DIET FOR A 55-YEAR-OLD WOMAN
Calories and Protein
According to the Food and Agricultural Organization, a woman aged 30 to 60 years, weighing 60 kg or 132 lbs. requires 1,900 to 2,200 calories daily to maintain her weight. The minimum protein requirement for a woman weighing 60 kg is approximately .8 g/kg body weight or at least 48 g daily. However, a range for protein intake is appropriate and should be 10 to 15 percent of total calories or 48 to 71 g daily.
Carbohydrates, specifically complex carbohydrates, should take up the most space in an older woman’s diet. About 55 to 65 percent of total calories should come from carbohydrates or 260 to 310 g daily on a 1,900 calorie diet. Dietary fiber, found in whole plant foods, is important for healthy digestion. The adequate intake for dietary fiber is 14 g/1,000 calories or 25 to 30 g daily. Total fat, for all individuals, should be limited to 30 percent or less of calories–mostly composed of heart-healthy unsaturated fats. The adequate intake for total water, which includes water from all foods and beverages, is 2.7 liters daily or about 11 cups.
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients, which are those needed in small quantities for optimal health. According to Gloria Tsang, R.D., calcium and vitamin D are particularly important nutrients for reducing the risk of developing osteoporosis in women over the age of 50. In addition to offering bone benefits, calcium plays a role in regulating blood pressure. The recommendation for calcium intake for a 55-year-old woman is 1,200 mg, and recommended vitamin D intake is at least 400 IU. In addition, because of menopause, women over the age of 50 do not require supplemental iron and–as there is a risk for iron overload–should avoid iron-containing supplements. A woman can obtain enough iron, in most cases, from diet alone.
A 55-year-old woman who chooses healthy, whole, unprocessed foods in general will enjoy the most health benefits and be better able to control her weight. Examples of nutrient-rich foods to choose most often include low- or non-fat dairy products, such as milk and yogurt; whole fruits and vegetables; legumes and starchy beans; whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, barley, wheat pasta and whole-grain cereals; lean cuts of beef and pork; skinless poultry; and fish, particularly fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel and tuna. Limited amounts of foods rich in “healthy” fats, such as nuts, seeds, olives, avocados and vegetable oils are beneficial as well.
Health status, demographics, food intolerance, preferences and other factors affect a woman’s food choices and overall diet. In addition, if a woman is trying to lose weight or chooses a restricted diet, such as a vegan diet, she may have additional nutrient needs. Vitamin and/or mineral deficiencies, the presence of certain health conditions and/or a less than optimal diet may warrant supplementation. Check with your health-care professional before initiating any new diet.