Growing old and losing our independence is something we all fear.
But experts now claim they have found five ‘superfoods’ that can help women through the ageing process.
Oranges, apples, pears, romaine lettuce and walnuts can allow women to remain mobile as they reach their later years, new research suggests.
Orange juice was also found to have a beneficial effect.
Overall, diets based around fruit and vegetables and low in sugary drinks, salt and unsaturated fats, reduced rates of frailty in older women.
However it is also important to have a healthy diet and not just focus on individual foods, the scientists stressed.
The study, which was funded by the California Walnut Commission, said walnuts are packed with healthy nutrients, which may explain the finding.
Earlier this year, Dr Michael Greger, author of How Not To Die, claimed eating just two handfuls of nuts a week may extend women’s lives as much as jogging four hours a week.
Previous research has found walnuts can cut the risk of heart attacks and diabetes, ease stress, prevent Alzheimer’s, breast and prostate cancer and lower cholesterol.
Richer in protective antioxidants than other nuts, consuming just six walnuts once a week reduces the risk of becoming frail, the new study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, says.
And a study by the University of Michigan last year found people who ate one small apple a day had a nine per cent lower chance of visiting the doctor several times a year.
Dr Francine Grodstein, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, said: ‘There’s a lot of research that looks at specific health conditions in aging, such as diabetes and heart disease, but less attention to research on quality of life and ability to maintain independence with aging.
‘The simple message from this study is that eating an overall healthy diet, including certain foods, such as walnuts and other whole foods, may help women with the ability to do key everyday tasks as they age, like carrying groceries or dressing themselves.’
Consuming just six walnuts once a week reduces the risk of women becoming frail with age, the study claims
The researchers looked at data from 54,762 women over a period of 30 years.
Between 1992 and 2008 the participants were asked questions about their physical function, including their ability to perform basic activities of daily living.
The link between dietary habits and problems with mobility was then measured.
Diet was assessed using the Alternative Healthy Eating Index – a measure of quality that incorporates foods and nutrients predictive of their chronic disease risk.
The researchers also pointed out that as the study participants only included women, the results may not generally apply to men.
Dr Grodstein said: ‘These results add to the large body of evidence that outline the many benefits of a healthy diet for women.
‘Additional research is needed to better understand how diet and lifestyle choices can help maintain our health and well-being as we age.’