As we age, maintaining a healthy weight becomes increasingly important for overall well-being and quality of life. For seniors, embarking on a weight loss journey after a certain age might entail a few tweaks in eating habits. However, shedding some pounds does not mean you should deprive yourself from nourishing your body. Finding the right balance between nutrition and weight loss can greatly enhance vitality and reduce the risk of age-related health issues.
In this article, we will explore a selection of the best foods for weight loss over 50. These foods are not only nutrient-rich but also contribute to improved metabolism, better energy levels, and enhanced overall health.
So, let’s delve into the world of nutrition and discover the optimal foods that can support your weight loss goals on this journey of health and wellness beyond 50.
Why Gain Weight As You Age
Contrary to common belief, recent research challenges the notion that weight gain is primarily linked to a slowing metabolism during the 40s2. Investigating an extensive pool of 6,400 participants over multiple decades of research, scientists revealed that metabolic rates remain relatively constant for individuals in their 40s and 50s, mirroring those observed during their 20s. It’s only beyond the age of 60 that metabolism begins to experience a gradual decline1.
For women, in particular, menopause stands out as a significant contributor to weight gain among older individuals. This natural transition in a woman’s life triggers a substantial drop in estrogen levels, which, in turn, can lead to metabolic alterations that facilitate weight gain. The intricate interplay between hormones and metabolism during menopause can create an environment that promotes the accumulation of excess weight. Furthermore, the energy landscape also shifts as women navigating perimenopause or menopause often find themselves with reduced levels of vitality, resulting in decreased physical activity2.
While a portion of weight gain can be attributed to a decrease in metabolic rate, it’s vital to recognize that there are multifaceted drivers at play. The aging process introduces a spectrum of factors, encompassing age-related challenges, personal lifestyle choices, and genetic predispositions, all of which contribute to changes in weight as individuals journey through their later years3.
Key Components Of A Healthy Diet Over 50
The optimal diet for those over the age of 50 comprises several essential elements. A well-balanced eating regimen should encompass the following:
Major Food Groups
Trendy diets, such as the ketogenic and raw food diets, might yield positive results in the short term. However, it’s important to avoid excluding entire food groups if you’re aiming for a sustainable and enduring dietary approach that suits people over 50.
When striving for the most suitable diet in this age group, it’s recommended to include a range of food categories that contribute to a well-rounded and nutritious eating pattern. These categories are:
- A diverse selection of fruits such as berries, apples, pears, citrus fruits, and melons.
- Non-starchy vegetables, which encompass leafy greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, broccoli, and others.
- Starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, peas, corn, beans, lentils, and various legumes.
- Whole grains such as brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, oatmeal, whole-grain pasta, Ezekiel bread, and more.
- Protein-rich foods including lean meats, fish, poultry, seafood, eggs, tofu, and seitan.
- Healthy fats like olive oil, fish oil, avocados, olives, nuts, seeds, and nut butters.
To create a well-proportioned meal, a beneficial guideline is to allocate approximately half of your plate to non-starchy vegetables, one-fourth to protein sources, and the remaining one-fourth to fiber-rich carbohydrates like whole grains, beans, peas, and other legumes4. This strategy facilitates a balanced distribution of essential nutrients while maintaining a satisfying and sustainable dietary routine for the long term.
Manage Calorie Intake
Whether your objective involves shedding excess pounds or maintaining your current weight, effectively managing your calorie intake is instrumental in mitigating the likelihood of undesired weight gain in the future.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 20205 provides the following recommendations for daily calorie requirements for people aged 50 and above:
- For those with a sedentary lifestyle: Around 1,600 calories per day.
- For moderately active individuals: Approximately 1,800 calories on a daily basis.
- For those leading an active lifestyle: In the range of 2,000 to 2,200 calories per day.
To ascertain your daily calorie intake, a practical approach is to employ a fitness tracker or a health application, which can provide valuable insights into your nutritional habits and guide you toward achieving your weight-related goals.
Follow Meal Schedule
Whenever possible, aim to maintain consistent meal schedules. This practice helps ward off hunger pangs that could potentially lead to overeating during later meals and ensures steady energy levels throughout the day.
