They say 40 is the new 30, thanks to healthier habits. Yet, women (like men) continue to struggle with weight and other medical concerns as they enter their 40s.
Both your nutritional needs (the food and water) and your metabolism (how fast your body converts food to energy) change at this age. Your metabolism gets slower. Women lose about half a pound of muscle per year starting around the age of 40. That makes losing weight even more difficult. Some of the changes women experience are due to decreased hormones, reduced activity level, and medical conditions.
Path to improved wellness
What you eat is even more important as you enter your 40s. Women need protein (meat, fish, dairy, beans, and nuts), carbohydrates (whole grains), fats (healthy oils), vitamins, minerals, and water. These foods have been linked to some disease prevention, such as osteoporosis, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. The American Academy of Family Physicians supports the development of healthy food supply chains in supplemental nutrition programs so as to broaden the availability of healthy food.
If you haven’t gotten serious about your nutrition by the time you are 40, it’s time to start.
- Choose a variety of vegetables, including dark green, red and orange, beans and peas, starchy and non-starchy.
- Eat a variety of fruits.
- Include grains in your daily diet. Half of your grains should be whole grains.
- Stick to fat-free or low-fat dairy. This includes milk, yogurt, cheese, or fortified soy products.
- Have protein at every meal. Healthy protein includes lean meat (chicken), seafood, eggs, beans and peas, nuts, seeds, and soy products.
- Use healthy oils, such as olive oil.
Additionally, women should consume:
- Less than 10 percent of your daily calories from added sugars (desserts and processed foods).
- Less than 10 percent of daily calories from saturated fats (red meat, high-fat dairy).
- Less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium.
- Nor more than one drink per day of alcohol.
Calcium, dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C are important nutrients to include in your daily diet.
After 40, your hormone levels (estrogen) drop. This causes your insulin (hormone that helps your body use sugar) rise. Your thyroid levels go down. This combination makes you hungrier. You end up eating more and burning fewer calories. Much of the weight gain occurs around your belly. Eat more foods with fiber (berries, whole grains, nuts) to fill you up and help you eat less. Aim for 25 grams of fiber each day after the age of 40. Other ways to increase your metabolism include:
- Eat breakfast.
- Drink cold water.
- Sleep well.
- Eat spicy food.
Things to consider
After 40, most women gain belly fat. Belly fat has been linked to diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and certain cancers. If you have any of these conditions in your 40s, follow your doctor’s advice for nutrition.
At age 40, women lose muscle mass twice as fast as men. Most of the loss occurs in your core muscles, which supports your abdomen (another reason for belly fat). Crash diets (eating a very low amount of calories to lose weight fast in a short amount of time) and not using your muscles also causes muscle loss.
Questions to ask your doctor
- How long should I exercise to help lose weight?
- Do certain foods build muscle?
- How do I know if I am not getting the proper nutrition?
- Should I have my hormones and thyroid tested?
ChooseMyPlate.gov, Make Better Food Choices
Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Your Health at Every Age