There’s no magical switch that gets flipped when you turn 40 — you can still eat the foods you enjoy and not worry too much about it. In all honesty, the stress of worrying about your health and your diet is probably doing more damage than the food itself.
Some nutrients become more essential as you age. Vitamin D, for instance, can protect against age-related problems such as heart disease and cancer. Magnesium helps to regulate your blood pressure. Omega-3 fatty acids can prevent cognitive decline.
Don’t worry — you don’t have to remember all those specifics. You simply should keep in mind that a diet rich with a variety of foods will give you a variety of nutrients. While no one food is going to kill you, no one food — no matter how super — is going to prevent every health condition, either.
Listen to the signs your body sends you when it needs certain foods. If you’re especially worried about the smaller side effects of some foods and drinks, here are the ones we advise you eat with caution.
Bisphenol-A (BPA) is found in the linings of most canned foods. Buying canned beans instead of cooking your own is okay every now and then, but if you’re subsisting off of canned vegetables and other foods, BPA could be a concern. The chemical has been known to inhibit sex hormones, leading to erectile dysfunction and a decrease in sexual desire.
Some of the side effects of drinking diet soda can be really uncomfortable. Heavy diet soda drinkers are more likely to have a lower bone density, be more depressed, and experience hypertension. If you’re carefully watching your health, you might want to replace diet soda with another healthy drink.
Not only are these meals usually really unappetizing — meaning you’ll absorb fewer nutrients from them — but they’re also really lacking in terms of health. These heat-and-eat meals tend to overload you with sugars and sodium while holding back the proteins and healthy fats. Fiber is usually left out of the equation, too. Instead, try learning to cook some simple and quick dinners. They’re almost always a better option than a Lean Cuisine or other freezer meal.
These drinks have a ton of caffeine, which can be dehydrating. Depending on whether you’re drinking the zero-calorie kind or not, they also contain artificial sweeteners or sugar — but zero other nutrients. If you’re in a bind and in desperate need of a jolt, drinking one won’t kill you. But you’re better off getting your caffeine from a cup of coffee or other beverage. At least coffee has some health benefits!
Jerky of any and all kinds is a snacking favorite for people who have gone paleo — but eating too much of it could be risky. These snacks are loaded with sodium. To preserve your heart health, it’s recommended to limit your intake of extremely high sodium foods.
Fats are one of the three macronutrients, all of which you need to stay healthy. Fats play an important role in regulating your hormones. Your hormone levels are already changing as you age; depriving yourself of fats from food is probably not going to help. Healthy fats are also closely tied with brain function, helping to preserve your memory and keep your mind sharp.
If there’s any kind of fat to avoid, it’s trans fats. These fatty acids have been shown to raise your bad cholesterol and lower your good cholesterol — that’s the opposite of what you want your dietary fats to do for your body. Butter and oil, on the other hand, can help reduce your cholesterol and encourage the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients.
These drinks will load you up on electrolytes, sure — but they’ll also load you up on extra sugars. If you’re looking for a hydrating beverage, one of these might be a more nutritious option. But a little sugar won’t hurt you — the thing to watch out for is replacing water with these sporty beverages. Staying hydrated is an absolute must, and many people over 40 fail to drink enough water. Fill up on the water first. Then, if you’re really in the mood for a Gatorade or other sugary drink, go right ahead.
Of course, the severity of the health consequences depend on the artificial sweetener the candy uses. But most big candy companies, such as Hershey’s, use sugar alcohols to bump up the sweet taste of their candies without adding any refined sugar. Sugar alcohols are known to have an odd aftertaste — but even if you can stomach it, your digestive system might not. Eating large amounts of sugar alcohols has been linked to bloating, gas, and other signs of digestive distress.
Other companies, like Brach’s, use sucralose to sweeten their sugar-free candies. Sucralose is much more risky. Some studies suggest that it messes with gut bacteria, can contribute to altered insulin levels in the blood, and may play a role in certain cancers.
Since they’re often a low-calorie and easy-to-heat replacement for typical fatty burgers, men will often keep a box in their freezer as a go-to simple dinner. However, these overly processed freezer patties are just a poor choice to eat for dinner. It’s no main course — there are little to no nutrients in them, and since they’re usually made of very few calories, they won’t fill you up. Instead, you’ll likely end up eating more after dinner and fill your body with all kinds of processed ingredients from the burger.
If you’re swapping beef for a veggie burger at a restaurant, however, they’re made with better ingredients — and probably taste better, too.