Healthy Dining Tips For Women In Their 40s and 50s
Tap an expert. Many women find themselves putting on pounds as they approach and go through menopause. With age comes a decline in muscle mass. Because there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for maintaining a healthy weight, meeting with a pro who can help you navigate your individual challenges and help you reach your personal goals is worth it. “Working with a dietitian to develop a sensible food plan will go a long way in helping to prevent excess weight gain,” says Nancy DiMarco, Ph.D., R.D.N., director of the Institute for Women’s Health at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas. Another method of combatting midlife weight gain: exercise, particularly strength training, which can help minimize muscle loss and keep your metabolism up.
Put soy on your plate. As women approach menopause, risk of heart disease increases as estrogen levels drop. Research suggests that soy foods, such as edamame, tofu, and tempeh, may help prevent heart disease by reducing LDL bad cholesterol levels; compounds in soy may also help improve bone mass and possibly lessen hot flashes during menopause. “Soy contains weak plant estrogens called isoflavones,” says Minkin. If you’re not sure about soy foods, ground flaxseed also contains plant estrogens—try sprinkling it in your morning oatmeal.
Bone up on calcium. When you reach age 50, calcium needs increase from 1,000 mg per day to 1,200. The reason? After menopause, the ovaries stop producing estrogen, which helps your gut absorb calcium, DiMarco says. As a result, your bones absorb less calcium from your bloodstream. Women are more likely than men to fracture bones due to osteoporosis; getting enough calcium in the diet from foods like yogurt, kale, milk, collard greens, sardines, and cheese is one dietary strategy that may help decrease your risk. Discuss with your doctor before popping calcium pills, though—a 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association suggests that calcium supplements may be linked with increased risk of cardiovascular events.
Separate from salt. The effects of sodium on blood pressure tend to be more pronounced in people ages 50 and older, according to the American Heart Association (African Americans and anyone with high blood pressure, diabetes, and kidney disease of any age also tend to be more sensitive). The AHA recommends keeping your sodium intake to no more than 2,300 mg per day, and preferably to 1,500 mg, to help blunt the rise in blood pressure that occurs with age, decreasing your risk for heart attack, stroke, and more. If the U.S. sodium intake went down to an average of 1,500 mg per day (people age 45 to 59 currently eat closer to 3,510 mg), it could result in a 25.6 percent overall decrease in blood pressure, according to the AHA. Rethink your dining out and grocery shopping habits before you banish the saltshaker; more 70 percent of the sodium we eat comes from restaurant and processed foods, according to a May 2017 study published in the journal Circulation.