The 5 Best Foods for Women as They Age

Joan Salge Blake

Remember the healthy things your mom did for you when you were a kid? Maybe she nagged you to eat breakfast, packed you a robust school lunch or made sure your dinner was hot no matter what time you got home. Now it's time for you to do something healthy for your mom (or grandmother) in return: Make sure she's eating these five foods that support women's health as they age:

1. Milk Fortified with Vitamin D

As your mom ages, her skin's ability to make vitamin D from sunlight declines. To make matters worse, her intestines and kidneys lose some ability to absorb and convert vitamin D into its active form, which the body needs to absorb bone-strengthening calcium and fight bone-thinning osteoporosis. Add this to the fact that most women of all ages fall short of their daily vitamin D needs because they aren't drinking adequate milk (which is second to none in terms of its vitamin D content), and it's very likely your mom is vitamin D deficient. To sneak more milk in her diet, suggest that she drink a latte in the morning. A 12-ounce latte can provide close to a 1-cup serving of milk, which is about 10 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin D.

Nutrition Bonus: If your mom eats yogurt, make sure it's fortified with vitamin D. Many yogurts, including most Greek yogurts, aren't fortified with this important vitamin.

[See: Which Type of Milk Is Healthiest?]

2. Whole-Grain Cereals Fortified With Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is important for healthy nerves and red blood cells, but it's only found naturally in animal foods such as poultry, meat and fish. Even if your mom eats plenty of these foods, she still may be lacking in vitamin B12 since up to 30 percent of older adults have a decline in the secretion of hydrochloric acid in their stomachs, which helps the body absorb the naturally-occurring form of vitamin B12. The good news is that synthetic vitamin B12, which is added to fortified foods like whole-grain cereals, doesn't depend on stomach acids to be absorbed.

Nutrition Bonus: If your mom starts consuming whole-grain cereals, she will likely also be pouring vitamin D-rich milk on top.

3. Canned Salmon

Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death among post-menopausal women. To help your mom reduce her risk, she should eat at least two fish meals weekly -- especially fatty fish like salmon, which is rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Canned salmon is an affordable and easy way to have her boost her fish intake at lunch.

Nutrition Bonus: Salmon is also an excellent source of protein, another nutrient that mom needs to be having at each meal.

[See: 13 Best Fish: High in Omega-3s and Environmentally-Friendly.]

4. Baked Potato

Potatoes are an unbelievable, affordable and rich source of potassium, a nutrient that can help lower high blood pressure -- an increasingly common symptom with age. But many women are not getting enough of this mineral in their diets. Adding potassium-rich foods to your mom's diet may help her avoid high blood pressure and, as a result, reduce her risk of stroke -- another leading cause of death among women.

Nutrition Bonus : Tell your mom to stuff her baked potato with cooked broccoli and some plain yogurt, which are both also great sources of potassium.

[See: 9 Foods Packed With Potassium.]

5. Kale

You don't want your mom to get cataracts, an age-related clouding of the lens of her eyes, because it will affect her vision and ability to do routine daily activities such as cooking, reading and driving. But because cataracts are more common in women than men, she could be at risk. But eating kale, which is rich in two phytochemicals -- lutein and zeaxanthin -- may reduce mom's that risk.

Nutrition Bonus : Other green leafy vegetables such spinach and romaine lettuce are also good sources of these phytochemicals. Make sure mom has a leafy green salad with dinner each night.

Joan Salge Blake is a Clinical Associate Professor at Boston University and the author of "Nutrition & You," 3rd Edition, Pearson/Benjamin Cummings (2014), "Nutrition & You: Core Concepts to Good Health," Pearson/Benjamin Cummings (2010), and "Eat Right The E.A.S.Y. Way," Prentice Hall Press (1991). She is the co-author of "Nutrition: From Science to You," Pearson/Benjamin Cummings (2016). Joan has conducted more than 1,000 media interviews and has been quoted in or written for various media outlets, such as the New York Times, Food Network, Newsweek, Washington Post, Forbes, Prevention, WebMD, Consumer Reports, Boston Globe, Newsday, Time, The Atlanta Journal Constitution Readers Digest, and Cosmopolitan, People, Parade, Cooking Light, Parents, Shape, Self, More, Sports Illustrated, Woman's Day, More, All You and O magazines. She has appeared on CBS, The Early Show, CNN, CBS News Boston, NBC News, Boston, NPR and Fox TV, Boston. In 2012, Joan was named by Good Housekeeping Magazine as the expert to follow on Twitter for healthy eating. She is currently working towards her doctorate. Follow her on Twitter at: @JoanSalgeBlake.