Just because you are your age doesn’t mean you have to act it! And you definitely don’t have to look at it.
But when it comes to nutrition, eating the best foods for your age is the secret to conquering the changes going on in your body—and to fueling up for the challenges in your life.
Here’s a guide to what you need most, and why, when you’re in your 30s, 40s, and 50s.
Your 30s: What’s Happening
You’re balancing work, babies, fitness, and friends. If there were a medal for multitasking, you’d get the gold.
Must-haves: Iron, folic acid, and calcium. You need 18 milligrams of iron each day to help you steer clear of anemia and to boost your immune system. Trying to get pregnant? Folic acid is key: Getting 400 micrograms daily will help prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida.
Calcium is essential for keeping those bones strong; you start losing bone mass after 35. Women 19 to 50 need 1,000 mg per day, but more than half of us don’t get it.
Your 30s: Must Eat Foods
- Get fortified with vitamin-packed cereals like Total, which has 100% of your iron and folic acid requirements in one bowl.
- Lean beef, pork, and beans are also iron-rich. Eat enough folic acid–rich foods like oranges, asparagus, and leafy green veggies.
- Bone up with low-fat dairy picks—milk, cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese will all give you a calcium boost.
Your 40s: What’s Happening
Your job, your kids, your aging parents—they all need you more than ever now. Plus, those long walks no longer keep pesky pounds off.
Must-haves: Fiber, potassium, calcium, and nutrient-rich, low-cal foods. Your metabolism slows down. What’s more, cholesterol levels and blood pressure can go up as you get closer to menopause, which sets you up for a greater risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Go for fiber (shoot for at least 25 grams daily) and foods rich in potassium (aim for 4,700 milligrams per day) like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
They’ll help you feel full on fewer calories, and they’re also packed with disease-fighting phytochemicals.
Calcium is still important as ever, so keep getting your 1,000 mg per day.
Your 40s: Must Eat Foods
- Fill up on three servings of whole grains (whole wheat, brown rice, oats, rye, and corn) daily. Two cups of popcorn or 1/2 cup of oatmeal equal a serving. Shop for foods that have the Whole Grain Stamp for at least a half-serving of whole grains.
- Get at least 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of veggies every day, too. Go for…
…strawberries, bananas, and peas.
- Cut back on sodium; aim for less than 2,300 milligrams a day and limit processed foods to keep blood pressure in check. Keep bones strong with bok choy, broccoli, and calcium-fortified soy milk.
Your 50s: What’s Happening
You’re finally in control of your life. Now if only you could get your hormones to behave!
Must-haves: B vitamins, antioxidants, calcium, vitamin D. No matter how great you look and feel, your body is undergoing big-time changes, thanks mostly to menopause.
As estrogen decreases, you’re at an increased risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and other age-related health issues.
Protect your heart with important micronutrients like vitamins B6 and B12 (aim for 1.5 milligrams of B6 and 2.4 micrograms of B12 per day).
They help your body ditch a chemical called homocysteine that contributes to hardening of the arteries.
Prevent age-related cataracts and macular degeneration with antioxidant-rich foods.
Want to ease menopausal symptoms? Phytoestrogens, or plant-based estrogens, may help ease those hot flashes. They also may lower your risk of breast cancer.
That bone-strengthening mineral is more important than ever now, so increase calcium to 1,500 mg daily if you’re postmenopausal and not on estrogen therapy; keep it at 1,200 mg per day if you’re on estrogen.
And because 70 percent of women 51 to 70 don’t get enough vitamin D (vital for calcium absorption), make sure you get at least 400 IU per day; talk to your doctor about taking a supplement.
Your 50s: Must Eat Foods
- Boost your B6 with bananas, potatoes, and pomegranates. And get B12 from eggs, fish, and chicken. Some cereals are fortified, too.
- Get a burst of breast cancer-fighting antioxidants from dark green, dark yellow, or orange fruits and veggies, like broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
- Protect your eyes with the lutein and zeaxanthin in spinach.
- Ease menopause symptoms with cashews, corn, apples, and soy—all great sources of phytoestrogens.
- Some good calcium picks: low-fat cheese, almonds, and broccoli. Eat enough folic acid–rich foods like oranges, asparagus, and leafy green veggies. Bone up with low-fat dairy picks—milk, cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese will all give you a calcium boost.