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The One Food Nutritionists Are Begging People Over 50 to Start Eating ASAP

There’s some dietary advice you’ve likely heard your whole life that’s worth continuing to follow no matter how old you are: Eat your vegetables. Drink your milk. Don’t fill up on sweets. But it’s also true that nutritional needs change as we get older and it’s important to be extra mindful to get enough of certain vitamins and minerals.

For example, as you’ve gotten older, you’ve probably started to care more about your heart health, brain health and bone health. With this in mind, there is one food that nutritionists wish more people over 50 would eat more of to benefit these specific parts of the body.

Related: The One Thing You Should Never, Ever Do if You’re Over 60 and Want to Stay Healthy

Nutritional Needs After 50

First, it’s important to know exactly what one’s nutritional needs are in their 50s and beyond. The Dietary Guidelines for people 50 and older recommend eating the following each day: two to three cups of vegetables, 1.5 to two cups of fruit, five to eight ounces of grains, five to 6.5 ounces of protein, three cups of dairy and five to seven teaspoons of healthy oils (like olive or avocado oil).

Registered dietitian and health coach Jess Cording, RDN, says that people 50 and older need to be especially mindful of getting enough protein to protect against age-related muscle loss. “While general recommendations are to get 0.8 to 1.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, this jumps up to about 1.2 grams per kilogram for older adults. Just note that factors like activity level, underlying health conditions and the use of certain medications may impact protein needs,” she says.

Related: This Is the #1 Sign That Someone Is Aging Well, According to a Geriatrician

Cording says that it’s also important to get enough vitamin B12 and vitamin D. “The body’s ability to absorb vitamin B-12 tends to decline with age, making you more susceptible to symptoms of deficiency, such as fatigue, low mood and, when more progressed, tingling in hands and feet and other neurological symptoms,” she explains, adding that food sources of vitamin B12 include animal proteins (like meat, fish, eggs and dairy) as well as algae, nutritional yeast and fortified foods.

As for vitamin D, Cording says that the daily recommended intake of this nutrient increases with age and it’s important to get enough to keep bones strong. “While current recommendations are for adults below 70 years of age to consume at least 600 international units a day, that increases to 800 international units a day after age 70,” Cording says. She adds that, for women, calcium recommendations also increase with age and is also vital for keeping bones strong.

Registered dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, says that it’s not unusual to struggle with weight gain as we age. “Metabolism may slow slightly, which can lead to a need to adjust calorie and macronutrient intake to prevent unwanted changes in body weight,” she says.

Additionally, she adds that the body can become more insulin resistant as we age, which means that diet needs to be adjusted to maintain healthy blood glucose levels. She explains that this can be done by balancing protein, healthy fats and fiber at every meal and minimizing refined carbs and added sugars.

Related: 30 Of the Best Anti-Aging Foods To Make Sure You Are Incorporating Into Your Diet

The #1 Food Dietitians Want People 50 and Older To Eat More Of

Cording says that virtually all people 50 and older could benefit from eating more oily fish, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel or sardines. She says that oily fish are loaded with nutrients, including many of the ones that people in their 50s and older need to be sure to get enough of. This includes protein, healthy fats (fish is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids), vitamin B-12 and vitamin D. “If you eat the bones, you can also get calcium from fish,” she says.

Eating fish regularly benefits the heart, brain and bones. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish is linked to lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and dementia. The vitamin D and calcium (if you eat the bones) in fish benefits bone health.

While fish is loaded with nutrients, Cording says there’s another food she wishes people 50 and older would eat more of: tofu. “Tofu is a great lean protein source that happens to be a complete protein, meaning it provides all nine essential amino acids we need to get from food and it also provides calcium,” she says. “Additionally, soy in its whole form, like tofu, tempeh and edamame, has been linked to reduced risk of breast cancer.”

Palkinski-Wade offers up another food people in their 50s and older should add to their diet: prunes. “This no-sugar-added dried fruit provides three grams of fiber per serving to support digestion and blood sugar balance. In addition, eating just five to six prunes per day may help to prevent bone loss, which is especially important for individuals over age 50 who have a greater risk of developing osteoporosis,” she says.

By prioritizing foods with nutrients that support heart, brain and bone health, you’re more likely to age gracefully without the aches, pains and heart issues that can stem from not having healthy habits in place. You’re only as old as you feel, right?

Next up, this is the one thing you should never do if you want to live to be 100, according to geriatricians. 

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