Your dietary needs won’t always be the same. In fact, according to a published work in the National Academic Press titled “Nutrition Concerns for Aging Populations,” researchers point out that particular nutrient needs and diet quality are vital for anyone aging. As you age you may become a little less active, your metabolism will slow, your energy will decrease, and there’s always the risk of developing diseases. That’s why it’s important to focus on the quality of your diet as you get older—but what exactly does that mean? What would be considered the best foods to eat every day if you’re over 50?
We asked a few registered dietitians to share with us some of the foods you should make a regular part of your routine. These foods can help strengthen your bones, your immune system, and even your muscles, giving your body all of those nutrients it needs. Here are the foods they recommend, and for even more healthy tips, be sure to check out our list of The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
“While many people think of dairy foods for young, growing bones, it’s just as important later in life to help maintain bone mineral density,” says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD. “Women over age 50 actually have increased calcium needs for the remainder of life. The recommendation is to consume three servings of dairy a day. These foods are rich in calcium, vitamin D, B vitamins, selenium, zinc, high-quality protein, and more! Making smoothies with milk, having yogurt parfaits for snacks, and adding cheese to a sandwich, wrap or salad are all ways to enjoy your three servings of dairy.”
“As you age, your risk for osteoporosis increases,” says Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim. “Calcium-rich food like yogurt is a perfect food high in calcium as well as vitamin D which helps calcium absorption. Yogurt is also rich in probiotics which helps promote gut health.”
For even more calcium, add in these Popular Foods With More Calcium Than a Glass of Milk.
“As we age, most individuals lose around 2 to 3% of lean muscle mass a decade,” says Goodson. “That can lead to reduced strength and a decrease in core stability. In order to keep your muscles strong, you need to exercise regularly and daily consume high-quality protein like lean beef, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy. The goal is to include protein in all of your meals and snacks.”
“Protein timing is also key,” Goodson continues, “Research suggests eating approximately 30 grams of protein at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and sprinkling it in at snack time, can help optimally build and rebuild muscle.”
“As we age, our bodies change and many times begin to develop different needs,” says Ricci-Lee Hotz, MS, RDN at A Taste of Health, LLC & Expert at Testing.com. “One thing that gains importance as you get older is getting enough protein. If your diet is too low in protein and physical activity is not maintained, it can lead to sarcopenia, or muscle wasting as you age. Consuming lean animal proteins or plant-based proteins such as lean chicken, fish, turkey, as well as nuts, seeds, beans, and tofu are some examples of great protein choices.”
Here are the Best Forms of Lean Protein You Can Eat.
“Your risk for heart disease increases as you age so adding foods that help lower cholesterol are great,” says Young. “Oats contain a soluble fiber called beta-glucan, and consuming at least 30 grams of fiber is a good bet. Oats offer additional benefits for the over 50 crowd—they help keep blood sugar steady and keep you feeling full which is perfect for watching your weight.”
Try making overnight oats with our 51 Healthy Overnight Oats Recipes!
“Adding greens like kale, lettuce, and spinach are great foods to help keep your mind sharp and prevent cognitive decline as you age,” says Young. “Greens contain antioxidants like vitamin A and C which can help delay the aging of your brain. Eating green leafy vegetables keeps mental abilities sharp and these veggies are also rich in vitamin K which may also be protective.”
“Sweet potatoes are a wonderful food to include at any age, but especially over 50,” says Sarah Schlichter, MPH, RDN, owner of Nutrition for Running and Bucket List Tummy. “Knowing that most Americans don’t get enough dietary fiber, sweet potatoes are a complex carbohydrate with nearly 5 grams of fiber per potato. Fiber has been shown to help with digestion, improved gut health, and stabilizing blood sugar, among other healthful benefits Sweet potatoes are also high in Vitamins A and C, both helpful for immunity, potassium, magnesium, and a slew of anti-inflammatory antioxidants, that may counteract the aging process.”
