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Diets for the Ages

Women's food choices should be keyed to age, lifestyle, and nutritional needs.

The 40s and 50s

These are the menopausal years. All of a sudden, your body is using food very efficiently, socking away excess fat the second after you miss your morning jog. That Toll House cookie can take a toll compared with a serving of fruit salad.

Constipation may become an issue -- women should increase their fiber to 20 to 30 grams a day -- not a problem if you are eating those five to seven servings of colored veggies.

Thinning skin crinkling to wrinkles is also calling out now for fatty fish -- salmon, tuna -- those omega-3 oils you've heard so much about. They also act as an anti-inflammatory -- potentially decreasing the risk of heart disease and possibly even Alzheimer's disease.

Now, too, you have stopped actively building bone and in fact, some bone cells may be deteriorating, resulting in bone loss. This, of course, can lead to osteoporosis. You need to be sure to get plenty of calcium and vitamin D. At this point in life, it's recommended that women take in 1,500 milligrams of calcium a day -- along with vitamin D -- usually as a supplement since most women aren't into downing milk and yogurt. Kimball also recommends moderating sodas and coffee -- they make you excrete calcium.

In your 40s and 50s, you may also be losing muscle mass, but you can slow this down with aerobic exercise and strength training (weight-bearing exercise such as walking, running, or using an elliptical machine also helps build up bone against osteoporosis). "Remember," says Heller, "you can be thin and still not have appropriate muscle mass." In fact, thin women are more at risk for osteoporosis.

Over 60 and Cranking (Not Cranky!)

Exercise is crucial to your independence," says Heller. "You need to keep those legs strong."

"Carry your own groceries!" cries Cross. "You should be picking up your grandchildren, lifting, strengthening muscles. I think people decide they 'shouldn't' long before there is any reason they should not." In the absence of compliant grandchildren, Cross recommends hoisting filled milk jugs -- "A pint's a pound the world around," she chants.

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