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Healthy Diet in Your 50’s

Dec 20, 2018
A man lifting weights

Increased need for protein, vitamins and minerals, fats, carbohydrates, dietary fibre, water

Are you interested in how to achieve a healthy diet after 50 and to understand why is it so important? Then read on.

Increased need for protein
As we get older our nutritional needs change as does our need for protein. Protein helps maintain muscle mass which is important for overall strength so it’s important to ensure an adequate intake of protein as we age. Protein is not just found in meat and fish; there are also good sources of protein in eggs, dairy products, nuts, quinoa, hemp and soy. While most other plant-based sources do not contain all the essential amino acids, adequate daily protein levels can be achieved by combining plant options (e.g. rice, beans, spinach, split peas) across the day. Learn more about protein here.
Vitamins and minerals
All vitamins and minerals are important for the body, but as you get older, calcium and vitamin D are especially important for muscles and bones. 

  • Good sources of calcium include dairy produce such as yoghurt, milk, cheese and kefir.  Don’t forget you can get the same amount of calcium from low fat options as full fat versions.
    Other sources include tuna, salmon with bones, meat, e.g. offal, egg yolk, tofu, dark green vegetables and fortified breakfast cereals.
  • Your body absorbs calcium with the help of vitamin D which you can get through exposure to sunshine and diet. Good food sources of vitamin D are oily fish (such as mackerel, kippers and sardines) as well as fortified breakfast cereals and spreads.  You may not get enough vitamin D from food alone so you may be recommended to take a supplement.

Fats are essential to give your body energy. They support cell growth and maintenance, and help the absorption of vital nutrients. Fats and oils are very high in calories so it is important to watch the amount of fat and fatty foods we eat. There are two main types of fat – saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats (including trans fats) are considered to be less healthy than unsaturated fats because they can increase our risk of heart disease.  

  • Saturated fats include lard, butter, and fat on meat, while trans fats may be in processed foods, e.g. cakes, pastries, and biscuits, labelled as ‘partially hydrogenated vegetable fats/oil’.
  • Unsaturated fats/oils are found in seeds, grains, nuts, and avocados.  They can be either polyunsaturated,  e.g sunflower, soya, corn, and sesame oils or monounsaturated e.g olive and rapeseed oils. Other sources include oily fish such as salmon, pilchards and mackerel.

Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose (sugar) before being absorbed for your body to use as energy.  There are different types of carbohydrates:

  • Simple/free sugars/added sugars, e.g. in biscuits, chocolate, cake, fruit juices, honey.
    Natural sugars are found in milk, fruit and vegetables.
  • Complex/starchy carbohydrates, e.g. bread, rice and potato. Choose wholegrain varieties where possible, e.g. wholegrain bread.

Dietary fibre
Dietary fibre is the edible parts of plants which is resistant to digestion and absorption in the small bowel. It is completely or partially broken down by bacteria in the large bowel. Fibre is found in starchy foods such as wholegrain cereal products, fruit and vegetables and nuts and seeds. 

Water is a major constituent of the body. It has many functions including transporting nutrients. Having regular drinks of water throughout the day will help you stay well hydrated especially when it is hot or you are exercising. Keep an eye on the colour of your urine; if it is dark you need to drink more. 

Always consult your doctor, nutritionist, dietitian or pharmacist for any health-related issues. 

Additional references:

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