Here’s One Major Effect of Eating Sweet Potatoes, Says Dietitian.
“Blueberries are a wonderful ‘brain food’ for aging,” says Schlichter. “Their dark blue hues infer they are high in polyphenols, which have been proven to help with age-related memory decline. Cognitive function is a significant area of concern during aging, so capitalizing on mental health and “mental food” can make a big difference. The anthocyanins and antioxidants in blueberries may also help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and may help with weight management.”
“Omega 3 fatty acids (the healthy unsaturated fats) have several benefits on health and aging in our diets,” says Schlichter. “Salmon is a fantastic source of these healthy fats, which have been linked to improved cardiovascular health, decreased inflammation, decreased cholesterol, as well as providing nutrients such as Vitamin A, Vitamin D, B12 and iron. Salmon is also a great source of protein, which becomes more important as we age. As we age, we are more subject to age-related loss of muscle mass, so eating sufficient protein, combined with proper resistance training, can help with bone health as well as retaining muscle mass.”
RELATED: What’s the Difference Between Omega-3, -6, and -9? A Registered Dietitian Explains
“One of the best foods to eat when you’re over 50 is flax seeds,” says Theresa Gentile, MS, RDN, CDN, Owner of Full Plate Nutrition and a New York City media rep for the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Flax seeds are an excellent source of both insoluble and soluble fiber which helps to keep bowel movements regular. Flax seeds are also a rich source of ALA, a plant-based omega 3 fatty acid, which can help lower the risk of heart attack and strokes. This can be especially important for post-menopausal women because when estrogen drops, cholesterol levels rise, especially LDL, or ‘bad’ cholesterol.”
“Anyone over the age of 50 should be taking in a fair amount of antioxidant-rich foods. Antioxidants are plant compounds that stimulate the immune system and are also responsible for reducing inflammation by preventing clumping of blood platelets,” says Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD from Balance One Supplements. “Chronic, low-level inflammation causes oxidative stress in the body that leads to many of the chronic conditions common to Western nations. The most common of these conditions caused and/or exacerbated by inflammation include heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.”
Best says kale is one of the best antioxidant-rich foods to incorporate into your meals.
“These antioxidants come in the form of a variety of vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds that make it a superfood,” says Best. “Kale is very low in calories per pound making it an ideal base to any salad or smoothie as it will add bulk without excess calories. This will help in weight loss efforts as the gut’s stretch receptors are activated giving a sense of satiety without extra calories.”
Along with kale, incorporate these 15 Most Antioxidant-Packed Fruits & Veggies into your diet as well.
“Berries are high in fiber, vitamin C, and anti-inflammatory, antioxidant flavonoids and are great nutritional sources for people over 50 years of age,” says Shannon Henry, RD with EZCare Clinic. “Fiber helps us stay healthy, controls our weight, and protects against diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.”
Young recommends that men aged 51 or older should eat 30 grams of berries a day, and women aged 50 or older should eat 21 grams a day.
“Nuts and seeds are also significant sources of healthy fats,” says Henry. “Walnuts, flax seeds, and chia seeds all contain ALA omega-3 fats, which are converted to EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, having 50 omega-3 fat intakes will help protect your brain, especially.”
“Oranges are a nutritious fruit option for people of all ages, but their nutrients, such as vitamin C and flavonoids, offer unique benefits for those over 50 years old including for heart, brain and skin health,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, nutrition expert and author of Smoothies & Juices: Prevention Healing Kitchen. “Vitamin C, can help reduce the risk of heart disease – the leading cause of death in the US and a condition that we become more at risk for as we age. In-season California Valencias make it easy to get enough vitamin C.
Largeman-Roth says an orange can offer 70% of your Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C, and also “promotes the production of collagen, helping to boost our skin’s elasticity and strength, which is vital as we age.”
Get even more healthy tips straight to your inbox by signing up for our newsletter! After, read these next: