In middle age, women’s bodies undergo physiological shifts that can have an impact on long-term health. Your metabolism is no longer as revved-up as it was when you were 20 or 30, your hormone levels are changing and your bones may be losing some density. After 50, the best diet for women is actually no “diet” at all, but rather a healthy daily eating plan that consists of whole foods to provide needed nutrients for the second part of life.
Daily Calorie Needs
Your body no longer burns calories as efficiently as it did when you were younger, and you need fewer calories at 50 than you did 20 years earlier. A sedentary 50-year-old woman needs about 1,600 calories a day just to maintain her weight, while a slightly more active woman requires 1,800 and an active woman will need about 2,000 to 2,200.
Make every calorie count by choosing nutrient-dense whole foods over calorie-dense options. Nutrient-dense foods include fresh fruits and vegetables; lean meats and fish; beans and legumes; nuts and seeds; eggs and dairy. These foods tend to be high in fiber or protein, both of which fill you up. Foods that are calorie-dense and nutrient-light, which are often heavily processed with high levels of fat, sugar or sodium content, include items such as baked goods, sweetened beverages and many common snack foods like potato chips and crackers.
Foods for Hormone Support
In midlife, you may feel like your hormones are on a roller-coaster ride. Hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings are just a few of the side effects of peri-menopause and menopause, which usually occurs around age 51. If you experience these symptoms, eating more healthy fats may help you manage them. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in cold-water fish like salmon, sardines and tuna. Flaxseed is good plant-based source of alpha linolenic acid, a type of omega-3. These little seeds also supply lignans, a variety of fiber that may reduce hot flashes. As an added plus, omega-3s support heart health, another concern for women age 50 and older.
Soy foods, such as soymilk, tofu, miso, edamame and tempeh, contain isoflavones, which are natural compounds that mimic estrogen in the body and may help ease menopausal symptoms. However, eating lots of soy may not be appropriate if you're a breast cancer survivor -- if that's you, talk to your doctor before you add it to your diet.
Foods for Bone Health
Women’s bones thin in middle age, making them susceptible to fractures and osteoporosis. The body relies on calcium and vitamin D to support bone health. Dairy products such as cow's and goat's milk, yogurt and cheese are among the best food sources of calcium. Broccoli, collard and turnip greens, almonds and Brazil nuts, soy foods and blackstrap molasses also provide calcium. The best way to get vitamin D is through small amounts of sun exposure, but it is also supplied by salmon, tuna, egg yolks, soy milk and some fortified cereals and juices. You may also take vitamin D supplements.
Foods with Antioxidants for Aging
Foods containing antioxidants help ward off free radicals, which are rogue molecules formed during the natural aging process and through exposure to environmental toxins. Free radicals damage normal cells and DNA, reducing your ability to ward off diseases, such as cancer, as you age.
Increasing your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants may boost your defenses. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that supplied by citrus fruits, broccoli, bell peppers, parsley, cabbage, kiwi and tomatoes. Another is vitamin E, found in seeds, nuts, whole grains and cold-pressed vegetable oils. Beta-carotene, or provitamin A, comes from a wide variety of yellow, red and orange vegetables, such as carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe and peaches, and also from green vegetables such as broccoli, kale and spinach. The mineral selenium, found especially in brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, Brazil nuts and whole grains, works with vitamin E to perform antioxidant functions in the body.
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