14 Foods Everyone Over 50 Should Probably Be Eating
Nutrition requires a little extra attention as you get older—in part because disease risk increases with age, as does the loss of bone and muscle. Add these foods to your day to give your health a boost.
These sweet root veggies have a lot going for them. “The earthy vegetables can boost your energy, brain power, heart health, and more,” says Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN, author of Eat Right When Time is Tight. “Beets are full of nitrates that can increase blood flow to the brain, which can help combat dementia.” The nitrates can also help keep blood pressure in check. “They’re converted to nitric oxide in the body and can help lower blood pressure by dilating blood vessels,” says Bannan.
Who doesn’t want to keep their skin looking young? “A review study suggests that eating a combination of vitamin E and vitamin C can help protect the skin from UV damage,” says, Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, a dietitian in New York, NY. “Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of vitamin E, and they pair nicely with a spinach salad. Spinach offers vitamin C.”
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They’re not just for pralines and pecan pie: “People over age 50 may worry about heart disease,” says Toby Amidor, MS, RD, a dietitian in New York, NY and a nutrition partner with American Pecans. “The unique mix of unsaturated fats, plant sterols, fibre, and flavonoids in pecans all add up to make pecans a heart-healthy nut. Research indicates that eating a serving of pecans each day may help reduce the risk of heart disease.”
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“Since we know that the loss of muscle begins around age 30, it makes sense to think about foods that can help slow down the process of sarcopenia—age-related muscle loss,” says Ryan Whitcomb, MS, RD, CLT, a dietitian in Jersey City, NJ. While most nutrition experts will say it’s best to get protein from whole-food sources, obtaining enough is not always possible. You can supplement with whey, adding it to smoothies, yogurt, pancake mix, and more.
“Whey is a high-quality, complete protein,” says Whitcomb. “Another great thing about whey is that it is rich in cysteine, which leads to higher levels of glutathione in the body. Glutathione is one of the most important, if not the most important antioxidant in the body. Glutathione can help prevent the damage that free radicals may cause.”
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Dark leafy greens
“These vegetables, such as collard greens and kale, are an excellent source of calcium,” says Angie Asche, MS, RD, a sports dietitian and owner of Eleat Sports Nutrition in Lincoln, NE. “As you age, calcium needs are increased. One cup of cooked collard greens provides almost 30 per cent of the daily value for calcium, along with a number of other important nutrients such as vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and fibre.”
“As we get older, our risk of developing chronic diseases such as hyperlipidemia, high-cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes increases,” says Emily Kyle, MS, RDN, CLT, owner of Emily Kyle Nutrition in Rochester, NY. “Consuming a fibre-rich, plant-based diet that includes beans and legumes can help reduce the incidence of these diseases, while also providing an aging body with many important nutrients such as calcium, iron, and potassium.” Add chickpeas to a rice bowl or white beans to a pizza. “You don’t need to consume an entirely plant-based diet to reap the benefits of beans, just add them to the meals you are already cooking to begin to enjoy their nutritious benefits immediately,” notes Kyle.
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Here’s another way to up your protein intake. “You can’t go wrong with this plant-based protein source,” says Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, author of the Healthy Instant Pot Cookbook. Quinoa is a complete protein, offering all nine essential amino acids. “It’s a higher protein substitute for brown rice in stir-fries, salads, and even burritos,” says Angelo White. You can also use quinoa as a base for a hearty salad.
Try substituting quinoa for rice—while you’re at it, check out these low-carb food swaps.
Here’s a food that you may already love—but did you know it can help prevent wrinkles? Because tomatoes boast the antioxidant lycopene, they may help protect skin from damage that may occur from sun exposure. Your body best absorbs the lycopene from cooked tomatoes, so try combining tomato sauce with pasta or spaghetti squash.
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“After age 50, it’s important for women to eat foods that counteract symptoms of menopause, like brittle bones and low bone density,” says Rizzo. “During this stage of life, it’s crucial to increase your intake of bone-boosting calcium and vitamin D. Mushrooms are one of the few food sources of vitamin D, and research suggests using mushrooms as a substitute for beef may help reduce calories in your diet.” Make sure to look for mushrooms grown in sunlight or under UV light to get the biggest helping of vitamin D.
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Want to keep your bones strong as you get older? “Research suggests that eating five to six prunes each day may help to prevent bone loss,” says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of 2 Day Diabetes Diet and a nutrition partner with Sunsweet Growers. “And since bone loss can accelerate after age 50, adding a food like prunes can be key for this population.” As a no-sugar-added dried fruit, prunes are a great way to promote digestive health with three grams of fibre per serving, she adds.
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Here’s help for your noggin: Eating eggs can help boost brain health. “There is new research that shows that eating eggs has been associated with improved cognitive performance in adults,” says Angelo White, a nutrition partner with Egg Nutrition Center. “In fact, lutein that’s found in eggs has been shown to play a role in cognition in older adults.” You can add eggs to anything from fried rice to sandwiches.
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These crunchy seeds provide crucial nutrients for healthy aging. “Chia seeds are a plant-based source of two nutrients, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids, that become even more significant to our health as we get older,” says Kyle. “The calcium can help support bone health, and the omega-3s can help support brain health.” Add chia seeds to salads for a bit of crunch, or incorporate them into a chia seed pudding.
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“The whole grape, which contains more than 1,600 natural plant compounds—including antioxidants and other polyphenols—offers a range of intriguing health benefits when included in our daily diet,” says Bannan, a nutrition partner with Grapes From California. “These include benefits to the heart, eyes, brain, and joints. A ¾ cup of grapes contains just 90 calories, and grapes of all colours are a natural source of antioxidants and other polyphenols.”
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Hello, nutritional powerhouse: “Besides being tasty, Greek yogurt provides about 40 per cent less sodium and sugar compared to traditional yogurt—with twice the protein,” says Amidor. “Greek yogurt also provides live and active cultures, which act as probiotics for digestive health. Research shows that Greek yogurt may be useful in lowering the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.”
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