A person’s nutrition after 50 is crucial. It is, arguably, the most important factor in maintaining a healthy body at this age. It cannot withstand much more abuse in the form of fast food, inactivity and too much alcohol. The side effects are imminent.
Good nutrition is essential throughout the entire lifespan, of course, but around and after age 50, changes occur within the body that make the food you consume of particular significance, says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area.
“As you age, you lose muscle mass, about 10 percent each decade after age 45,” she says. “While you’re losing muscle, you’re more likely to gain body fat and require less calories.” This is because muscle burns more calories than body fat, she adds.
It’s also important to prioritize exercise—in particular, resistance training to help counteract that decline in metabolism that happens with aging, Gorin says.
You have to prioritize nutrition to prevent heart disease, diabetes, and other conditions that are of greater concern as people get older.
Eat: Fatty fish
“Having at least two 3.5-ounce servings of cooked fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, or herring each week can help keep your heart health strong,” Gorin says. These fish provide heart-helping omega-3 fatty acids. They are essential to a person’s overall health and they are promoted for their protective effects, especially on the brain, heart and eyes.
Bone health is important as you get older. About a third of women and 20 percent of men over age 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis, Gorin says. “Eating prunes helps to strengthen bone health and keep your bones healthy.” In fact, she adds, eating five to six prunes daily has been shown to help prevent bone loss, per a study in Osteoporosis International.”You can snack on prunes, add them to a salad, or make jam or even brownies with them.”
Eat: Tomato Sauce
Surprisingly, this food helps prevent wrinkles, Gorin says. “Tomatoes are red gems that provide the antioxidant lycopene.” This antioxidant can help protect skin from wrinkles and other damage that happens due to UV light, she adds. Cooked tomatoes are preferred because your body best absorbs the lycopene from them. You can add tomato sauce to pasta or use it in a spaghetti squash recipe.
Limit: Added Sugars
All people should limit intake of added sugar, and this is even more important as you get older, Gorin says. “Added sugar such as table sugar and brown sugar should make up no more than 10 percent of your total calories.” So for a 2,000-calorie daily diet, that comes out to about 12 teaspoons of added sugar. “For the added sugar you are adding to your day, I recommend using one that offers some nutrition. My favorite is pure maple syrup.” It’s a unique sweetener because it boasts 60-plus health-helping polyphenols, as well as the blood-sugar-helping mineral manganese and the B vitamin riboflavin, she adds. “I like to use it to lightly sweeten overnight grains, a muffin recipe, or maple-Dijon salad dressing.”
Don’t eat: Trans Fats
Although you want to avoid these at all times, doing so is even more important as you get older. Before menopause, estrogen provides some protection against heart disease.