Attention, ladies! Did you know that your diet can actually affect the state of your health as you age? Especially after the age of 50? According to multiple health experts, poor nutrition can actually be directly correlated to other serious health issues as you age. Not only are your bones and muscles affected, but also your menopause symptoms as well.
"At and around the age of 50, women are prone to experience health conditions like osteoporosis, hypertension, and menopausal symptoms," says Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD, and a registered dietitian at Balance One Supplements. "These conditions and symptoms can be moderately, and in some cases entirely, controlled through diet."
"Diet can impact a woman's menopause symptoms in both a positive and negative way," Best continues. "As estrogen levels drop during menopause women are at a higher risk for certain diseases and conditions."
So for the ladies out there, stock up on the following foods for a strong body and a long life after 50. Even if you haven't hit this milestone, these foods are great options for your meals because of the effects they can have on your overall health—regardless of age.
Then, if you're looking for recipes to make with these foods, check out our list of the 100 Easiest Recipes You Can Make.
Continuing to build strong bones is essential as you continue to age, which is why dairy products are considered some of the best foods for women after 50.
"They are a good source of high-quality protein, which is essential to help maintain muscle mass as we age," says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook and a member of our medical expert board. "[Plus], dairy foods provide calcium (and milk has vitamin D as well), which is needed to keep your bones strong. Strong muscles and bones help strengthen your core balance, can help prevent falls and make it easier to execute daily functions of life like carrying groceries, chasing grandkids and cleaning the house."
Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim, and another member of our medical expert board, specifically recommends yogurt as a go-to food for women after 50 because "it's high in calcium as well as vitamin D which helps calcium absorption." She also points out that yogurt is high in probiotics, which promotes good gut health.
Whether they are leafy or a heaping pile of your favorite roasted veggie, green vegetables make for a good nutrition "powerhouse" in your diet, according to Young.
"They contain calcium, and antioxidant vitamins A and C perfect to help fight inflammation and heart disease which is more common as you age," says Young. "They also contain vitamin K—an added boost for bone health—and are high in fiber [as well as] low in calories, which is important as you age as your metabolism tends to slow down."
"As women grow older, a process called sarcopenia is happening which is the loss of muscle mass associated with aging," says Mussatto. "Sarcopenia can begin as early as [your] late thirties to early forties. But likely, for women and men over the age of 50, many will already have some loss of muscle mass occurring. In fact, by the time women reach 80 years, up to one-third of women may have lost as much as half of their skeletal muscle mass."
With a loss of skeletal muscle, sarcopenia can affect overall health in multiple ways including the link it has to metabolic function in regulating blood sugar levels. Mussatto explains other health outcomes can include osteoporosis, falls, frailty, and an overall loss of strength and endurance.
"To combat sarcopenia, besides staying physically active each day, women over 50 need adequate protein sources to help maintain muscle mass," says Mussatto. "Best protein sources to include each day are eggs, dairy foods, lean meat, fatty fish, soy, nuts, beans, and seeds."
Start each morning right with these 19 High Protein Breakfasts That Keep You Full!
Beans & legumes
Along with being a great source of protein, beans and legumes are rich in fiber which is also a key nutrient needed as you age—or at any stage of your life.
"In addition to protein, getting adequate fiber in the diet has been found to lower total cholesterol which tends to increase during menopause," says Mackenzie Burgess, RDN and recipe developer at Cheerful Choices.
Burgess points to research that proves older women who eat more protein typically result in having better muscle mass and improved physical function.
"For example, one cup of boiled lentils packs in 18 grams of protein and 15 grams of fiber," says Burgess. "Try adding beans and legumes to quinoa salads, blend into healthier dips, or stir into bean curry."
Here are the Dangerous Signs You're Not Eating Enough Fiber.
Menopause can also be positively affected when consuming salmon as a lean protein source as well. This is specifically due to how salmon is known to be a rich source of vitamin D.
"During menopause, estrogen levels decrease which has been found to cause an increase in bone turnover and a decline in bone mineral density, both of which increase the risk for fractures," says Burgess. "With this in mind, it's important for women over the age of 50 to get adequate vitamin D which absorbs calcium and promotes bone health. In addition to getting adequate exposure to sunlight, consuming foods high in vitamin D, such as salmon, can be a great way to improve vitamin D levels."
According to Burgess, a 3-ounce salmon fillet provides 75% of the recommended daily value of vitamin D.
"Berries are high in fiber, vitamin C, and anti-inflammatory, antioxidant flavonoids that provide 'one-stop nourishment' to people over 50," says Shannon Henry, RD with EZCare Clinic. "Fiber helps keep us regular, maintains our weight, and protects us from diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Women 50 years of age or older should consume 21 grams [of fiber] per day."
While it's not exactly a food you eat, water is still an essential part of anyone's diet—especially as you age.
"As we get older, we're less likely to quench our thirst, so we need to be vigilant about water intake, especially when it's hot and humid and when we're sweating," says Henry. "Excess water intake can help counter the effects of bowel function tumbling with age."
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