Eat for your age
It's important to have a healthy, balanced diet throughout life, but different nutrients can help maintain health at specific ages.
In your 50s
Watch your fat levels Health problems, such as raised cholesterol, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes are more common in this age group. A low-fat, low-GI diet, which includes plenty of fruit and vegetables, is the best way to prevent and treat all of these problems.
The decline in oestrogen levels that accompanies the menopause accelerates the loss of calcium from bone, which increases the risk of osteoporosis or brittle bones. To counteract this, it's important to eat at least three servings of low-fat, calcium-rich foods each day. Working some regular weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, into your routine will also help to keep bones strong.
In your 50s, your joints may also start to become a bit stiff and sore. Studies have shown that taking a supplement of glucosamine combined with chondroitin can help to relieve joint pain and prevent further damage.
If you don't eat at least one serving of oil-rich fish each week, you should also think about taking an omega-3 supplement to help thin the blood and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Cholesterol-lowering foods Get your cholesterol and blood pressure checked. If you have high cholesterol, swap to a cholesterol-lowering spread or one of the mini drinks or yogurts.
- Soya Eating 25g of soya protein a day can help reduce blood cholesterol levels. Phytochemicals in soya beans, and products made from them, may also help reduce many of the unpleasant symptoms associated with the menopause. Use tofu instead of chicken in stir fries and pour calcium-enriched soya milk on your cereal.
- Omega-3 fats To keep bones and heart healthy, go for canned salmon salmon rather than canned tuna as salmon is rich in omega-3 fats and calcium.
60 & over
Vitamins are vital As we grow older, various physiological and psychological changes occur which have a direct effect on nutritional requirements. The body becomes less efficient at absorbing and using many vitamins and minerals. Long-term use of prescription drugs can reduce the absorption of certain nutrients.
At the same time, many people find that as they get older their appetite decreases. Since the need for vitamins and minerals stays the same, or in some cases increases, it becomes even more important that the food we eat is healthy and nutritious.
Digestive problems, like constipation, piles and diverticular disease, are more common in this age group. A high-fibre diet can help, but in addition to upping your fibre intake you need to make sure you're drinking plenty of water, otherwise the fibre can't work. Some types of probiotic yogurt can also help with constipation - choose one which says on the label that it improves gut transit time.
Our sense of smell and taste becomes less acute as we get older, but don't fall into the trap of adding extra salt to your food - use herbs, spices and other flavourings such as garlic, lemon juice, flavoured vinegars or mustard.
You need to ensure that you include plenty of foods rich in B12. If you've suffered a heart attack, you should increase your intake of oil-rich fish so you're having at least two servings a week, and talk to your GP about taking a fish oil supplement.
Like calcium, vitamin D is important for good bone health. The body can make vitamin D by the action of sunlight on the skin, but as people get older they tend to spend less time outside, so make sure your diet contains at least 10 micrograms of vitamin D.
- Fibre Choose a wholegrain breakfast cereal, like porridge or branflakes, wholemeal or granary bread and eat plenty of fruit and veg. A small glass of prune juice in the morning will help to prevent constipation.
- Vitamin B12 Meat, fish, eggs, dairy products and fortified breakfast cereals all contain vitamin B12.
- Vitamin D Small amounts of vitamin D are found in margarine, eggs and oil-rich fish. Vitamin D can also be made by the action of sunlight on the skin so when the weather is warm, expose your arms and face to the sun for at least 20 minutes a day.