Being in the best health possible means what we eat as we age matters.
People in their 20s and 30s can typically get away with eating more calorie-dense foods that are important for strength and growth. But as you get older your metabolism tends to slow, and the body’s ability to break down and use fuel sources becomes less efficient.
While you may have been able to grab a sausage roll and a cake for lunch in your 20s, these types of food can have a larger impact on your blood sugar levels and risk for diabetes and heart disease when you’re older.
So, once you reach your 50s, it’s important to make some diet and lifestyle changes to ensure you stay as healthy as possible.
Here are some healthy eating habits to adopt in your 50s and beyond.
High fibre vegetables
Your gastrointestinal functioning slows down as you age and, as a result, it’s important to focus on eating enough fibre to keep your system moving along.
Make sure you’re eating plenty of vegies such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage; along with their high fibre content, they also contain a lot of water that is important at every life stage.
Turmeric has been shown to boost immune function and also decrease joint inflammation and prevent arthritis in older women.
Other research has shown turmeric, and its main active compound curcumin may have a real effect on preventing Alzheimer’s and some forms of cancer.
Read more: Can turmeric improve your health?
You can put turmeric on vegetables, or meats such as chicken and fish, or use it as part of a marinade. There are even recipes for turmeric tea.
Foods high in B12
Vitamin B12 is important in maintaining a healthy nervous system and is released from food when it comes into contact with stomach acid.
As the body ages, the stomach’s acidity decreases and, as a result, it’s harder to get enough vitamin B12 in your diet.
Foods that come from animals, such as meat, eggs, seafood and dairy, have the highest amounts of B12, but you can also get the vitamin from B12-fortified foods such as whole-grain cereals.
People over 50 typically should get 2.4 micrograms of B12 every day. Talk to your GP about adding a B12 supplement to your diet if you don’t consume a lot of these foods or stick to a vegan diet.
Bananas and avocados
The risk of stroke increases as you age, but research has shown eating foods high in potassium can help lower your risk.
A study of women aged 50 to 70 found that those who ate the highest amounts of potassium were least likely to experience a stroke. Potassium also can play a key role in lowering blood pressure, according to the World Health Organization.
Other foods high in potassium include potatoes, pistachios, spinach and broccoli.
Choline is an essential nutrient that affects a number of vital bodily functions including liver function, healthy brain development, muscle movement, your nervous system and metabolism.
Read more: The health benefits of eating eggs
All plant and animal cells need choline to preserve their structural integrity. Though your liver can make small amounts, you must obtain the majority through your diet.
Eggs are the best food source of choline.
Phytoestrogens are a form of dietary oestrogen we get from food. Research is ongoing into the effects of these plant-based nutrients, but some studies indicate they can mimic or enhance the natural hormone’s health benefits.
If you are struggling with menopausal symptoms, consider including more soy-based foods such as tofu, miso and tempeh in your diet – they may help reduce hot flushes, improve cardiovascular health and bone density.
Other sources of phytoestrogens include lentils, beansprouts, peanuts, flaxseeds and sweet potatoes.
There’s still a lot to learn when it comes to phytoestrogens, and while most research points to positive effects, in some cases phytoestrogens can block or disrupt estrogen in your body. It’s important to talk to your doctor about managing hormone levels with your diet.
In your 60s and beyond
Looking after your heart is crucial in these years, and olive oil is a great source of unsaturated fats that protect both your heart and your brain. It gives a great flavour boost to meals, too.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat with various reported health benefits including reducing the risk of heart disease, reducing the risk and severity of dementia, and alleviating inflammation in arthritis sufferers.
They are referred to as essential fats as they cannot be made in the body, so have to be obtained through the diet.
Read more: What’s the big deal with omega-3s?
Aim to eat three portions of omega-3 rich foods each week; canned fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel offer value for money and are omega-3 rich (but not canned tuna). Other sources include omega-3 enriched eggs, nuts and seeds such as chia and flaxseed.
Strawberries and blueberries are high in anthocyanins – chemicals that help lower your blood pressure and keep your blood vessels healthy.
They’re also naturally sweet but low in sugar, so they make a great snack. Aim to have them at least two or three times a week.
Ageing often comes with degeneration of your eyesight, so protecting your eyes in your 60s and beyond is key.
Many people know lutein as ‘the eye vitamin’. It is related to beta carotene and vitamin A, and is a valuable nutrient you need to optimise vision and prevent macular degeneration. It is thought to function as a light filter, protecting the eye tissues from sunlight damage.
Green leafy vegetables, along with grapes, oranges and egg yolks, are excellent sources of lutein.
How have you adjusted your diet as you age? Are there certain foods you just can’t eat anymore?
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