Vitamins and nutrients – are you getting enough?

Vitamins and nutrients – are you getting enough?

As you age, loss of taste, lack of appetite, chewing and swallowing problems and decreased physical activity are all common triggers that can reduce your normal, healthy intake of necessary nutrients.

Many of us choose to take supplements, because we think we’re not getting the right amount of vitamins in our body – but you might not realise that taking a high dosage, or taking them for too long, can do more harm than good, especially if you’re already taking prescription medication.

Not only can vitamin supplements be expensive they may be unnecessary. Your kidneys will simply flush out what your body doesn’t need, meaning that your expensive supplements end up going straight down the toilet.

Vitamin D is an important nutrient to consume as you age because it supports bone health, reduces cardiovascular disease risk and prevents certain types of cancer.

Our body makes most of our vitamin D in reaction to sunlight on our skin. It’s also found in a few foods including oily fish, eggs, margarine, yoghurt and fortified breakfast cereals. However, people over the age of 65 are at risk of not getting enough vitamin D, so try to get out in the sun for 10 to 15 minutes a day without sunscreen.

Iron is an essential mineral that has several important roles in the body, including helping to make red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body.

You should be able to get all the iron you need from your daily diet, as it is found in red meat, pulses and beans, eggs, wholegrain products, nuts and seeds, green leafy vegetables, dried fruit and fortified cereals.

Also, iron deficiency in patients over 50 can be the first sign of an underlying health problem, so this needs investigating fully.

Don’t drink tea and coffee with a meal as this will reduce the amount of iron absorbed so keep these to in-between meals.

Calcium is important as it helps to build strong bones and teeth, regulates muscle contractions, including heartbeat, and helps blood to clot normally. Milk, cheese and yoghurt are all good sources of calcium, as well as green leafy vegetables, nuts and fish like sardines, where you eat the bones.

Try to eat 3-4 portions of dairy products a day as this should provide all the calcium you need.

B vitamins There are several types of vitamin B and they all have different functions within the body, including helping to break down energy from food, keeping the skin, eyes and nervous system healthy, and helping to form red blood cells.

If you eat a well-balanced diet, including wholegrains and cereals, you should be getting all that you need. However, as we get older it becomes harder to absorb vitamin B12, which is found in meat, cod, salmon, milk, cheese, eggs and some fortified cereals.

People who are deficient are at increased risk of anaemia and neurological problems such as memory loss.

Eating fortified breakfast cereals, yeast extract and meat can help with B12 deficiency.

Vitamin C High-dose vitamin C supplements are said to ward off colds, but are they worth the money? While it’s true that vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps to fight infection, and aids healing, eating plenty of fruit and vegetables should be enough.

Aim for five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day, with only one of these being fruit juice. Citrus fruit, strawberries and mango, peppers and tomatoes are all good sources of vitamin C.

If you have any particular health problems always consult your GP.