Set your intention to have meals spaced every few hours to maintain a steady eating routine.
You can opt for either three main meals combined with two smaller snacks, or alternatively, choose to consume 5 to 6 smaller meals, each consisting of approximately equal calorie content.
Individuals vary in their needs, but for those aged 50 and above, a general guideline is to ensure a minimum intake of 12 cups of water6 or other hydrating fluids each day to support overall well-being.
Kickstart your day by consuming 2 to 4 cups of water as soon as you wake up, followed by an additional 2 cups of water before meals. Also, prioritize hydration by ensuring sufficient water intake before, during, and after your exercise sessions.
For added variety and appeal, you can either choose to enjoy water chilled or infuse it with fruits to enhance its flavor profile.
Ways To Lose Weight Effectively Over 50
While weight loss might pose challenges with advancing age, making adjustments to both your dietary choices and lifestyle can effectively facilitate weight management regardless of your stage in life. Embracing beneficial practices such as maintaining proper hydration and cultivating mindfulness can also contribute to successful weight loss beyond the age of 50.
- Strength Training
Strength training is crucial, particularly for older individuals, despite the predominant emphasis on cardio for weight loss. As you age, the muscle mass declines in a process known as sarcopenia, commencing around age 50. This loss can slow down your metabolism and potentially lead to weight gain.
Beyond the age of 50, muscle mass decreases by approximately 1-2% annually, while muscle strength drops at a rate of 1.5-5% per year7. Therefore, integrating muscle-building exercises into your routine becomes imperative to counteract age-related muscle decline and sustain a healthy body weight.
Engaging in strength training, encompassing bodyweight exercises and weightlifting, significantly enhances muscle strength, size, and functionality. Moreover, strength training aids weight loss by diminishing body fat and increasing metabolism, translating to heightened calorie expenditure throughout the day8,9,10.
- Move More
Creating a calorie deficit by expending more energy than you consume is essential for shedding surplus body fat. Hence, increasing your overall daily activity level is a pivotal aspect of weight loss.
For instance, prolonged periods of sitting during your work hours could hinder your weight loss journey. To counteract this, adopting a more active approach at work can be as simple as standing up from your desk and taking a brief five-minute walk every hour11.
In addition, scientific studies reveal that monitoring your steps using devices like pedometers or Fitbits can significantly enhance weight loss outcomes by elevating physical activity levels and augmenting calorie expenditure12.
- Manage Protein Intake
Ensuring an adequate intake of high-quality protein within your diet holds significance not only for weight loss but also for halting or reversing the muscle loss that accompanies aging13.
The reduction in the number of calories your body expends while at rest, known as the resting metabolic rate (RMR), experiences a decline of 1–2% with each passing decade post the age of 20. This phenomenon is closely linked to the onset of age-related muscle loss14.
However, the inclusion of a diet rich in protein emerges as a preventive measure or even a means to counteract muscle loss attributed to aging. A multitude of studies also highlight that elevating protein intake can effectively aid in sustainable weight loss over the long term15,16,17.
- Avoid Convenience Foods
Consistently consuming easily accessible food options, like fast food, sweets, and packaged snacks, has been linked to weight gain and could potentially impede your weight loss efforts18.
Convenience foods often boast a high-calorie content while lacking essential nutrients such as protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. This is why fast food and other processed foods are often labeled as “empty calories.”
Reducing the intake of convenience foods and substituting them with wholesome meals and snacks centered around nutrient-rich whole foods stands as an intelligent strategy to lose weight effectively.
Best Foods For Weight Loss Over 50
As time passes, the challenge of either sustaining a healthy weight or shedding unwanted body fat tends to intensify for numerous individuals. Unfavorable behaviors, predominantly inactive routines, suboptimal dietary decisions, and shifts in metabolism can collectively contribute to the accumulation of weight post the age of 50.
Nevertheless, through modest modifications, the potential to achieve weight loss persists at any stage of life, irrespective of physical capacities or medical conditions. Outlined below are 5 highly recommended foods that can aid in the pursuit of weight loss beyond the age of 50.
