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Vitamins & minerals for seniors
Dr. Arvind M. Dhople, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Florida Tech
Vitamins help your body grow & work the way it should. There are 13 vitamins – vitamins C, A, D, E, K, & the B vitamins (thiamine, ribo avin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, B6, B12, & folate).
Vitamins have different jobs – helping you resist infec- tions, keeping your nerves healthy, & helping your body get energy from food or your blood to clot properly. By following the Dietary Guidelines, you will get enough of most of these vitamins from food.
Minerals also help your body function. Some minerals, like iodine &  uoride, are only needed in very small quan- tities. Others, such as calcium, magnesium, & potassium, are needed in larger amounts. As with vitamins, if you get a varied diet, you will probably get enough of most miner- als.
Your doctor might suggest that, like some older adults, you need extra of a few vitamins, as well as the mineral calcium. It is usually better to get the nutrients you need from food rather than a pill. That’s because nutrient-dense foods contain other things that are good for you like  ber. Look for foods forti ed with certain vitamins & minerals, like some B vitamins, calcium, & vitamin D. That means those nutrients are added to the food to help you meet your needs.
Vitamins & minerals are measured in a variety of ways. The most common are: mg – milligram, mcg – microgram,
Senior Scene® | January Issue
& IU – international unit. If you are age 50-70, you need
at least 600 IU of vitamin D, but not more than 4,000 IU. If you are age 70 & older, you need at least 800 IU, but not more than 4,000 IU. You can get vitamin D from fatty  sh,  sh liver oils, forti ed milk & milk products, & forti ed cere- als.
For vitamin B6, men need 1.7 mg every day; women need 1.5 mg every day. You can get B6 from forti ed ce- reals, whole grains, organ meats like liver, & forti ed soy- based meat substitutes. You need 2.4 mcg vitamin B12 ev- ery day. Some people over age 50 have trouble absorbing the vitamin B12 found naturally in food, so make sure you get enough of the supplement form of this vitamin, such as from forti ed food. You can get vitamin B12 from forti ed cereals, meat,  sh, poultry, & milk.
And,  nally you need 400 mcg of folate every day. Fo- lic acid is the form used to fortify grain products or added to dietary supplements. You can get folate from dark-green leafy vegetables like spinach, beans & peas, fruit like orang- es & orange juice, & folic acid from forti ed  our & forti ed cereals.
Most old people don’t need a complete multivitamin supplement. But if you don’t think you are making the best food choices, look for a supplement sold as a complete vi- tamin & mineral supplement. It should be well balanced & contain 100% of most recommended vitamins & minerals – make sure the dose is not too large.
Calcium is a mineral that is important for strong bones & teeth, so there are special recommendations for older people who are at risk for bone loss. You can get calcium from milk & milk products (always choose fat-free or low-fat
VITAMINS continued on pg 62
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