Women over 40 have different nutritional needs than younger women. A woman who has never had trouble keeping weight off may suddenly be gaining weight. A woman who has always found it easy to exercise may have trouble finding the energy to do so.
Hormonal changes may be to blame for weight gain, loss of bone and muscle density, and even digestive issues. Choosing a nutrient-rich diet including healthy fats, lean proteins, dairy, and lots of fruits and vegetables as well as a regular exercise program can help women fight against the changes caused by aging.
Why Do Nutritional Needs Change?
Research shows that hormonal changes causing weight gain, especially in the midsection, may be to blame. As women age and approach menopause, they produce less estrogen. As they get even older progesterone production slows as well. Once women hit menopause, their body actually metabolizes fat differently, often causing weight gain.
Women can take a proactive approach to aging and help prevent some of the unwanted changes to their body. Follow the tips below.
Being physically active decreases your chances of developing metabolic diseases such as diabetes. According to a study, women whose activity decreased the most gained the most weight especially in the midsection. The women who maintained their weight exercised for the recommended 60 minutes a day.
Exercise also helps maintain bone density. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, or resistance training are beneficial because they add force to the body which helps preserve bone density. Wearing a pedometer can help you manage how many steps you take each day.
Lean Body Mass
As we age, our lean body mass decreases. Muscle loss causes your body to burn fat differently, so women must adjust their diet to account for the decrease. Douglas Paddon, PhD and professor in the department of nutrition and metabolism at the University of Texas Medical Branch says that women lose about 1% of their lean body mass each year if they aren't physically active. Exercise is important to maintaining and building muscle.
Just like calcium is needed for our bones, protein is needed to protect our lean body mass. Protein should be evenly distributed throughout the day for the most benefit. The protein will work to build muscle, especially when eaten after a workout.
Protein is a big factor in building muscle, but carbohydrates need to be monitored too. Eating the right kind of carbohydrates can limit spikes and blood sugar which helps fat metabolize more efficiently.
Another concern for aging women is bone density. Women who maintain a healthy weight, are physically active, and don't smoke lose less bone density than overweight women who smoke and don't exercise.
Getting enough calcium and vitamin D from foods is an important step to preventing bone density loss. Click here to see a chart detailing foods with calcium and vitamin D. Supplements can be taken, but focusing on foods containing calcium and vitamin D will have a greater effect. Talk to your doctor about what is right for you.
After reading above, you may still be wondering what you should be focusing on. Here are some basic guidelines to try. As always, speak to your doctor about your nutritional and physical needs.
- Focus on lean proteins, such as fish and chicken. Be sure to spread protein consumption evenly throughout the day.
- Get plenty of exercise. Slimming down can reduce the risk of developing certain disorders and can also cut down on hot flashes.
- Be sure to get plenty of calcium from foods and supplement if necessary.
- Watch out for processed carbohydrates which can be stored as fat and cause gas and bloating.