In youth and adolescence, your body is hard at work growing and developing. Next your body gears up for procreation and maintenance. As you reach 50 and beyond, your body’s focus shifts to preventing disease, as well as keeping your body systems functioning in top working order.
As you age, your metabolism may slow and your ability to break down and utilize certain nutrients also changes, which is why you may need to eat more of certain nutrients, like fiber and protein, and less of others (like those from processed foods) in order to stay fit and healthy.
So what does an ideal anti-aging shopping list look like for someone 50 or over? The foods that follow should make a regular appearance.
1. Green Leafy Vegetables
Spinach, kale, turnip greens and even lettuce are packed with fiber, calcium, magnesium and antioxidants that can help fight DNA damage that may lead to cancer. They also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that reduce your risk of chronic eye diseases, including two that become more common with age – cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).[i]
Plus, leafy green are rich in folate, a type of B vitamin known to suppress the amino acid homocysteine. Elevated levels of homocysteine are linked to brain shrinkage and Alzheimer’s disease, so eating leafy greens is important for your brain health.[ii]
2. Kefir or Yogurt
Fermented foods are important as you age to provide your body with beneficial microbes, namely probiotics, that your body needs to thrive. As you reach 50 and beyond, the numbers of pathogenic bacteria in your gut may increase, leading to gastrointestinal issues, which is what makes fermented foods particularly important as you get older.
As a bonus, probiotics are known to fight inflammation, a key accelerator of the aging process. Kefir and yogurt also provide a good source of calcium, which tends to be harder to absorb in people with decreased levels of stomach acid (and issue that becomes more common as you age). While you could simply take a supplement, research shows dietary calcium is better for your bone health than that from supplements.[iii] One word of warning: many kefirs and yogurts on the market contain enough sugar to be classified as a dessert. Choose plain, low-sugar varieties, ideally made from grass-fed milk.
3. Whey Protein
While many Americans eat more protein than they need, your protein needs increase with age. Your muscle mass and strength will decline at an accelerating rate as you get older … unless you do something to stop it. Exercise is important here, but so is high-quality dietary protein. Research shows higher protein intakes can help counteract loss of muscle mass and strength in older adults.[iv]
Whey protein is an ideal form of protein because it’s easily absorbed and utilized by your body and contains other beneficial compounds, like leucine, which supports muscle growth and repair. It’s also very convenient, as it comes in powder form and can be added to smoothies or mixed with milk for a quick shake. Other sources of high-quality protein include eggs (pastured), beef (grass-fed) and chicken (free-range).
4. Wild-Caught Seafood
Wild-caught salmon and sardines are among your best sources of omega-3 fats, powerful inflammation fighters and supporters of brain health, heart health and more. There’s even research showing omega-3 fatty acids help preserve your telomeres.[v]
Telomeres are the caps on your chromosomes that are sometimes used as a measure of aging. The shorter your telomeres get, it’s said, the quicker your cells age and die. Eating omega-3s may help preserve these caps, thus potentially slowing the aging process.
Berries, including blueberries and raspberries, are high in fiber and antioxidants. Research has shown people who eat blueberries and strawberries each week (three servings) had a 32 percent lower risk of heart attack.[vi] Eating a cup of blueberries daily has also been shown to help lower blood pressure[vii] and may boost concentration and memory.[viii] As mentioned, berries are also a good source of fiber, with about 8 grams per cup (for raspberries). Dr. Pamela Peeke, author of “The Hunger Fix,” told the Huffington Post:[ix]
“Fiber not only helps your gastrointestinal function run smoothly, but it also decreases gastrointestinal inflammation and cholesterol, while providing a slow release of energy-rich carbohydrates into the bloodstream … Senior women and men should aim for about 25-30 grams of fiber per day.”
6. Olive Oil
Olive oil is rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat that may lower your risk of heart disease. It may also help you control insulin levels and blood sugar, while providing valuable nutrition in the form of vitamins E and K. Because olive oil is easily damaged by heat, it’s best used for cold dishes, such as splashing onto salads and other veggies and dipping bread.
7. Dark Chocolate
When you need to satisfy your sweet tooth, choose dark chocolate (the darker, the better). It’s rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds that have been shown to lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even abdominal obesity.[x] For health purposes, look for varieties that contain at least 70 percent cacao.
Written By: Updated: July 13,2015