Balanced Intake for Seniors

Dealing with aging parents can be difficult and time-consuming for those of us in the “sandwich generation“.  But some details of daily life for seniors, such as balanced intake of proper nutrients and vitamins, should be easily accomplished.

A True “Multiple Vitamin”

Vitamin A is a fat-soluable vitamin (i.e., it is not a water-based vitamin), which plays multiple roles in a variety of functions throughout the body. Vitamin A is essential for normal vision, bone growth, cell division, and proper immune system function.  It is required for the proper development and functioning of our eyes, skin, teeth, immune system, and many other parts of our bodies.  However, if you get too much of one form of this vitamin, you could actually cause yourself harm.

“Multiple” Sources

We get the Vitamin A we need in two main forms – from animal foods, and from plant foods. The former may be referred to as “retinol”. And the Vitamin A found in plant foods may be described as “beta-carotene” — which is only found in plant foods and which the body converts into Vitamin A. These two forms aren’t just chemically different – they also provide us with different types of health benefits. There are some specific immune, inflammatory, genetic, and reproductive-related benefits of Vitamin A that can only be obtained from the “retinol” forms of the vitamin. It can be found in many fruits, vegetables, eggs, whole milk, butter, fortified margarine, meat, and oily saltwater fish. It can also be made in a laboratory.

Our bodies utilize Vitamin A in a variety of ways, including but not limited to: vision, immune functions, skin and cellular health, embryonic development and reproduction, and bone metabolism. It is also used to reduce complications of diseases such as malaria, HIV, and measles. Further, it is used for skin conditions including acne, eczema, psoriasis, cold sores, wounds, burns, and sunburn. Some people use Vitamin A for improving vision and treating eye disorders including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, and cataracts.

Vitamin A can be lost from natural foods during preparation, cooking, or storage. To prevent loss of Vitamin A — use raw fruits and vegetables whenever possible. Keep vegetables (except sweet potatoes and winter squash) and fruits covered and refrigerated during storage. Steam vegetables and braise, bake, or broil meats instead of frying.  Much of Vitamin A may be lost in the fat during frying.

The best way to get the daily requirement of essential vitamins is to eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, fortified dairy foods, legumes (dried beans), lentils, and whole grains.


– John D. Miller is the owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a business providing private duty home care and in-home assistance to those needing help in daily activities and household functions. He can be reached at: (781) 378-2164; email: ; or online at: