Micronutrient requirements in older adults

  • Calcium: Older adults, particularly postmenopausal women, may have higher calcium requirements than younger adults. Dairy foods are a key source of calcium. Older adults are recommended to eat 3 portions of low-fat low-salt dairy foods per day such as milk, yogurt and low-fat cheese. Alternatively, they can choose calcium-fortified dairy-free foods. Other non-dairy food sources of calcium are legumes, green leafy vegetables like kale and fish with edible bones (e.g., sardines).
  • Vitamin D: the main production of Vitamin D is via skin exposure to sunlight, however, a small proportion of vitamin D is obtained from food. Vitamin D deficiency is very common among older adults, particularly in those who are frail, malnourished or institutionalised with limited mobility and access to sunlight exposure. Foods that contain vitamin D are oily fish, egg yolks and fortified dairy. Vitamin D supplements are also recommended to older adults with deficiency.
  • Although requirements do not increase by age, B vitamins (folate, B6, B12), iron and potassium are nutrients that adequate intake is important in older adults as loss of appetite, dental problems, medication and body changes due to ageing may impair their intake from diet. An adequate intake of these nutrients can be achieved via a balanced diet with fruit, vegetables and lean meat.
  • Sodium (salt): Older adults are important to decrease their salt intake with some organisations recommending 4 grams (maximum 6 grams) of salt per day from all sources. To achieve that, older adults should reduce the intake of processed meat, salty foods and salt added to food when and after cooking.