Avocados, often referred to as the “green deity” of fruits, are packed with dietary fiber, beneficial fats, and a rich array of more than 20 essential vitamins and minerals19. Emerging studies have indicated that the inclusion of avocados in your eating regimen might even facilitate the process of shedding pounds.
They are packed with high-quality protein, which can help you feel full and satisfied, reducing the chances of overeating. Studies reveal that a significant portion of the American population—approximately 90%, to be precise—fall short in their intake of choline, a nutrient that is particularly abundant in the yellow yolk of eggs. Choline, a vitamin akin to B vitamins, plays a positive role in supporting cognitive and muscular functions. This becomes notably significant as one progresses in age20.
- Leafy Greens
Having leafy green vegetables as a prime selection among weight loss-friendly foods for individuals above 50 is a common recommendation. Varieties such as collard greens, spinach, and kale fall into this category, offering the dual advantage of being low in calories while being abundant in water content and fiber21. These attributes contribute to a sensation of fullness, aiding in the management of appetite.
- Greek Yogurt
Opting for plain Greek yogurt at breakfast is a highly commendable choice. A small serving of this yogurt variety can yield as much as 15 to 17 grams of protein22. Protein plays a pivotal role in stimulating your metabolism. Notably, your body expends twice the energy when processing protein in comparison to fats and carbohydrates.
Furthermore, if you engage in weightlifting—a practice that accelerates your metabolism—protein becomes crucial in the restoration of muscle mass. A higher muscle mass equates to an elevated calorie-burning capacity23. To craft a well-rounded breakfast that aids in weight management and provides sustained satiety, you can enhance nonfat or low-fat Greek yogurt by incorporating nuts, seeds, and a selection of fruits. Ensuring an ample protein intake during the early hours of the day also acts as a deterrent against uncontrolled snacking later in the evening.
- Fatty Fish
Fish like cod, tuna, and salmon are excellent food choices. They’re not only rich sources of high-quality protein but also contain few calories. Including sufficient lean protein intake is vital for those over 50, as it helps preserve muscle mass and boosts metabolism. Fish is a significant source of this essential protein, and studies emphasize that maintaining muscle mass as you age can support a healthier body weight25.
Salmon, in particular, stands as a nutritional powerhouse. Abundant in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, it boasts the dual advantage of promoting satiety and prolonging the sensation of fullness. Additionally, the specific kind of fat found in salmon—omega-3s—offers exceptional benefits in maintaining cognitive health as individuals progress in age26.
The quest for effective weight loss after the age of 50 demands a multifaceted approach that considers the unique needs of the individual. As metabolism shifts and physiological changes occur with age, selecting the right foods becomes a powerful tool in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. The combination of nutrient-dense options such as leafy greens, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats can provide essential nourishment while supporting weight loss goals.
Steering clear of fad diets and embracing sustainable habits is paramount in this journey. Equally important is recognizing the significance of hydration, portion control, and mindful eating, all of which contribute to a well-rounded and successful strategy for weight management.
Furthermore, integrating strength training, along with other forms of physical activity, aids in combating age-related muscle loss, while simultaneously elevating metabolism and enhancing overall well-being. The synergy between nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle choices paves the way for achieving optimal weight and health, allowing individuals over 50 to embark on a path of vitality, longevity, and a stronger sense of wellness.
