As a woman ages, her body naturally loses muscle -- and body fat accrues more easily. Triggering these changes are alterations in a woman's hormonal balance, says Kathleen M. Zelman, LD, RD, MPH, WebMD's director of nutrition.
The following nutrition tips and anti-aging secrets can help women age gracefully.
Keep weight gain at bay: Cut back on calories, get regular aerobic exercise, and do strength training -- like lifting hand weights. The more muscle the body has, the more calories it can burn, says Zelman. And there's an added bonus: belly fat melts away when you exercise.
Keep bones strong: Get adequate calcium and vitamin D. Vitamin D is critical to calcium absorption in your body. While the skin can synthesize vitamin D from sun exposure, aging decreases the capacity of skin to produce vitamin D.
Prevent heart disease and more: Enjoy the bounty native to Mediterranean countries -- plenty of seafood, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, and extra virgin olive oil. Red meats are eaten less often and wine is consumed in low to moderate amounts. The good nutrition found in a Mediterranean-style diet is thought to lower heart disease risk, because it is low in calories and trans fat and saturated fat.
9 Healthy Nutrition Basics
Advice on proper eating can be confusing. Here are some basic tips for good nutrition:
Take a daily multivitamin for your age group. These will compensate for gaps in your nutrition picture. Women over age 50 (and those who've had a hysterectomy) need less iron than younger women.
Boost calcium and vitamin D. That means three to four 8-ounce servings of low-fat dairy every day. If you are lactose-intolerant, try hard cheese, yogurt, canned salmon, broccoli, and legumes and fortified products like orange juice. Take 1,000 to 1,500 milligrams of calcium daily if you are not getting adequate calcium in your diet.
Eat more fruits, veggies, whole grains, and legumes. These will give you plenty of disease-fighting antioxidants, more fiber, and less sodium.
Get enough fiber. Legumes, whole-wheat pasta, whole grain cereals, and breads, oatmeal, brown rice, popcorn, and fresh fruits and vegetables all are high in fiber.
Eat the right proteins. Get a balance of lean protein (like skinless chicken), fatty fish like salmon (with omega-3 fats), and vegetable protein.
Enjoy a vegetarian meal a few times a week. A plant-based diet can be low-calorie and dense in vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting antioxidants.
Choose fats wisely. And keep them to a minimum. Avoid trans and saturated fats, like those found in butter, some processed foods, grain-based desserts and dairy desserts, stick margarine, fried foods, snack foods, cheese, pizza, processed meats, donuts, some fast foods and frozen foods, for example. "Good fats" include many vegetable oils like extra virgin olive oil and canola oil, nuts and seeds, avocado and fish, such as salmon and tuna.
Curb the sweets. Limit sugary beverages, grain-based desserts, sugars, sweetened dairy products, and other sweets; they can be loaded with calories and have little nutrition.