The old adage, “You are what you eat!” isn’t exactly true – you’re not going to turn into a strawberry from eating too many strawberries, of course. But there is an important kernel of truth in that adage. If you eat healthy food and maintain a healthy diet, you are more likely to remain in good health, and the inverse is also true. Now, this is, of course, no guarantee against developing health problems or illnesses, but all things being equal, it definitely helps you to live a healthy, long life compared to a poor diet with little nutritional value. Therefore, nutrition and dietary changes that happen throughout your life need to be well-understood so that you can optimize your health.
At the same time, metabolic rates and dietary and nutritional needs change as people age. Combined with the fact that metabolism and calorie needs change as adults get older, it’s more important than ever to consider your diet and what you are putting in your body. Making the right choices, and making some simple changes, can often make a significant difference over the long term. Men in particular often need to come to grips with their diet in their late 30s or early 40s, due to the natural changes in the body (and tending, on average, to have a poorer diet in their younger years compared to women of the same age).
To help, we’ve put together a list of some of the top dietary changes that every man should make after reaching age 40, in order to maximize health and longevity.
In This Article
It should come as no surprise to anyone that diet plays an important role in overall health and fitness at all ages. Getting a proper balance of fats, proteins, and carbs to meet your body’s biological needs is what provides you with the fuel you need to function, physically and mentally. Likewise, the nutrients and vitamins from your diet are used in a host of processes within the body and bodily systems, including the immune system, nervous system, building strong bones and muscles, flexible and healthy joints, maintaining memory and enabling learning and recall, and much more.
Diet also provides the consistent, sustainable energy needed to remain active, exercise, and remain fit. Proper diet can help you fight off illnesses and decrease the potential for developing certain diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, and more. A diet that matches the needs of an individual’s body allows for optimum performance, health, and fitness. Therefore, choosing the correct diet – one that provides the essentials and added nutrients relevant based on your age – can impact almost every aspect of your physical health, fitness, mental health and functioning, and well-being.
Now that it’s clear how important a proper diet is to physical health let’s take a closer look at 11 of the top dietary changes every man should make after age 40. These changes, in some cases, are viable and sound advice at any age. However, most are specifically important for adult males around age 40 and beyond due to the natural aging-related changes that occur in the body. The reasons or rationale for these changes in the context of age-related male body changes are discussed within each entry on our list below.
Sodium is a critical nutrient, but most of us get far too much of it in our diet. Adding a sprinkle of table salt isn’t really the problem – many, many of the foods we eat, especially processed and pre-packaged foods – are packed with sodium. You can’t judge the sodium value of a food based on how “salty” it tastes, either – nutrition labels are your friend in this regard. Paradoxically, many of the saltiest foods are actually baked goods and sweets, which don’t taste salty at all!
The reasons why sodium intake should be decreased are many and varied. It plays a significant role in blood pressure, fluid retention and bloating, hydration vs. dehydration, stroke and heart failure risk, and more. It also can contribute to osteoporosis and other bone problems, stomach cancer, and kidney disease. Don’t cut all salt out of your diet – but definitely reduce your intake, especially if you are already getting well more than the recommended daily value of around 2,300 mg.
Not all of the dietary changes that men over 40 need to make fall under the heading of reducing or foregoing things. Some focus on adding or increasing your intake of certain nutrients, as is the case here. Men age 40 and over should increase their dietary intake of calcium, which can come from dairy products, fortified products like cereals, and leafy greens like spinach and kale. Calcium supplements are also a viable option for increasing daily calcium intake.
Most people know that calcium is critical for bone growth in youth, but it remains important throughout life for bone regeneration and strength. It additionally plays important roles in heart health and the electrical signaling in the body. While women tend to exhibit reduced ability to absorb calcium as they age, primarily due to hormonal changes, both men and women experience reduced calcium retention and some similar degree of lesser absorption. This means it’s more likely that women may need a calcium supplement at age 40, 50, or beyond, where men can get away with simply increasing their dietary calcium intake.