3 Samarakoon, S., Chandola, H., & Ravishankar, B. (2011). Effect of dietary, social, and lifestyle determinants of accelerated aging and its common clinical presentation: A survey study. Ayu, 32(3), 315. https://doi.org/10.4103/0974-8520.93906
8 Law, T., Clark, L. A., & Clark, B. C. (2016). Resistance Exercise to Prevent and Manage Sarcopenia and Dynapenia. Annual Review of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 36(1), 205–228. https://doi.org/10.1891/0198-8794.36.205
9 Miller, T. A., Mull, S., Aragon, A. A., Krieger, J., & Schoenfeld, B. J. (2018). Resistance Training Combined With Diet Decreases Body Fat While Preserving Lean Mass Independent of Resting Metabolic Rate: A Randomized Trial. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 28(1), 46–54. https://doi.org/10.1123/ijsnem.2017-0221
10 Pratley, R. E., Nicklas, B., Rubin, M., Miller, J. L., Smith, A. M., Smith, M. A., Hurley, B. F., & Goldberg, A. P. (1994). Strength training increases resting metabolic rate and norepinephrine levels in healthy 50- to 65-yr-old men. Journal of Applied Physiology, 76(1), 133–137. https://doi.org/10.1152/jappl.19220.127.116.11
11 Pratley, R. E., Nicklas, B., Rubin, M., Miller, J. L., Smith, A. M., Smith, M. A., Hurley, B. F., & Goldberg, A. P. (1994). Strength training increases resting metabolic rate and norepinephrine levels in healthy 50- to 65-yr-old men. Journal of Applied Physiology, 76(1), 133–137. https://doi.org/10.1152/jappl.1918.104.22.168
12 Cai, X., Qiu, S., Yin, H., Sun, Z., Ju, C., Zügel, M., Steinacker, J. M., & Schumann, U. (2016). Pedometer intervention and weight loss in overweight and obese adults with Type 2 diabetes: a meta‐analysis. Diabetic Medicine, 33(8), 1035–1044. https://doi.org/10.1111/dme.13104
15 Galbreath, M., Campbell, B., LaBounty, P., Bunn, J., Dove, J., Harvey, T., Hudson, G. M., Gutierrez, J., Levers, K., Galvan, E., Jagim, A. R., Greenwood, L., Cooke, M., Greenwood, M., Rasmussen, C., & Kreider, R. B. (2018). Effects of Adherence to a Higher Protein Diet on Weight Loss, Markers of Health, and Functional Capacity in Older Women Participating in a Resistance-Based Exercise Program. Nutrients, 10(8), 1070. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10081070
16 Azadbakht, L., Izadi, V., Surkan, P. J., & Esmaillzadeh, A. (2013). Effect of a High Protein Weight Loss Diet on Weight, High-Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein, and Cardiovascular Risk among Overweight and Obese Women: A Parallel Clinical Trial. International Journal of Endocrinology, 2013, 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/971724
17 De Luis, D. A., Izaola, O., Aller, R., De La Fuente, B., Bachiller, R., & Romero, E. (2015). Effects of a high-protein/low carbohydrate versus a standard hypocaloric diet on adipocytokine levels and insulin resistance in obese patients along 9months. Journal of Diabetes and Its Complications, 29(7), 950–954. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jdiacomp.2015.06.002
18 Bhutani, S., Schoeller, D. A., Walsh, M. C., & McWilliams, C. (2016). Frequency of Eating Out at Both Fast-Food and Sit-Down Restaurants Was Associated With High Body Mass Index in Non-Large Metropolitan Communities in Midwest. American Journal of Health Promotion, 32(1), 75–83. https://doi.org/10.1177/0890117116660772
20 Wallace, T. C., Blusztajn, J. K., Caudill, M. A., Klatt, K. C., Natker, E., Zeisel, S. H., & Zelman, K. M. (2018). Choline. Nutrition Today, 53(6), 240–253. https://doi.org/10.1097/nt.000000000000030221 Office of Dietary Supplements – Choline. (n.d.). https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Choline-HealthProfessional/
21 Boeing, H., Bechthold, A., Bub, A., Ellinger, S., Haller, D., Kroke, A., Leschik-Bonnet, E., Müller, M. J., Oberritter, H., Stehle, P., & Watzl, B. (2012). Critical review: vegetables and fruit in the prevention of chronic diseases. European Journal of Nutrition, 51(6), 637–663. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-012-0380-y
23 Cintineo, H. P., Arent, M. A., Antonio, J., & Arent, S. M. (2018). Effects of Protein Supplementation on Performance and Recovery in Resistance and Endurance Training. Frontiers in Nutrition, 5. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2018.00083
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25 Bauer, J. M., Biolo, G., Cederholm, T., Cesari, M., Cruz-Jentoft, A. J., Morley, J. E., Phillips, S. M., Sieber, C., Stehle, P., Teta, D., Visvanathan, R., Volpi, E., & Boirie, Y. (2013). Evidence-Based Recommendations for Optimal Dietary Protein Intake in Older People: A Position Paper From the PROT-AGE Study Group. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, 14(8), 542–559. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2013.05.021