The 6 Nutrients a Dietitian Recommends Eating More of in Your 40s (and Beyond)

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Around age 40, your priorities may start to shift. You might think of 9 pm as the time to get home—not head out, for example. It’s also possible that your body's needs are shifting, too. It could very well be time to reassess the foods and nutrients you're including in your diet for healthy aging.

Science tells us that as our estrogen starts to decrease, our risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and osteoporosis all start to increase. But some satisfying foods can help protect against these chronic conditions. So, good news, here's some advice to eat more of certain foods!

“Food is our medicine and can help keep us strong as we age,” says Ashley Larsen, RDN, pre-diabetes expert and owner of Ashley Larsen Nutrition. “Have fun trying new foods that will provide you benefits, such as baking recipes with whole grains and seeds or new seafood and tofu dishes," she recommends. "Empower yourself to enjoy the food that takes good care of your body.”

Experts In This Article

So, what should you be adding into your food routine as you age gracefully? Below, find six nutrients a dietitian recommends getting more of in your 40s.

Here are some nutrients to consider adding to your diet for healthy aging and longevity

1. Fiber

Enjoy several servings of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables each day to increase your fiber intake. Fiber, a nutrient in plants that promotes gut health and digestion, also reduces inflammation, promotes healthy cholesterol levels, and may even help you combat feelings of fatigue. It’s also associated with a reduced risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, and colon cancer.

Fiber is a healthy choice at any age. Women should aim for more than 21 grams per day. Swapping in foods with fiber is particularly helpful for blood sugar and to help prevent type 2 diabetes.

“Focus on including more whole foods that contain fiber and protein in your diet,” Larsen says. “By including protein and fiber in your meals, blood sugar is released more slowly into your bloodstream causing less of a spike. Consider swapping simple carbohydrates like sweetened yogurt or juice with plain Greek yogurt with berries and whole grain cereal or granola.”

2. Omega-3 fatty acids

Have fish for dinner, snack on walnuts, or use canola oil each day for omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are important for the health of your cells, particularly your brain, and have been linked to boosting longevity in a number of studies. The polyunsaturated fats found in omega-3s are also associated with a lower risk of heart disease and chronic illness.

Omega-3 fatty acids are abundant in oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and anchovies. According to Larsen, you can also get them in plant-based foods like walnuts, flaxseed, and plant-based soybean and canola oils. They are fortified in some juices, eggs, and dairy or alternative dairy products.

3. Calcium

Have any combination of dairy products, spinach, or fortified juice for your daily dose of calcium, aka the most abundant mineral in your body. "Calcium is important for strong bones and teeth as you age—and after menopause, women are at an increased risk of osteoporosis, which is brittle bones that are prone to fracture," says Larsen. Women 19 to 50 need 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day; that should increase to 1,200 milligrams after age 50.

“To achieve this, aim to eat two to three servings of high-calcium foods daily such as milk, yogurt, calcium-fortified plant-based milks or juices, calcium-rich tofu, edamame, and leafy greens,” Larsen says.

"Calcium is important for strong bones and teeth as you age—and after menopause, women are at an increased risk of osteoporosis, which is brittle bones that are prone to fracture." —Ashley Larsen, RDN, dietitian

4. Protein

Your protein needs will vary depending on your body size and activity level. "Most women need between 50 and 60 grams or more per day," says Larsen. "Try to get some at each meal for strength and energy balance."

Muscle mass naturally drops with age, so consuming enough protein and engaging in physical activity (see: strength training!) can help you maintain strength for the long haul. Protein sources include:

  • Lean meat
  • Seafood
  • Eggs
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Soy
  • Quinoa

5. Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps with immunity and calcium absorption. Most people in the United States get their vitamin D from fortified foods like cereal, juice, and dairy (or plant-based milk products), but it's notoriously challenging to get a sufficient amount of vitamin D from diet alone. According to Larsen, women ages 15 to 70 need 15 micrograms per day. Your healthcare provider might recommend a supplement if you’ve had cancer or other health conditions.

6. Phytoestrogens

Phytoestrogens are chemicals in plant foods like nuts, soybeans, fruits, and vegetables. Phytoestrogens, especially soy, mimic hormone therapy. "They appear to help protect against heart disease, inflammation, and Alzheimer’s disease," says Larsen. "Phytoestrogens might also help with skin and immune system health, and soy products specifically have been shown to reduce menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats." Phytoestrogens might not ease symptoms for all women, but potential side effects are low, so try them if you like.

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