A pink grapefruit cut in half, sitting against a light pink background.

5 Foods to Avoid After Age 40

What Foods Should Older Adults Avoid?

As we age, it's important to stop eating foods that are highly processed and manufactured, such as fast food items. Aging optimally starts with sound nutrition but does not end there; while you want a variety of healthy foods, it's important to keep your mind and body active daily.

The Mayo Clinic offers this simple and straightforward guidance on nutrition: “Eat a healthy diet. Choose vegetables, fruits, whole grains, high-fiber foods, and lean sources of protein, such as fish. Limit foods high in saturated fat and salt.” If you are nearing age 40, make these changes now!

Top 5 Foods to Avoid

1. Fats and Oils

Trans fats, hydrogenated fats and saturated fats should be avoided at all costs. They do not offer nutritional value and harm your heart and overall well-being. Cut commercially produced baked goods from your meal plan, as many contain unhealthy fats. If you must eat red meat, opt for lean cuts and eat it only occasionally.

Avoid coconut oil and many whole dairy products, as these also contain fats. These fats can also cause harmful cholesterol levels, leading to heart disease and stroke.

2. Sugars and Sweeteners

Consuming sugars, sweeteners and even artificial sweeteners is less than optimal for your health. When sweet treats are in your diet, you can count on weight gain, fluctuating blood sugars and potentially developing diabetes. Choose foods that are naturally sweet, such as nectarines and grapes!

3. Spirits and Wine

While the occasional glass of wine or spirits is likely fine, too much alcohol may lead to weight gain, nutritional deficiencies, poor memory and clouded thinking. Instead, try fruit-infused water, delicious hot or iced teas or water with mint. Consider how much physical activity will be required to burn off alcohol, even when it's just a "couple of beers."

4. Grapefruit

Grapefruit, either the fruit or its juice, should be avoided with numerous prescription drugs, including many that lower blood pressure. If your medication has a warning label about mixing it with any food, heed that advice and talk to your pharmacist about your best choices.

Grapefruit may impact how prescription drugs act in your body, and some of these impacts may be dangerous.

5. Sodium

Salt should be avoided as most foods already contain some salt. Too much sodium can be problematic for older adults and their blood pressure. Instead, add flavor to your dishes using herbs, spices and vegetable-based sauces.

Health Boosting Supplements

Many older adults just don’t have the appetite they had when they were younger. Other older adults lose some taste sensation and don’t seem to enjoy the same foods. Eating "light" is absolutely fine, as long as you are consuming enough calories to meet your body’s needs and eating foods rich in nutrients.

If you are still determining if your diet meets your needs, talk to your doctor, a registered dietician or a registered nutritionist. They may suggest a health-boosting supplement. Choose wisely, as some supplements do not deliver on their promises.

Further, everything our bodies need is available from food, but if it's not possible for you to eat the foods you need, then a supplement might be right for you. Remember that you can get too much of a good thing, so read supplement labels carefully and follow all dosage and frequency directions. Supplements should not be used as a substitute for a healthy diet.

Calcium and vitamin D are two supplements that many aging women may benefit from as their bone density decreases, which increases the risk of fractures. Talk to your healthcare team about your need for increased calcium and vitamin D levels. You should also talk to your group about any medications you are taking and how those may impact your nutrition.

Healthy Habits to Develop

Your diet should consist of a lot of fruits and vegetables. By eating a variety of brightly colored produce, including loads of leafy greens, you'll provide your aging body with nutrients it requires to properly function, heal and fight off illness and infections.

Aging doesn't mean restricting your diet, but it does mean making healthier choices. Be mindful of your body's unique needs, and seek help and advice from medical professionals when needed.

Less than healthy foods aren't good to consume at any age. Consider turning 40 as a marker for positive change, and double down on your diet. As our bodies and nutritional needs start to change, so should our daily habits.