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Essential vitamins and minerals for older adults—and what they do

To help you stay healthy, here’s a list of vitamins and minerals adults 55 and over should consider taking daily, as well as the benefits they provide.

Getting enough essential vitamins and minerals is a vital part of maintaining good health— especially as you age.

Changing nutritional needs and dietary restrictions can affect your vitamin intake over time. This makes it challenging to get the nutrients you need to keep your bones and muscles strong and ensure that other body systems are working correctly.

To help you stay healthy, here’s a list of vitamins and minerals adults 55 and over should consider taking daily, as well as the benefits they provide.

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Vitamin A

Vitamin A protects vision, boosts the immune system, and helps the heart and lungs function properly. The National Institute of Health (NIH) recommends 900 mcg for men and 700 mcg for women. Food sources include spinach, eggs, fish, milk, beef liver, cantaloupe, mango, and broccoli.

Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)

Vitamin B1 converts food to energy and helps regulate cell function. NIH recommends 1.2 mg for men and 1.1 mg for women. Food sources include whole grains, cereal, pasta, rice, legumes, seeds, nuts, pork, and fish.

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

Vitamin B2 aids cell growth, development, and function. NIH recommends 1.3 mg for men and 1.1 mg for women. Food sources include asparagus, spinach, broccoli, eggs, organ meats, fortified cereal, bread, and grains.

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Vitamin B3 converts food to energy and regulates cell development and function. NIH recommends 16 mg for men and 14 mg for women daily. Food sources include poultry, beef, pork, fish, legumes, nuts, grains, and fortified cereal.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 strengthens the immune system and helps with metabolism. NIH recommends 1.7 mcg for men and 1.5 mcg for women. Food sources include potatoes, starchy vegetables, fish, poultry, and organ meats.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 regulates nerve function and helps red blood cells form. NIH recommends 2.4 mcg for all adults. Food sources include beef liver, clams, fish, poultry, eggs, and fortified breakfast cereals.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps prevent free radicals from harming body cells. It also helps wounds heal and enhances the body’s iron absorption. NIH recommends 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women. Food sources include oranges, orange juice, grapefruit, grapefruit juice, broccoli, cantaloupe, strawberries, tomatoes, and potatoes.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D aids calcium absorption to strengthen bones and help prevent osteoporosis. It also helps the immune system fight off bacteria and viruses, supports muscle function, and helps nerves transmit messages between the brain and body. NIH recommends 15 mcg (600 IU) for adults ages 19-70 and 20 mcg (800 IU) for adults 71+. Food sources include milk, fortified cereal, orange juice, yogurt, salmon, tuna, and other fatty fish.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E protects the body from free radicals as an antioxidant. It helps open blood vessels to prevent clots and boosts the immune system to fight bacteria and viruses. NIH recommends 15 mg for all adults. Food sources include vegetable oils, wheat germ, nuts like peanuts and almonds, broccoli, and spinach.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K helps blood clot and promotes bone health. NIH recommends 120 mcg for men 19 and older and 90 mcg for women 19 and older. Food sources include leafy green vegetables such as lettuce, kale, spinach, and broccoli, blueberries, figs, meat, cheese, eggs, and soybean.


Calcium helps keep bones and teeth strong and healthy. It also helps muscles move and nerves carry messages between the brain and body. Furthermore, this powerhouse mineral helps blood vessels move blood throughout the body and releases critical hormones and enzymes that support multiple body functions.

NIH recommends 1,000 mg for adult men 51-70, 1,200 mg for adult women 51-70, and 1,200 mg for all adults 71 and older. Food sources include milk, yogurt, cheese, kale, broccoli, canned sardines and salmon, most grains, and other fortified foods as labelled.


Folate helps the body make DNA and genetic material. NIH recommends 400 mcg of daily folate equivalents (DFEs) for adults 19+. Food sources include asparagus, Brussels sprouts, spinach, oranges and orange juice, nuts, beans, and peas.


Magnesium regulates nerve and muscle function, blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and helps make protein, DNA, and bone. NIH recommends 400-420 mg for men and 310-320 mg for women. Food sources include legumes, nuts, seeds, spinach, milk, yogurt, and fortified cereals.


Potassium assists multiple vital functions, including heart and kidney function, nerve transmission, and muscle contraction. NIH recommends 3,400 mg for men 19 and older and 2,600 mg for women 19+.  Food sources include prunes, raisins, bananas, orange juice, potatoes, spinach, broccoli, acorn squash, kidney beans, soybeans, lentils, meat, fish, and poultry.

Food vs. Supplements

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025, people should “follow a healthy dietary pattern at every life stage” and “focus on meeting food group needs with nutrient-dense foods and beverages and stay within calorie limits.” The core food groups are vegetables, fruits, grains, protein, dairy, and oils. Many experts agree that eating appropriate foods is the preferred way to get necessary nutrients.

Aging-related changes, however, such as tooth loss, chronic illness, and changes in appetite can impact the amount of nutrients a body absorbs or a person’s ability to eat certain foods. In this case, older adults may need to take a vitamin or mineral supplement to get what they need to maximize their health and stay as active as possible.

An important note: You should always consult your physician before making any dietary changes, including vitamin and mineral supplements. Taking more than recommended amounts may be harmful.