Retirement Life
23 August 2022

Essential nutrients during retirement

Many factors are at play when it comes to enjoying a long and happy retirement – staying physically active, maintaining good social connections and following our interests and hobbies. But our health is the most important factor.


And because we know that typically as we age, we’re eating less, it’s all the more critical that we choose foods rich in nutritional content. So what are the most essential nutrients for older adults?

Typically foods high in protein, fibre, and healthy fats are the most nutritious and also the most important for older people. Protein is essential for the repair and maintenance of our muscles (which helps prevent falls). In fact, older adults need more protein than their younger counterparts, according to the NZ Nutrition Foundation. Fibre is vital for a healthy digestive system, and healthy fats, such as avocado, nuts, seeds and oily fish, are important as they can help combat inflammatory diseases such as heart disease.

Calcium is another much-needed nutrient that older people tend to need more of as the body breaks down bone at a faster rate as we age.

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According to the NZ Nutrition Foundation, getting enough calcium is particularly important for post-menopausal and older women as hormonal changes mean they are at the highest risk of osteoporosis and fractures.


Also, Vitamin D, folate and Vitamin B12 all have essential roles in our health as we age.


Vitamin D helps bone health as it supports our bodies to absorb calcium from food. The best source of Vitamin D is sunlight. Common advice is to get 30 minutes of non-burning sun exposure daily. According to the NZ Nutrition Foundation, it’s difficult to get enough Vitamin D from your diet alone due to limited range of Vitamin D containing foods, however, such foods include oily fish, eggs, lean meat and yellow-top milk (as it’s fortified with Vitamin D).


Folate is thought to help reduce the risk of illnesses such as heart disease and even some cancers, so look for plenty of whole-grain bread and cereals, dark-coloured vegetables, fruit and legumes when you go to the supermarket. For instance, many foods have folate added in now, like bread and orange juice, so look out for those.


Vitamin B12 is needed for normal blood and brain function, and as we get older, our ability to absorb B12 from food decreases – so it’s definitely one to watch out for.


The majority of our vitamin B12 comes from animal foods, such as meat, eggs and dairy foods or vitamin B12 fortified foods. So if you avoid animal foods, it is generally recommended to take a B12 supplement.


The key to getting enough of these nutrients in your diet is to make healthy choices a habit. Stick to a schedule of eating three balanced meals per day, and healthy snacks if required. Keeping hydrated is also crucial to good health.

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If you think you might be going short of any nutrients, or want to avoid eating any specific foods, ask your doctor, registered nutritionist or dietitian for advice. Or for more information, go to


This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.

Photo of Kathy Catton
Written by:

Kathy Catton

Kathy Catton is a freelance writer and editor, based on the Banks Peninsula. She is an experienced feature writer, magazine editor and copywriter. Quick to grasp the crux of any story and tell it in plain English, Kathy enjoys bringing stories to readers that surprise and delight.

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