As you get older, you might start to notice that your digestive system reacts differently to foods you used to eat without any issue. That’s completely normal — but taking care of your gut health can help mitigate these uncomfortable changes and keep things regular.
These changes, however, will be different for everyone. While some people will do fine with sugary foods, high-fat foods, and processed snacks, other people might find that their stomachs object. The same could be said for dairy, tomatoes, spicy foods, or really anything.
Certain foods have been cast out as “unhealthy,” like cheese, butter, sugar, or pizza. But in reality, eating moderate amounts of these foods isn’t going to do your body any harm. And there’s nothing about turning 40 that irreversibly alters your ability to eat the foods you enjoy. If anything, 40 is a time of celebration — you’ve reached a new chapter of life, one that will hopefully be filled with quality time with your loved ones, laughter, and a healthy and stress-free relationship with food.
However, there are certain nutrients that your body needs that certain food replacements might deprive from your diet. Additionally, there are some foods that could make menopause symptoms worse. With these health concerns in mind, we advise you steer clear of (or at least limit) these foods.
If you really hate regular milk — or have some other aversion to eating dairy — by all means, drink almond milk. It’s a perfectly healthy staple to keep around the house and add to your smoothies, pour over cereal, or just drink plain. However, if you’re drinking it because you think it’s healthier, there’s no need. Firstly, it’s not the healthiest plant-based milk at the store. And secondly, cow’s milk has much more calcium than almond milk. After 40, you really need calcium. It’s essential for your body to perform muscle contraction, nerve and heart functioning, and other biochemical reactions. If you don’t get enough calcium from your diet, your body starts taking calcium from your bones — that’s no good if you want them to stay strong well into your golden years.
Coffee is filled with antioxidants and can actually be really good for you — but if you’re going through menopause, you might want to give it a rest. Replacing your morning coffee with caffeine-free tea could help to keep hot flashes at bay, according to a 2014 study.
This is another "healthy" swap gone wrong. Sure, egg whites have less fat and fewer calories than whole eggs — but they also have fewer nutrients. Vitamin B-12 is one of those nutrients you’ll only find in the yolk; it’s essential for your brain health and keeps your blood flowing normally. Your body absorbs B-12 more poorly as you age, meaning that cutting one of your main sources of the nutrient is a bad idea. Egg yolks also have impressive stores of vitamin D, A, E, and K, along with lots of omega-3s. You’d be surprised how many people subsist off of egg whites but still take extra omega-3 pills.
Gluten-free breads and other products are fooling you with their healthy-looking labels. Studies show that gluten-free replacements of foods that normally contain the protein are not healthier than the real thing — and they’re more expensive. Often, these breads have significantly less fiber than bread made with real whole wheat. As you get older, fiber is one of the nutrients you need the most. It keeps you full and ensures that your digestion keeps moving regularly.
If you’re going through menopause, you’re going to want to keep the spices to a minimum. Extra spicy foods, such as hot sauce, can trigger hot flashes. Try adjusting your palate to milder seasonings for the time being. Plus, no matter your age, there is such thing as too much hot sauce — it can do a real number on your health.
One of the most important nutrients to load up on during middle age is iron. Spinach has much more iron than iceberg lettuce, which is made of mostly water. If you’re choosing a green for its healthfulness, spinach or another dark leafy green is a more nutritious option. But a Caesar salad now and then won’t kill you — so long as you wash your lettuce correctly! Lettuce is one of the foods most likely to give you food poisoning.
Cauliflower rice, zucchini noodles, and low-carb pizza crusts might seem appealing for weight loss. But carbohydrates and whole grains are an important aspect of nutrition, especially when you’re getting older. Often, these low-carb swaps are loaded up with animal fats and heavily processed. Before you deprive yourself of pasta or pizza, think about what you’re really swapping!
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.
This lower-calorie peanut product is often pitched as a diet-friendly replacement to regular, fatty peanut butter. It comes in a powder that you’re meant to mix with water. The result is a peanut butter imitation that’s nowhere near as oily and creamy as the original. However, a less fatty peanut butter is a less nutritious peanut butter — healthy fats are crucial for maintaining the quality of your skin, hair, and nails as you age. Instead of mixing pasty peanut butter powder, try one of these taste-tested full-fat peanut butters.