Protein should make up a significant portion of an adult’s diet, and this becomes more critical with age. Many people are aware that those who are training for athletics or bodybuilding need massive amounts of protein in their diet. While we’re not suggesting that men over 40 are all working to be bodybuilders or athletes, the same root purpose is at play – building and maintaining strong, flexible muscles. Muscle mass loss, or greater difficulty in maintaining or building muscle mass, tends to correspond with age – easiest when you are young, and harder and harder as you get older. So, boosting your protein intake as you get older helps to offset this difficulty (especially when combined with a good program of exercise).
In the body, protein makes up a number of organs and structures, is critical in forming the building blocks of cells and systems, and is used throughout the body in many different ways. Muscles, however, are one of the largest consumers of protein in the body. Even with exercise, aging can accelerate muscle wasting or loss, so ensuring there is protein in every snack or meal you eat at age 40 and beyond can go a long way towards keeping your muscles fit and healthy.
Heart disease risk increases with age, with a variety of factors contributing to that risk. However, it can be offset and combated, in part, by ensuring you are getting enough Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. These fatty acids reduce heart disease risk and also have the side benefit of helping your body produce more vitamin D. Vitamin D production normally occurs from skin exposure to the sun. So, not only do Omega-3 fatty acids help with heart health, but boost your vitamin D levels as well – it’s a double win!
Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in oily fish, such as trout, salmon, mackerel, herring, and similar. For those who don’t like (or don’t want to incorporate) fish in their diet, several types of nuts and seeds also contain these valuable compounds, as do soybeans. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements are available at most grocery, health food, and online supplement sellers. A pill a day can keep heart disease away!
From the time we are children, we’re told to eat our vegetables. Unlike children, most adults find various vegetables and preparation methods for those vegetables to be enjoyable, tasty, and part of their diet. Nevertheless, increasing the number of vegetables you eat at age 40 and beyond is important because of biological changes, as well as the benefits they can provide. Leafy greens, in particular, are quite power-packed. They contain anti-oxidants, help decrease the risks of certain cancers, and have been shown repeatedly to boost the immune system and decrease the risk of cognitive declines later in life, such as dementia.
The timing of meals, snacks, and so on can also be an important consideration and may need to change as you age. Most guys in their 20s and even their 30s are no stranger to grabbing a couple of slices of cold pizza at 11 or 12 at night when hunger strikes. While younger metabolisms may handle this kind of behavior, it becomes more and more problematic as men get older.
In addition to a reduced metabolic rate, that makes it less likely you can burn off the calories from such snacking, both late dinners and late snacks have another effect in older adults: they spike insulin levels, increase cholesterol, and can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. They are also more likely to cause heartburn and digestive issues due to the timing of your body’s expected circadian rhythms.
Weight gain or difficulty maintaining weight, increased insulin levels, increased diabetes risk, higher cholesterol levels, heartburn, sleep problems – all of these things can also increase the risk of heart disease and similar chronic health problems. Simply strive to eat earlier, and avoid late-night snacking – that’s an easy one to adopt and can make meaningful impacts on your health after age 40.
Processed foods, especially processed grain-based products, are delicious and common in our modern diet. However, in many cases, they are low in nutrients, if not entirely bereft of nutrients. Empty calories become a bigger and bigger problem with age due to decreased metabolic rate, making it harder to maintain weight or lose weight, and making it more likely for older individuals to gain weight. At the same time, vital nutrients that aging bodies need are not present in these highly-processed foods.
Instead, choose natural or whole versions of similar foods. Go with whole wheat bread rather than white bread, whole grain rice or quinoa instead of white rice, wheat pasta instead of semolina-based products, and so on. These whole and natural versions of grains and carbs have an additional benefit – they provide more stable energy in the body, with fewer sugar spikes and crashes, fewer insulin issues, and can decrease your risk for diabetes and other metabolic disorders.
Supplements or multivitamins are a good augmentation to a healthy diet. Even in the best of circumstances, most people don’t always have time to eat a perfectly balanced diet every day or incorporate all of the tips on this list into their life consistently. There are always going to be times when you cheat, eat out, go to a party, and so on. A sustainable healthy diet means you can’t be rigid and deprive yourself, or you’ll never stick with it.
For all those reasons, ensuring you get sufficient nutrients can be made much easier by adding a multivitamin to your diet. If you have dietary restrictions or particular deficiencies in certain nutrients, then a supplement may also be advisable. They aren’t replacements for eating a balanced diet and getting proper nutrients, but can – as the name implies – supplement dietary sources and overcome any decreased absorption or production that happens naturally due to aging at 40 and beyond.
