A Guide to Healthy Nutrition in Your 50s and 60s
Very few things get people as excited as turning 50.
But that’s when our bodies also begin to change – together with our nutritional needs.
By creating a balanced dietary pattern that focuses on vital nutrients, you can boost your odds of enjoying good health in your old age so you can continue to live an active and dynamic lifestyle.
This article discusses how to eat healthily in your 50s and 60s.
What does it mean to age healthily?
Aging is a normal process. It is also inevitable. But then, you can take steps to help you age healthily. Doing so will extend the number of active, healthy years you have. In most cases, you can lead a healthy lifestyle even in your late adulthood.
Several factors can affect one’s ability to age healthily. These include (1):
- Physical activity
- Medical history and health conditions (type 2 diabetes, heart disease, mental decline, and cancer).
- Social support
- Access to good medical care
- Substance use and smoking
Most importantly, nutrition plays a vital role in healthy aging. For example, good food minimizes one’s risk of sarcopenia (muscle loss due to aging), chronic disease, weakened bone, overweight or underweight status, and malnutrition (1).
Nutrients that will help you age healthily in your 50s and 60s
It would help if you ate lots of healthy foods in your 50s and 60s. What’s more, intake of these healthy foods should be done daily.
Foods that are rich in protein include:
It is important to note that the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.36g/kg of body weight. However, studies have shown that adults in their 50s and 60s require more than that (3, 4, 5, 6). Therefore, if you are in your 50s and 60s, you may need between 0.5 to 0.9 grams per pound (1.2 – 2.0g/kg) to maintain healthy muscle mass and lead an active lifestyle (3, 4, 5, 6).
Many people can’t get adequate protein from dietary sources alone. If you find it hard to get enough protein or want something quick, try a supplement or a protein powder.
Fiber is essential for digestion and healthy bowel movements. Fibre also supports cardiovascular health, helps maintain a healthy weight, and slows the absorption of sugar to stabilize blood sugar levels.
Foods that are high in fiber include:
- Nuts and seeds
- Lentils and beans
- Whole grains like brown rice, oats, barley, and popcorn
Many people can get adequate fiber from food alone. However, your doctor may advise getting a fiber supplement like Metamucil.
Foods that are high in calcium include:
- Leafy greens, except spinach
- Dairy products like yogurt, cheese, and milk
- Fortified beverages, including almond milk and soy
Because postmenopausal individuals have a higher risk of osteoporosis and do not absorb calcium efficiently, they need at least 1,200 mg daily. In contrast, others can do around 1,000 mg per day (9, 10, 11).
Calcium is best obtained through food, but they are also available in multivitamins.
If your doctor asks you to take a calcium supplement, you should split the dose to enhance absorption.
Vitamin D plays a vital role in immune health and bone health. Low vitamin D levels are associated with a higher risk of frailty, mental decline, depression, poor heart health, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and some types of cancer (12, 13, 14, 15).
Vitamin D is popularly referred to as the “sunshine vitamin.” It is because the human body can produce it when exposed to the sun. However, excessive exposure to the sun may be dangerous, so you must get this vitamin from foods or supplements. Foods that provide vitamin D include fatty fish, egg yolks, mushrooms, and dairy products.
Recommended daily intake of vitamin D for people above 50 years is 600 IU.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Foods that provide omega-3 fats include:
- Oils (like flaxseed oil)
- Seeds and nuts
- Fatty fish (herring, tuna, mackerel, sardines, salmon)
Note that algae and fatty fish are the significant sources of docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid. These are omega-3s with the most health benefits (16).
Vitamin B12 is highly involved in producing red blood cells, energy metabolism, immune function, DNA repair, heart health, and brain health. Absorption of vitamin B12 declines after 50 years of age. So, the best way to get vitamin B12 in your 50s and 60s is from your diet (20, 21).
Vitamin B12 is widely available in animal foods such as poultry, meat, eggs, fish, and dairy products. You can also obtain it from fortified breakfast cereals. Vegetarians may be at risk of B12 deficiency (21, 22).
Deficient people may be advised to take a B12 supplement.
Potassium is an electrolyte and a mineral that you need in your diet. Adequate potassium intake lowers your risk of stroke, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Also, potassium supports the growth and development of healthy bones (24, 25).
Potassium is found in foods such as:
- Whole grains
- Vegetables and fruits like durian, bananas, raisins, peaches, Medjool dates, potatoes, guava, leafy greens, and cabbage
- Dairy products
- Poultry and meat
- Nuts and seeds
The recommended dietary potassium intake is 2,600 mg for women and 3,400 mg for men. Many people can get enough through food. The supplement should be done only under the supervision of a doctor (24, 25, 26).
Antioxidants are essential for neutralizing free radical compounds that cause oxidative stress – one of the primary contributors of aging and chronic disease.
- Whole grains
- Seeds and nuts
- Colorful vegetables and fruits
- Coffee and tea
- Dark chocolate
Changes you should make to your diet in your 50s and 60s
To age healthily, you may want to make minor adjustments to your eating habits.
Eat whole foods
Aim for a diet comprising primarily whole foods, such as:
- Proteins like brown rice, oats, whole wheat bread
- Frozen or fresh vegetables and fruits
- Healthy fats, including seeds, nuts, certain oils, and avocados
- Proteins such as poultry, lean meats, tofu, eggs, and fish
Limit your consumption of ultra-processed foods containing plenty of calories, saturated fats, salts, sugar, and low in vitamins, fiber, and minerals. High consumption of these foods is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, weight gain, and other chronic conditions.
Understand that not all processed foods are demonized. For example, canned fish, yogurt, canned beans, natural peanut butter, fortified cereals, and low sodium tomato sauce are minimally processed and contain plenty of nutrients.
Each meal should contain vegetables
One of the best things you can do to your eating pattern as you hit your 50s and 60s is to fill half your plate with vegetables. This will add extra nutrition to each meal.
Vegetables are loaded with vital nutrients, including potassium, fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins. Also, they are filling but low in calories, which may be helpful in weight management.
Your main beverage should be water
Excessive consumption of sugary beverages is associated with a high risk of obesity, weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
Regular water intake may lower your intake of empty calories, which is what sugary beverages are known for. Other healthy beverage choices include tea, coffee, plant-based milk, dairy milk, and flavored water.
Ifiokobong Ene is a Medical Physiologist, and a freelance medical writer. Ifiok brings his years of medical research experience to help consistently create high-quality, and engaging articles and products that uphold the highest medical standards. He is dedicated to making health and wellness information available, actionable, and understandable so that readers can make the best decisions about their health.