Eating a balanced diet is important, especially as we age. In particular, there are a couple vitamins and minerals that you should make sure you get enough of every day. Take a look why:
Vitamin D has a role in bone health, nerves and muscle function. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to an increase in falls. There’s emerging research that vitamin D also plays a role in the immune system, inflammation and dementia.
We get most of our vitamin D from sunshine, which is why less-mobile older people are one of the main population groups in New Zealand who’re at risk of vitamin D deficiency.
How much vitamin D do you need?
The AI (Average Intake) for adults over 70 years is 15ug (800IU) daily.
How to get your vitamin D
- 15-30 minutes of sunlight 2-3 times a week will provide this
- Egg, salmon and fortified dairy products are good food sources of vitamin D
Calcium has an important role in bone strength, nerve health and heart function.
How much calcium do you need?
The Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) for both men and women over the age of 70 is 1300mg daily.
Where to get your calcium
- 1 glass of whole milk (250ml) provides 320mg calcium
- Other good sources are sardines and anchovies, cheese, yoghurt and dark green leafy vegetables.
Magnesium is needed in over 600 enzyme reactions in the body. It’s closely linked with glucose metabolism, DNA repair, mood and sleep. For older people, making sure you enough magnesium can help improve both quality and quantity of sleep.
How much magnesium does your resident need?
The RDI for men over 70 is 420mg/day and for women 320mg/day
Be careful because supplements containing over 350mg magnesium may cause diarrhoea.
Food sources of magnesium
- White fish, chickpeas, silverbeet, nuts, pumpkin seeds, peas and baked potato are all good sources of magnesium
- Using ground nuts and seeds in baking is a great way of boosting magnesium
Folate has been shown to be important in heart and brain health. Folate deficiency is called megaloblastic anaemia which may show as shortness of breath, heart palpitations, headache, weakness & fatigue.
How much do your residents need?
The RDI of folate for men and women over 70 years is 400ug/day
The best sources of folate
- Dark green leafy veg
- Dried beans and legumes
- Orange juice, banana or grapefruit
- Peanut butter
- Sunflower seeds
Zinc is another micronutrient that’s often deficient older people. It’s important for a healthy immune system, and is used to help create building blocks for proteins and healing wounds.
Watch out for zinc deficiency if you or your loved one has:
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Chronic diarrhoea
- Vegetarians or those with low meat intake
- Alcohol dependency
How much zinc do older people need?
The RDI of zinc for men over 70 years is 14mg/day, and for women is 8mg/day
The best sources of zinc are
- Beef, pork and seafood
- Fortified breakfast cereals
- Yoghurt and milk
It is always best to consult your GP or a Dietitian if you are thinking about changing your diet. Especially if you are thinking of taking any supplements.