5 vitamins and minerals important to senior health

Getting the proper amount of vitamins and minerals is vital for the development of a healthy body and mind in children. This focus does not diminish as we age. Ensuring the proper intake of dietary nutrients is important for people in their senior years. The best way to get vitamins and minerals is by eating a nutritious and balanced diet. However, some older adults, particularly those with chronic disease, may not be able to meet their nutrition needs with food alone.

Certain conditions such as dental problems or diminished sensory systems can make eating a challenge or unappealing, which can lead to malnutrition. Therefore, dietary supplements may become necessary to help older people who do not eat properly to maintain their health and well-being.

Calcium and Vitamin D

Calcium and vitamin D work together to keep bones strong. Bone loss can happen to both men and women and may lead to fractures in older adults. According to Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025, women age 51 and older need 1,200 mg (milligrams) of calcium each day. Men aged 51 to 70 need 1,000 mg of calcium daily and 1,200 mg if they are age 71 and older. The guide recommends 600 International Units (IU) of vitamin D for men and women aged 51 to 70 and 800 IU for those over 70.

Foods that contain calcium include milk and milk products, canned fish with soft bones, dark-green leafy vegetables like kale, and foods with calcium added, such as enriched breakfast cereals. Vitamin D can be found in foods that are fortified with vitamin D like cereals, milk and milk products. It can also be found in foods such as fish, soy milk, pork and eggs. 


Potassium is important for cell function and has been shown to help reduce high blood pressure and the risk of kidney stones. This essential mineral also helps to strengthen bones. It is recommended that women age 51 and older need take in 2,600 mg of potassium a day according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Men age 51 and older have a recommendation of 3,400 mg. Fruits, vegetables and beans are good sources of potassium. Potassium-rich foods include prunes, bananas, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, lentils, and kidney beans.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 performs a wide variety of functions in the body, including involvement with enzyme reactions and forming red blood cells. It is recommended that women age 51 and older take in 1.5 mg of B6 daily and that men in the same age group have 1.7 mg, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Vitamin B6 can be found in foods such as canned chickpeas, beef liver, tuna and salmon, chicken breast, potatoes, cottage cheese, bananas, rice, nuts and spinach.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 helps to maintain the health of red blood cells and the nervous system. It is recommended that both women and men age 51 and older have 2.4 micrograms (mcg) of B12 each day. Foods that are sources of B12 include clams, beef liver, salmon, ground beef, yogurt, milk, Swiss cheese and ham.

Need more vitamins or minerals?

If you use or are considering taking dietary supplements to support the nutrition you receive from eating, it’s important to track and discuss all dietary supplements with your healthcare provider to determine if they are appropriate for you. This includes beverage supplements such as nutrition shakes which can be a source of added sugars.

If you do need to supplement your diet, look for a supplement that contains the vitamins or minerals you need without a lot of other unnecessary ingredients. Read the label to make sure the dose is not too large. Avoid supplements with mega-doses. Too much of some vitamins and minerals can be harmful, and you might be paying for supplements you don’t need. Your doctor or pharmacist can recommend brands that fit your needs.

Capitol Hill Cares

At Capitol Hill Healthcare, we believe that balanced nutrition is important for the well-being of our residents. Our registered dietician and dietary manager plan meals and therapeutic diets to support our residents’ overall health and quality of life.