As we get older our priorities, goals and ambitions all change. Some things we’re glad to see the back of – questionable haircuts and shellsuits, we’re talking about you! Our diet, on the other hand, is something we should keep in the forefront of our minds and continuously adjust as our bodies mature. So, we’ve enlisted the help of nutritionist Lily Soutter to reveal the foods you should be eating to keep your body healthy, no matter how many years you’ve totalled on the clock.
In your 30s
During our 30s, we tend to be less active than we were in our 20s, meaning metabolism slows by one to two percent per decade. Your body produces more fat in comparison to muscle mass, therefore you may need to adjust your portion sizes. Put simply, if your eating patterns stay the same as they did in your 20s you’re more likely to gain weight.
This is also a common decade for pregnancy, therefore nutrition in relation to fertility is crucial. Consuming adequate folate (folic acid and vitamin B9) within your diet is essential for supporting healthy pregnancies – this can be found in chickpeas, asparagus, spinach, broccoli, avocados and fortified flour. However, it’s important to note that taking daily supplements with folic acid is recommended should you be expecting.
In your 40s
This is the age when symptoms of the perimenopause and menopause typically appear.
The fall in oestrogen levels can cause a variety of symptoms that last for on average around four years, including hot flushes, night sweats and mood swings. Research suggests that minimising common trigger foods such as caffeine and alcohol and foods that are sugary or spicy may help to reduce these indicators. Keeping a food diary can be a great way to see what worsens or triggers these complaints too. There is also some research to suggest that foods rich in phytoestrogens may have modest benefits for menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes and even heart disease risk.
Phytoestrogens are another word for naturally occurring plant compounds that can mimic the effects of oestrogen within the body, meaning that they may have hormone-balancing effects. Sources of these plant powerhouses include ground flaxseeds, soybeans, tofu, tempeh, beans and pulses.
It’s important to focus on nutrient-dense foods which are rich in antioxidants at this age. Antioxidants fend off harmful free radicals, which come from UV rays, smoke and pollution and are thought to contribute to the ageing process and many chronic diseases. Ensure that you are including regular rainbow coloured fruit and vegetables within your diet to keep up your intake of antioxidants.
In your 50s
After the Menopause, lower oestrogen levels may increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. Getting enough calcium and vitamin D within your diet is critical at this stage to support bone health and help to prevent osteoporosis. Vitamin D can be obtained from egg yolks and oily fish such as salmon. During the months of October to April taking daily vitamin D supplements should be considered too as UV light levels are lower during winter time. Calcium can be obtained from dairy products but also from plant-based sources such as dark green leafy veg, tofu, nuts, dried figs and chia seeds.
Your muscle mass also tends to decline at the age of 50, and your metabolism slows, so your portion sizes need to be adjusted accordingly. It’s important to do resistance training twice weekly such as weight lifting, and try to consume protein with each meal and snack to help reduce loss of muscle weight. Good quality protein sources include meat, fish, eggs, tofu, beans, pulses, nuts and seeds.
Checking your vitamin B12 levels is something to consider too. This is an essential nutrient required for the formation of healthy red blood cells, your nervous system, energy levels and cardiovascular health. As we age, the ability to absorb optimal amounts of vitamin B12 from the food we eat can decline, making it important to eat foods rich in this vitamin.
Lily Soutter is a nutritionist at lilysoutternutrition.com