplements can raise your risk of having nerve damage or colon cancer.
Almost everyone knows the importance of fiber. But did you know it is even more important for you as you age? Fiber helps you poop more regularly, lower blood sugar and cholesterol, and helps protect you against strokes.
Women above 50 should get a minimum of 2 grams, while men should get a minimum of 30 grams. Unfortunately, most people don’t get that much. That is about the same as 6 to 8 servings of whole grains, or 8 to 10 servings of vegetables.
Where to get vitamins you need as you age?
Whether its fiber, minerals or vitamins, it is best to get them from natural foods rather than pills. Unfortunately, that can be a challenge for many older people, especially if you don’t eat a balanced diet.
You are most likely to lack calcium, potassium, vitamin D or dietary fiber. If you need more, you can get from food. However, you can talk to your doctor about supplements that will be safe with your diet, meds and health.