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If you’re following the advice to eat more vegetables, you’re already well on your way to meeting this tip. Dietary fiber helps you feel full, so you end up eating less. It also plays an important role in digestive health and bowel movements – areas that often tend to become more difficult or have more problems with age. Constipation is especially common in older adults, and sufficient dietary fiber can help combat that. Sufficient fiber intake can help prevent digestive conditions such as diverticulitis and other bowel problems.
In addition to vegetables, many fruits are high in fiber (apples, pears, raspberries, and bananas, for example), as well as legumes like lentils, peas, and beans, and whole grains, nuts, and seeds. These are very healthy dietary changes that offer numerous health benefits, vitamins, antioxidants, cellular repair, immune support, and much more.
A common problem that older adults start to exhibit is feeling full faster. This can start as early as your early 40s and is a result of the aging process. Various chemicals in the body that signal satiation or feelings of fullness seem to increase their quantity and/or effect in older individuals. This can make it challenging to eat enough food (and diverse enough food) at mealtimes.
In these cases, adaptive dietary changes don’t require you to alter what you eat, but rather how you eat it. It’s important to try to snack throughout the day – just not too late in the day, as pointed out in our #6 tip. Of course, these snacks should be healthy and consistent with the overall diet principles discussed here, and not processed junk foods or desserts!
Finally, hydration is critical, and often something you need to work at as you age. This is not exactly an example of dietary changes – sufficient hydration is important at all ages. However, it’s more important that older adults make a specific effort in this regard. Getting a sufficient water intake daily seems like it should be easy, but, much as hunger and satiation can wane with age, so can the sensation of thirst.
Yet, based on all scientific evidence, adults at 40, 50, 60, and beyond need just as much liquid hydration as younger adults and children. Your kidneys, which process and remove liquid waste via urine, also tend to have decreased function consistent with age, making it hard to tell how hydrated you are, or whether or not you need more to drink. Approximately 64 ounces, or 8 glasses, is the recommended amount of hydration. As water makes up the majority of your body mass and is critical for all of your bodily and cellular functions – drink up!
Most experts suggest that men over 40 (and people of all ages, for that matter) adopt a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables, along with lean proteins. This kind of diet should include healthy fats and a limited amount of carbs, favoring whole grains over processed sources of carbs. In many cases, this kind of diet mimics the well-known Mediterranean diet – limited red meat, lots of vegetables and low-sugar fruits, fish/seafood, pork, and poultry, and olive oil and similar fats used instead of butter or other oils. Most importantly, though, you need to choose a well-balanced diet that meets your nutritional needs and is sustainable for you as an individual.
The best way to improve your metabolism after 40 is a combination of physical activity/exercise, along with the dietary changes discussed in our guide – effectively changing your eating habits and diet. This can include adding supplements to your diet, changing your meals’ frequency and timing, and starting to try some food and beverage options that are targeted toward increasing your metabolism. Examples include taking probiotics for digestive health, trying anti-oxidant teas, staying hydrated, choosing a healthy option for breakfast such as a smoothie or shake, and so on. Of course, these can only help so much, and metabolic changes are part of aging. But doing your best to stay on top of it just makes good sense.
Unfortunately, there is no magic fountain of youth that can stop or dramatically slow down aging. However, several foods can help reduce or offset the effects of aging on the human body. While scientific evidence on some of these anti-aging foods is spotty, others have a good track record of functioning as anti-oxidants, promoting healthy skin and eyes, strengthening connective tissues, and more. These foods include red bell peppers, blueberries, broccoli, spinach, and similar leafy greens, papaya, nuts including walnuts and almonds, pomegranate seeds, and avocado.
Making dietary changes at age 40 and beyond does not need to be onerous or restrictive. Simple, moderate replacements or attention to when and what you eat can go a long way towards ensuring your health and longevity. Your body is changing, and your diet needs to change a bit with it. Diet can help reduce the risk of developing diseases, improve your immune system, protect your bones, tissues, and organs, and allow you to live a long, happy, healthy life.
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While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.