What you should and should not be eating at 40 +

As we grow older our nutritional needs change as our lifestyles do. The core principles of a healthy, balanced diet remain the same at 25 or 65, but we do need specific nutrients as we go through different life stages.

  • 40 and over: At this time of life many people still take their good health for granted, and healthy eating and exercise are often put on the back burner. But as we grow older, good nutrition and regular exercise becomes even more important – now is the time to invest in your future good health.
  • A diet rich in antioxidants will help protect against problems like heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cataracts and certain types of cancer. Fruit and vegetables are the best source of antioxidants – make sure you eat at least five a day and a good variety of different produce. Don’t just get your five a day from fruit, make sure the five a day includes some vegetables.
  • One in four women in their 40s have low iron stores, which can contribute to the ‘tired all the time’ syndrome. You don’t need to eat meat to get enough iron; choose organic eggs, fish etc and eat plenty of green leafy vegetables. Interestingly, beetroot has been traditionally used as a blood building food and naturally contains iron in an organic form so is non-irritating and does not cause constipation or black stools. Of course, beetroot is also rich in anti-aging antioxidants like anthocyanadins, which give beetroot its deep red form. You can use beetroot extract in supplement form if you need to get a quick boost.
  • Health problems, such as raised cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes are more common in this age group. A whole-grain diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and oily fish is the best way to prevent and treat all of these problems. Avoid foods high in saturated and transfats such as red meat, processed and refined foods. The decline in oestrogen levels that accompanies the menopause accelerates the loss of calcium from bone, which increases the risk of osteoporosis or brittle bones. To counteract this, it’s important to eat at least three servings of calcium-rich foods each day. Full fat organic dairy products like plain live yogurt, are fine in moderation but other sources of calcium include dark green leafy vegetables and canned fish with bones.
  • Work in some regular weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, into your routine will also help to keep bones strong. A good ‘bone’ supplement like OsteoPlus can be useful to start at this age. After the age of 40, the metabolic rate (the speed at which the body burns calories) drops, but the drop is very modest and the real reason many people in this age bracket start to suffer from middle-aged spread is a lack of exercise.
  • Excess weight will increase the risk of health problems like heart disease, diabetes and osteoarthritis and the longer you wait before you tackle the problem the harder it becomes – nip any weight gain in the bud now by exercising regularly before it becomes a serious problem. 50 and over In your 50s, your joints may also start to become a bit stiff and sore.
  • If you don’t eat at least one serving of oily fish each week, you should also think about taking an omega-3 supplement to help thin the blood and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. (The one I use in the clinic is called Omega 3 Plus and contains 700mg EPA and 500mg DHA in just two capsules a day (sometimes you have to take 6-8 capsules a day to get the right amount of EPA and EHA – see Resources page).
  • Get your cholesterol and blood pressure checked. If you have high cholesterol, ditch red meat and other high fat foods and swap to oily fish and nuts, especially walnuts. It has been found that eating 25g of soya protein a day can help reduce blood cholesterol levels.
  • Phytochemicals in soya beans, and products made from them, may also help reduce many of the unpleasant symptoms associated with the menopause. Use organic tofu instead of chicken in stir fries and use organic soya milk on your cereal.
  • To keep bones and heart healthy, go for canned salmon rather than canned tuna as salmon is rich in omega-3 fats and you get calcium by eating the bones. There is a supplement called Lestrin that I use in the clinic that contains the same sterols that are used in the cholesterol-reducing margarines, but avoiding all the fat.
  • If you have high blood pressure, look at your salt intake and think about using other flavourings such as garlic, herbs and spices to zip up the food instead of salt. Don’t add salt at the table, only use it in cooking and you could switch to a low-salt version.
  • Digestive problems, like constipation, piles and diverticular disease, are more common in this age group. A high-fibre whole grain diet can help, but in addition to upping your fibre intake you need to make sure you’re drinking plenty of water, otherwise the fibre can’t work. Choose a wholegrain breakfast cereal, like porridge, wholemeal or rye bread and eat plenty of fruit and veg. A small glass of prune juice in the morning will help to prevent constipation or soak a tablespoon of organic whole linseeds (flax seeds) overnight in water and then swallow.
  • Our sense of smell and taste becomes less acute as we get older, but don’t fall into the trap of adding extra salt to your food – use herbs, spices and other flavourings such as garlic, lemon juice or mustard.
  • You need to ensure that you include plenty of foods rich in B12. Fish, eggs and dairy products all contain vitamin B12. If you’ve had heart problems, you should increase your intake of oily-rich fish so you’re having at least two servings a week, and take a good fish oil supplement like the Omega 3 Plus (see Resources page).
  • Like calcium, vitamin D is important for good bone health. The body can make vitamin D by the action of sunlight on the skin, but as people get older they tend to spend less time outside, so make sure your diet contains good amounts of vitamin D. Vitamin D is found in eggs and oily fish. Vitamin D can also be made by the action of sunlight on the skin so when the weather is warm, expose your arms and face to the sun for at least 20 minutes a day.

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