There’s no wrong time of life to try these restriction-free strategies, but they’re particularly smart moves to keep your body and brain young as you age.

Ali Redmond

Ali Redmond

Reviewed by Dietitian Jessica Ball, M.S., RD

Each January, U.S News & World Report releases a new recap of their expert panels’ selections for the best and worst diets in a variety of categories. While they used to focus a lot on overarching categories like “best diet overall” and the “best diet for weight loss,” they’ve recently added more specificity to the list, including the top choices for families and what’s best for bone and joint health.

This month, they decided to add another angle to their panel’s purview: the best diet for women over 50. Menopause typically begins between age 45 and 55, according to the National Institute on Aging, and this transition involves changes in hormones, sleep quality, energy levels and muscle mass that can result in weight gain. In fact, a September 2022 study published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology says that most women report gaining about 2 to 4 1/2 pounds each year despite no changes to exercise or diet habits.

It’s not just about the LBs, however. Women of a certain age should be focusing on a few key nutrients, the doctors and dietitians involved in this selection confirm. These include:

  • Vitamin B12: Helps prevent anemia and plays a role in the development of new brain and nerve cells. Our bodies have a tougher time absorbing B12 as we get older.

  • Calcium: Absorption rates also fall with age, which can result in weaker bones.

    • Found in: Dairy, salmon, sardines, tofu and fortified foods

  • Vitamin D: Aids in calcium uptake.

  • Protein: Preserves muscle mass, supports wound healing and plays a role in hormone production.

    • Found in: Fish, seafood, poultry, beef, pork, dairy products, eggs, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds

Related:The 8 Best High-Protein Foods, According to a Dietitian

Ali Redmond

Ali Redmond

The 3 Best Diets for Women Over 50, According to Doctors and Dietitians

With those MVP minerals, vitamins and macronutrients in mind, and with an eye on long-term sustainability, U.S. News & World Report selected these as the best diets for women around menopause age.

DASH Diet

Earlier this month, the DASH diet (short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) was selected by American Heart Association (AHA) cardiologists as the best diet for heart health. And now, it goes home with the gold as the best diet for women over 50.

To follow the DASH diet, prioritize low-fat dairy products, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, whole grains and lean proteins while limiting added sugars. That strategy will likely result in an overall menu that’s low in sodium, balanced in macronutrients (protein, carbs and fat) and rich in those key micronutrients, especially calcium. Fiber, magnesium and potassium levels also tend to shine on DASH.

Mediterranean Diet

A six-year victor of “Best Diet Overall,” this eating plan also earned top ranks in 2023 as the Best Diet for Healthy Eating, the Best Plant-Based Diet and tied for first for the Best Family-Friendly Diet and Best Diet for Bone and Joint Health. In this rating, the Mediterranean diet comes in at a close second since it’s scientifically linked with lower risk of heart disease and better overall health. Designing your menu Mediterranean-style makes such an impact, in fact, that it might be on par with walking an extra 4,000 steps per day.

To follow the Mediterranean diet, which is inspired by the cuisines of countries situated near the Mediterranean Sea (but can be adapted to any cultural preferences), fuel your days with low-fat dairy, fish, seafood, eggs, poultry, whole grains, olive oil, nuts and seeds. Eat red meat on occasion, savor a glass of red wine every so often (if you choose to drink alcohol) and limit highly-processed foods and added sugars.

MIND Diet

Essentially a mash-up of the DASH and Mediterranean, it’s probably no surprise that the MIND diet takes home the bronze on the list of the best diets for women over 50. It’s designed to help maintain and possibly boost brain function as we age. A study publised January 2022 in the journal Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy, the MIND diet was linked to a lower risk of dementia within the first 6 years of follow-ups. (ICYMI, the Alzheimer’s Association estimates that about 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.)

To follow the MIND diet, feast on fruits (berries get a special gold star), vegetables (especially dark, leafy greens), beans, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fish, seafood and olive oil. If you chose to drink, enjoy wine in moderation, which is less than one 5-ounce glass per day.

The Bottom Line

To support heart health, brain health, bone strength, weight maintenance and, most importantly, longevity, a panel of experts recommend the DASH diet, Mediterranean diet and MIND diets as among the best lifestyles for women over 50.

Steer clear of trendy fad diets and diet pills, the doctors and dietitians recommend. No matter what program you follow, it won’t have the potential to improve well-being unless you can stick with it for the long-haul. (Plus, those “detoxes” and pills can come with some not-so-pleasant side effects…)

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