Optimal Nutrition After 50

Simple ways to eat healthier as you age.

The basics of healthy eating are the same no matter how many birthdays you’ve celebrated: Choose whole foods, and focus on a diet with an emphasis on plant-based foods. But as you age, making healthier choices becomes even more important.

A healthy diet lowers your risk of common health threats such as heart disease, hypertension and some cancers. Sound nutrition is also key to warding off infection and recovering faster from illnesses or surgeries.

“What you eat every day can improve your health, especially as you age,” says Kim Larson, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Here, Larson offers simple advice for eating well—and feeling your best—for years to come.

Slash sugar. As you get older, your metabolism slows (about 3 to 5 percent every decade). To counteract that drop, Larson suggests avoiding high-sugar “empty calorie” foods such as soda and candy. Lowering your sugar intake will also help reduce inflammation, which is associated with many diseases, including diabetes and osteoarthritis. Instead, satisfy your sweet tooth with fresh, frozen or dried fruit.

Hydrate wisely. Did you know that as you age you lose some of your sense of thirst, making it harder to tell if you’re dehydrated? Because of that loss of sensation, you should be more proactive about drinking water. Adequate hydration is important for all of your bodily functions. Aim to drink about 64 ounces of liquid each day, and eat plenty of water-rich foods like fruits and vegetables.

Go Mediterranean. Various studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet, which focuses on plant-based foods, whole grains, and healthy fats, like nuts and olive oil, can reduce the risk of some of the most common chronic diseases that effect you as you get older. Think fresh, flavorful and colorful, says Lawson. The bonus of a diet rich in olive oil and nuts is that you’re getting more healthy fatty acids, which support brain and eye health and can also fight inflammation.

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