A Lifetime of Good Nutrition

January 13, 2009

Unless you’ve been living in a cave somewhere, you definitely know what constitutes a healthy diet- fruits, vegetables, grains, low fat proteins and dairy. But, did you know that there is more to think about depending on your stage of life?

YOUR 20’s and 30’s

Generally, you are at your healthiest and strongest in your 20’s and 30’s. However, this does not give you permission to disrespect your body and throw away basic principles of healthful eating. In fact, this is the time in your life that you are actually building your eating habits since most people are living on their own and don’t depend on Mom anymore for food. If you choose to ignore healthful eating, you are setting yourself up for a lifetime of unhealthful eating practices and most likely disease.

So, during your 20’s and 30’s, it is important to ensure a balanced diet and to practice choosing healthy foods and learn how to cook and prepare nourishing meals.

For men, a balanced diet should be adequate, but, women need to pay extra attention to certain vitamins. Women (ages 19-50) haveironrichfoods1 higher iron needs than men. The recommended daily amount is 18 milligrams. Iron rich foods include beef, clams, bran, cream of wheat, beans and lentils, dried apricot, prunes, and raisins, and nuts and seeds.

Also, women in their childbearing years, need to ensure an adequate intake of folic acid, especially prior to conception to help reduce the risk of having a child born with neural tube defects, like spina bifida. Foods rich in folic acid include oranges, asparagus, green leafy vegetables, and beans and lentils.

Additionally, women in their 20’s and 30’s should consume adequate calcium. Calcium is essential for maintaining strong bones. Thepyramid_dairy2 recommendation is 1000 mg per day. Calcium rich foods include milk, yogurt, and cheese. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consume 1200 mg of calcium per day.

YOUR 40’s

obesityOne of the primary nutritional issues people face in their 40’s is increasing weight due to a natural decline in metabolism.

This is a critical time to begin (if you haven’t been already) watching your portions and reducing intake of high calorie foods (sweets, fats etc.). Many people in their 40’s also start developing high cholesterol and therefore, it’s a good idea to reduce saturated fat, trans fats, and cholesterol intake (think animal products and baked goods) and to increase fruits, vegetables and grains more than ever before. But, remember, if you did this in your earlier years, you can potentially avoid the problem at all! J

Women, who have stopped menstruating, need to cut back on iron intake to 8mg per day, increase calcium to 1200 mg per day and Vitamin D to 400 mg per day.

YOUR 50’s

The effects of lifelong eating begin to appear in your 50’s, while at the same time our body continues to slow down. The result: weight gain and possibly disease. Also, women are at a greater risk of osteoporosis and heart disease during this decade due to loss of estrogen, which protects the heart and bones.osteoporosis2

For everyone, a reduction in caloric intake and an increase in activity level is advised to combat the extra pounds. For those who have developed chronic medical conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, a special diet may be advised such as a low sugar or low sodium. For post-menopausal women, 1200 mg calcium per day and 400-800 units of Vitamin D is needed to decrease the risk of osteoporosis.heart_veggies2

Additionally, an emphasis on lower saturated fat and cholesterol foods can continue to help in the prevention of heart disease.


man-progressive-aging2By now, your dietary habits have certainly caught up with you and if they were negative, it’s usually harder to change as you age.

In your 60’s, it is especially important to optimize your intake by choosing nutrient dense foods (fruit, vegetables, grains, dairy, protein) and less of the non-nutritive foods (sweets, chips, fried foods etc) as a way of maintaining a healthy weight. During this decade, your body tends to be less forgiving if you frequently eat these types non-nutritious, high calorie foods.

It is also important to continue taking the recommended 1200mg calcium and 400-800 units of vitamin D since your risk of hip fracture and bone breaks increases as you age.

Also, many older people frequently suffer from constipation as our digestive system slows down and also due to certain medications. To help reduce constipation, it is important to consume a diet filled with high fiber foods such as whole grain breads, cereals, rice, pasta, fruits, and vegetables, and beans. In conjunction with this, it is important to increase water intake.

Your 60’s is also a time when you may start to experience a decline in your immune system, which is why a healthy diet as well as a diet containing probiotics is especially important. Seventy percent of your immune system is located in your digestive system. Probiotics help to maintain a healthy balance of good bacteria in the intestinal tract, which can help promote a healthy immune system.

But, no matter which stage of life you are in, it’s never to late to eat healthy and take good care of yourself! J


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