The saying, ‘act your age,’ is not always followed. You can say the same thing about ‘eating for your age.’ Yet, despite how young we may want to act, our bodies will change through the decades and so will our nutritional needs. Our bodies are always evolving, and likely, if you’re over the age of 50, you’ve already noticed bodily changes from graying hair to a slowed metabolism to issues with erectile dysfunction.
As the decades go by, chronic health conditions begin to appear – heart disease, type 2 diabetes, chronic kidney disease, benign prostatic hyperplasia, to name a few. The foods you choose can play a significant role in keeping you healthy. So, while it’s always best to focus early in life on good eating habits, it’s never too late to begin.
Here’s a decade-by-decade look at how to eat healthy for life:
In your 20s: Establish good eating habits
Starting in your 20s is best for avoiding excess weight gain. This decade often sets the stage for what you’ll weigh in thirty years. Limiting processed foods like soda and deli meats and keeping mindful of moderate portion sizes will pay off in achieving and maintaining healthy body weight. Focus on building a balanced plate filling half of it with salad or cooked vegetables, one-quarter animal or plant protein foods, and the other quarter with a healthy starch like potatoes, corn, peas, or whole grain pasta.
Aim to obtain about 30 grams of protein at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Choose high-quality proteins such as eggs, lean beef, poultry, fatty fish, and milk or Greek yogurt. Protein helps build and preserves muscle mass and will keep you feeling fuller longer.
Why not sharpen your culinary skills by taking a cooking course or experimenting with healthy recipes? Men are excellent cooks, and when you’re in charge, you control the amount of sodium, fat, and sugar. You will also save time and more money in your pocket by not relying on convenience meals or takeout at fast food restaurants.
In your 30s: Love your heart
This decade is when certain heart health conditions begin to increase. For instance, high blood pressure may rise, especially if you gain excess weight around the abdominal area.
What to do? Work on losing weight by exercising, avoiding fast food and soda, but also by eating more potassium-rich foods to lower blood pressure. Include daily foods full of this mineral such as bananas, kiwi fruit, leafy greens, beans, mangos, and more. Potassium helps remove excess sodium from your body making it easier for blood vessels to relax and for your heart to pump blood throughout your body. When this happens, blood pressure naturally goes down.
Sodium is another mineral to be mindful of for keeping blood pressure in check. Read nutrition facts labels to check the amount of sodium per serving size. Choose foods with less than 200 mg of sodium per serving and keep your total sodium intake below 2300 mg daily. The more minimally-processed, whole foods you choose, the less sodium you will eat. That means avoiding processed meats like bacon, sausage, hot dogs, TV dinners, chips, canned soup, and boxed meals that are loaded with too much sodium.
In your 40s: Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables
Turning 40 is a milestone birthday for many men. Men, who have not smoked, limited alcohol intake, maintained healthy body weight, have chosen healthy foods, and exercised, will have lowered their risk of major chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and even erectile dysfunction.
But, don’t let up now. Now is the time to optimize even more by choosing nutrient-dense foods most of the time. One of the best ways is to aim daily for at least seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables. Fresh or frozen produce is a rich source of key vitamins and minerals, along with antioxidants and fiber. Eat a deep green, red, and orange fruit or vegetable daily. Foods such as spinach, peppers, carrots, or sweet potatoes are excellent for fighting off disease and enhancing your immune system.
In your 50s and beyond: Eat for bone health
Once past age 50, aging seems almost to accelerate. And one part of your body to pay close attention to is your bone health. You may say, “But I’m a man, and men don’t get osteoporosis as women do.” It’s true, the majority of people with osteoporosis, the brittle bone disease, are women. However, men can also develop this ‘silent killer.’ If they do, they will be susceptible to painful and disabling fractures.
As we age, our bone mass declines. As a result, bones weaken and become brittle, making it risky if you fall – bones help protect internal organs during a fall. That’s why if you aren’t already paying attention to the health of your bones, definitely begin now.
Calcium-rich foods are your best and adequate vitamin D, for making your bones strong and healthy. Men require 1200 milligrams of calcium and 600 International Units (IU) of vitamin D each day from age 51 to 70, then increased to 800 IU at age 71 and up. Calcium makes bones strong but vitamin D is required for your body to absorb this mineral.
The best calcium food sources are fortified milk, Greek yogurt, cheese, and cottage cheese. Other non-dairy sources of calcium include leafy green vegetables like kale and broccoli, chia seeds, almonds, tofu, white beans, sunflower seeds, and edamame.
Good vitamin D food sources are fortified milk, fortified orange juice, fortified soymilk or almond milk, mushrooms, fatty fish like salmon, egg yolks, and cod liver oil. But the very best source of vitamin D is sunlight. Our body can make vitamin D by spending time outdoors soaking up the sun. So, ask your doctor to check your vitamin D level, and if low, consider taking a supplement of this vitamin.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncolo gy and prostate cancer 911.