Nutrition Needs for the Older Adult: Part 1

In our world, nutrition and health are synonymous. Nutritional needs vary throughout one’s lifespan. This is a fact often overlooked in the older adult population. To optimize heath as the body ages, we must adjust the ratio of both micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats). The first part of this series will focus on the micronutrient needs of older adults.

  1. Vitamin B12 is required for proper red blood cell formation, neurological function and DNA synthesis. B12 from food sources is broken down by acid (HCl) in the stomach and absorbed in the small intestine. As we age, the amount of HCl in the stomach decreases which prevents B12 breakdown. As an older adult, it may be beneficial to include breakfast cereals fortified with Vitamin B12 or consider taking a supplement. These forms bypass stomach breakdown and are absorbed directly into the bloodstream via the small intestine.
  2. Vitamin B6 performs a wide array of functions in the body. As kidney function declines, older adults may become deficient. People with autoimmune disorders, digestive disease or alcohol dependance also tend to have lower B6 levels.
  3. The B vitamin, Folate, is rarely found in deficient amounts; however, there have been small studies showing its preventative effects in the older adult population. Adequate folate levels may aid in preventing cognitive decline and certain forms of cancer.
  4. Vitamin D is absorbed through the skin after exposure to the sun’s UV rays. Vitamin D and its best friend Calcium (see below) are partners in keeping bones healthy and strong. The skin’s ability to synthesize Vit D diminishes with age, so taking a supplement of Vitamin D3 is a method of prevention.
  5. Calcium absorption in the intestines is largely influenced by age which puts the older adult population at risk for deficiency. The adequate intake (AI) was recently increased to 1200mg per day.Please refer to the table below. It may be wise to print it out to keep on the fridge for future reference. If you find your diet is insufficient to meet daily requirements, you suffer from chronic disease or take multiple medications, supplementation may be advised.

For a personalized assessment of your nutritional needs, please email our Registered Dietitian, Kim Valenza, at You can also view information on the Nutritional Counseling services Alliance Homecare provides at

Micronutrient AI Sources


2.4 mcg

  • Clams, 3 oz, 84.1mcg
  • Liver, 3 oz, 70.7mcg
  • Sockeye Salmon, 3 oz, 4.8mcg
  • Sirloin Beef, 3 oz, 1.4mcg
  • Cereals fortified with 100% RDV of B12, 1 serving, 6 mcg


1.5 mg (female)

1.7 mg (male)

  • Canned Chickpeas, 1 cup, 1.1mg
  • Roasted turkey, 3 oz, .4mg
  • Boiled potatoes, 1 cup, .4mg
  • Banana, 1 medium, .4mg
  • Bulgar, 1 cup, .2mg
  • Boiled Spinach, 1/2 cup .1mg


400 mcg

  • Liver, 3 oz, 215mcg
  • Boiled Spinach, 1/2 cup, 131 mcg
  • Breakfast Cereals Fortified with 25% RDV, 1 serving, 100 mcg
  • Boiled Asparagus, 4 stems, 89 mcg
  • Tomato Juice, 3/4 cup, .36 mcg


800 IU

  • Cod Liver Oil, 1 tablespoon, 1360 IU
  • Swordfish, 3 oz, 566 IU
  • Sockeye Salmon, 3 oz, 447 IU
  • Fortified Skim Milk, 1 cup, 115 IU
  • Egg, 1 large yolk, 41 IU


1200 mg

  • Plain Yogurt, 8 oz, 415mg
  • Reduced-fat Mozzarella, 5 oz, 333 mg
  • Sardines (with bones), 3 oz, 325 mg
  • Cooked Kale, 1 cup, 94 mg
  • Raw broccoli, 1/2 cup, 21 mg


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