Healthful eating is important at any age, but it becomes particularly significant for those who are middle-aged and older. Average metabolism rates tend to slow down as people age, which means that unhealthy foods are more likely to show up as fat when people grow older. Eating nutritious foods is also important for guarding against illness. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, healthful eating can improve your energy levels and help reduce risk of diabetes, heart disease, asthma and cancer.
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Refine existing diets to focus on nutritious foods, which offer large amounts of vitamins and minerals and small amounts of calories, fat, sodium, cholesterol and sugar. The most nutritious foods are almost always minimally processed or completely unprocessed. Often, they come without nutrition labels because they contain only a single ingredient. Use nutritious foods such as sweet bell peppers, apples, citrus fruits, leafy greens, hummus, brown rice and low-fat Greek yogurt in every meal, and pre-slice or prepare them ahead of time to eat as snacks throughout the day.
Use the United States Department of Agriculture’s food pyramid as a guide for eating a balanced diet. The pyramid recommends choosing items from five main food groups: low-fat and nonfat dairy products, lean proteins, vegetables, fruits and grains, especially whole grains. For middle-aged adults, especially middle-aged women going through menopause, it's important to focus on high-fiber foods, iron-rich foods and colorful fruits and vegetables. Plant-based proteins, nut butters, raspberries, pears, broccoli, peas, whole-wheat pasta, beans and legumes all boost daily fiber intake.
Reduce cholesterol and blood pressure levels by replacing high-fat, high-calorie or unhealthy items in the diet with healthier alternatives, as the Helpguide health website recommends. Help cut the risk of heart attack, heart disease, stroke and other chronic diseases that crop up in middle age by sipping regular coffee or tea instead of flavored drinks or soda, eating oatmeal or high-fiber cold cereal with fruit instead of baked goods or toaster pastries, and snacking on fresh fruits and vegetables instead of bagels or doughnuts. Try to eliminate or reduce consumption of foods that are based on refined flour or other refined products.
Buy and cook with seasonal foods instead of or in addition to taking a multivitamin. "Cooking Light" magazine notes that seasonal items often have higher nutritional values than foods that are not in season, and traditional grocery store produce items can lose up to half of their nutrients in transit. Multivitamins can help prevent nutritional deficiencies, but they're not as effective as directly consuming nutrients through natural, whole foods, so choosing seasonal items is especially important as your nutritional needs change with age.
Drink water throughout the day to stay hydrated and help the body absorb nutrients. Drinking other fluids, such as vegetable juice, 100 percent fruit juice or low-sugar smoothies, also provides nutritional benefits and can help supplement or stand in as a substitute for multivitamins. Middle-aged women can add low-fat dairy drinks such as nonfat milk or low-fat kefir to their diets to boost their total calcium intake, help guard against the development of osteoporosis and help ease menopausal symptoms.