Making healthy food choices is the smart thing to do for men at any age, but it becomes even more important as you age and your body’s needs change, says Lana Nasrallah, manager of clinical nutrition at UNC Health, a not-for-profit integrated health care system based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It’s owned by the state of North Carolina.
“Your body changes through your 50s and beyond,” Nasrallah says. “Food provides nutrients you need as you age. Getting optimal nutrition can help protect you from certain health problems as you age and may even improve brain function.”
It’s important to keep in mind that as men age, they often are not as active as they were in their younger days, says Amy Kimberlain, national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She’s a registered dietitian certified in diabetes care based in Miami. By being less active, some men will lose muscle and possibly gain fat.
Some men exercise less as they get older because they don’t have the same energy they did when they were younger, or they have career and family demands that limit their physical activity. Less exercise means fewer calories are burned off, and excessive calories can lead to weight gain and may also make men more susceptible to an array of health problems.
These potential health problems include:
Best Diet for Men Over 50
In particular, men aged 50 and above need to adjust their diets to include the following:
— B vitamins.
— Vitamin D.
A lack of B vitamins can lead to serious health consequences for aging adults, such as anemia and nerve problems. B vitamins include B6, B12 and folate (folic acid).
Foods high in B vitamins include:
— Leafy greens (such as collard greens, spinach and turnip greens).
Folate keeps your cells healthy, helps in the production of new red blood cells, and, research suggests, aids in the prevention of cancer. Folate also helps keep your heart and circulation healthy.
Men aged 50 and above need more calcium and vitamin D than younger adults to help maintain healthy bones. Calcium works with vitamin D to keep bones strong. “Calcium is also a mineral that is also important for strong teeth,” Nasrallah says.
Foods high in calcium include:
— Calcium-fortified foods (breads, cereals and tortillas).
— Cottage cheese.
— Leafy greens.
— Plant-based milks fortified with calcium (including almond, coconut, oat, rice and soy milks).
Since men have more muscle and are typically bigger than women, they require more calories than women do throughout the day. Active men need between 2,200 and 2,800 calories daily. Energy needs depend on an individual’s height, weight and activity level.
Fiber and adequate fluid intake help individuals of all ages maintain normal bowel function.
Good sources of fiber include:
— Whole grains.
With age, some people may lose the ability to regulate fluid levels. “This means you might not feel thirsty, even when your body needs more fluids,” Nasrallah says. “This may put you at risk of being dehydrated.”
Dehydration can lead to:
— Dry gums.
— Low-grade fever.
— Reduced output of urine.
The amount of water individuals should consume daily depends on their size and the weather conditions where they live. People in hotter climates will need to drink more. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommends that women should consume about 91 ounces of water each day, from beverages and foods, while men should drink about 125 ounces from all sources.
Men age 50 and above need not just more calcium, but also more vitamin D than younger adults to maintain healthy bones. Vitamin D works with calcium to keep bones strong, Nasrallah says.
Good sources of vitamin D include:
— Dark green leafy vegetables.
— Calcium-fortified foods (cereals, some plant-based milks and soy products).
— Canned sardines.
— Salmon with bones.
— Some forms of tofu.
Diet Plans for Men Over 50
Given all these factors, these diets could be good options for men age 50 and above:
— DASH diet.
— Mediterranean diet.
— MIND diet.
This acronym, which stands for dietary approaches to stop hypertension, is promoted by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to prevent or stop hypertension, or high blood pressure. This eating regimen is also viewed favorably by the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association and the Mayo Clinic.
The DASH diet is a heart-healthy and sustainable regimen, says Christina Lombardo, a holistic nutritionist with Launch Physical Therapy and Sports Performance in Phoenix. “It is high in fiber which helps with a healthy gut, assists in weight management and provides the body with necessary micro and macronutrients,” Lombardo says.
The DASH diet emphasizes:
— Lean proteins (eggs, skinless chicken, lean meat, seafood).
— Whole grains.
— Limiting sugar-sweetened beverages and foods with added sugars.
This eating regimen is low in saturated fat and sodium. The DASH diet is high in these nutrients:
This eating approach, which is naturally adopted by people who live in regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, is highly rated by many registered dietitians and is rated the top diet overall by U.S. News’ team of experts. This diet emphasizes a high intake of fresh produce, whole grains, healthy fats and more fish than the typical U.S. diet, Nasrallah says.
Research suggests the Mediterranean diet can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality — including mortality in older people. For example, research published in the journal BMC Medicine in 2021 followed 642 participants age 65 and older.
“A greater adherence at baseline to a Mediterranean diet assessed by a dietary biomarker score was associated with a lower risk of mortality in older adults during a 20-year follow-up,” researchers wrote.
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes whole foods, including:
— Low-fat or no-fat dairy products.
— Lean protein (eggs, poultry, seafood, occasional servings of red meat).
— Olive oil.
If you’re looking for the best diets for brain health, this one tops the list. The MIND diet is a plant-rich eating regimen that includes foods that research suggests help boost brain function, including:
— All vegetables, especially dark, leafy green vegetables.
— Olive oil.
— Whole grains.
A small study published in February 2022 in the journal Scientific Reports suggests that adhering to the MIND diet can have a beneficial effect on cognition and brain structure in obese adults who had minimal to marked weight loss. Compared to other eating regimens, research suggests the MIND diet is better than other diets for cognition, Nasrallah says. Studies also suggest the eating regimen helps reduce the risks of dementia.
For example, research published in January in the journal Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy followed more than 8,000 participants over a number of years. “Better adherence to the MIND diet is associated with a decreased risk of dementia within the first years of follow-up,” researchers wrote, adding that further research is needed to determine “to which extent the MIND diet may affect the risk of dementia.”
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Update 05/24/22: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.