Diets That Work

Spavelous Weekly Spa Magazine

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Key Nutrients for the Decades


As the oldest of the 78 million baby boomers turn 60 this year, it's apparent that Americans aren't getting any younger. However, we are getting smarter; especially about the foods and types of exercise we need during different stages of life to ensure we continue to be happy, healthy, active adults.

"While people should eat nutritious foods throughout their lives to maintain and protect health, nutritional needs change as we get older. Therefore, adjusting diet based on age is important," explains Elizabeth Somer, registered dietitian and author of several nutrition books, including Food & Mood, Age-Proof Your Body and the most recent, 10 Habits That Mess Up a Woman's Diet.

Experts suggest that people of all ages should eat colorful fruits and vegetables such as blueberries and spinach, whole grains such as oats, lean protein such as chicken breast and fish, and certain healthy fats found in foods such as olive oil. These foods provide the vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients that help promote health and protect against serious diseases, including cancer and heart disease.


Nutrition for Your 20s

You're working your first real job, making new friends, dating, getting married, maybe even starting a family. Your life is a whirlwind, which means healthy eating is the first thing to go.  If you haven't developed good eating and exercising habits by your 20s, now is the time to start. Aging begins much earlier than people realize, so the sooner people make diet and exercise changes to promote health, the more likely they will avoid premature aging and age-related diseases.  To conquer your biggest diet dilemmas:

Make fast food healthy. Researchers at Brown University Medical School found that 20-somethings eat 25 percent more fast-food meals than they did in their teens. Grabbing dinner on the go means you may be missing out on crucial nutrients.  Choose healthy convenience foods like:  rotisserie chicken, shrimp cocktail, steamed dumplings, salads -- and enjoy them with speedy additions from your kitchen -- whole wheat pasta, instant brown rice, frozen veggies.

Key Nutrients Required

Protein: Thanks to chronic dieting, skipped meals, and girl foods like frozen yogurt and low-fat muffins, it's likely you're falling short in this department. Protein helps keep you full and provides the building blocks so you can make and keep calorie-burning muscle. "Recent studies suggest that, at a minimum, we need 60 to 70 grams of protein a day," says Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, director of sports medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Get your quota by eating skinless white-meat poultry, lean steak, fish, eggs, beans, tofu, and low-fat dairy.

Potassium: Your muscles and heart need it to function properly. But most women in their 20s get less than half the recommended amount, according to the USDA. Munching two cups of fruit (an apple, a banana, and a plain yogurt with fresh strawberries) and two and a half cups of veggies daily (a garden salad and a side of broccoli) provides all the potassium you need.

Omega-3 fats: They may boost the level of serotonin, a feel-good chemical in your brain -- good news, since women are particularly susceptible to depression in their 20s. Salmon and tuna are the best source, but you can also get your fill from walnuts, ground flaxseed, and canola oil.


Nutrition in Your 30s

People reach peak bone mass around age 30, meaning bones have reached maximum density. Therefore, after age 30, people need to focus on slowing inevitable bone loss by choosing foods packed with bone-building nutrients such as calcium and vitamins D and K.

Women in this age group also should consume foods rich in iron, a nutrient that aids in carrying oxygen to tissue and preventing fatigue.   You're juggling the demands of kids and career -- and most likely eating on the run. To conquer your biggest diet dilemmas:

Healthful changes include replacing salty snacks with crunchy, colorful fruits and vegetables such as apples and carrots, and switching from refined, white bread to 100 percent whole wheat bread. People also should fill their plates with dark, leafy green vegetables such as spinach, which is a rich source of iron and folate, as well as calcium and vitamin K. Also, use olive oil for dressings on salads or drizzled over roasted vegetables to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.  Put your health first. "In your 30s you start to see signs of an unhealthy lifestyle, such as diabetes or hypertension," says James O. Hill, PhD, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado. Dropping 10 percent of your weight can slash your risk of these diseases.

Key Nutrients Required

Folate: It's critical for supporting a healthy pregnancy, preventing neural-tube defects and helping your body make new cells. Folate may also help reduce the risk of heart disease. Eat foods such as chickpeas, asparagus, spinach, broccoli, avocados, orange juice, and fortified whole grains to help meet your daily 400-microgram requirement.

Phytonutrients: "These compounds contain antioxidants, which slow the aging process, ward off heart disease, and prevent changes in DNA, potentially preventing the development of cancer," says Bonci. While phytonutrients come from plants, dark chocolate, red wine, and coffee are highest in them.

Iron: Not enough leaves you physically drained and messes with your mental muscle. Researchers at Penn State University found that young women who were deficient in the mineral took longer and performed worse on cognitive tasks than those who had normal levels of iron. Get your daily dose of 18 milligrams from foods such as clams, lean beef, fortified breakfast cereal, soybeans, pumpkin seeds, and skinless poultry.


Nutrition in Your 40s and 50s

Weight management is an important health issue for people in their 40s and 50s. People who are not vigorously active at this age begin trading muscle for fat. Additionally, metabolism begins to slow during these years. This combination results in weight gain that can elevate the risk of developing certain diseases. Choosing foods rich in nutrients that also are lower in calories becomes increasingly important.

Women after age 55 and men after age 45 are at greatest risk for developing atherosclerosis - a clogging, narrowing and hardening of the large arteries and medium-sized blood vessels, which can lead to stroke and heart attack. People need to begin an aerobic exercise program such as walking, biking or swimming to keep their hearts functioning well.

For women, consuming foods rich in calcium and vitamin D helps slow the rapid loss of bone during the early post-menopausal years.  To eat for this age, people should consume at least three servings of calcium-rich foods each day, including nonfat milk; calcium-fortified orange juice; or plain, low-fat yogurt. Also, people should continue to eat colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, as well as foods containing heart-healthy fats, including olive oil, which can help lower cholesterol levels."This is when women start to find some time for themselves again," says Hill. "They're really anxious to improve their health and fitness." To conquer your biggest diet dilemmas:

Beat your belly bulge. If your belly seems a little rounder, blame it on estrogen withdrawal. "In her childbearing years, a woman puts on weight in her butt, hips, and thighs to fuel breastfeeding," says Pamela Peeke, MD, author of Fit to Live. "The fat cells in those areas have estrogen receptors. As you go through estrogen withdrawal, those receptors aren't being activated anymore." That signals your body to sock away the fat in your tummy. Dr. Peeke's solution: cardio five days a week and resistance training on the other two.

Cut just 100 calories a day. "For every decade after 40, there's roughly a 1 percent decrease in calorie requirements," says Bonci. "That's the equivalent of one extra cookie." Eating every three to four hours to keep your metabolism revved can also help keep off the weight.


Key Nutrients Required

Calcium: As you approach menopause, bone-building estrogen starts to decline and calcium becomes more important. Ironically, you absorb less calcium from the food you eat because your stomach doesn't make as much of the acid necessary for absorption. Aim for 1,000 milligrams a day from low-fat dairy, supplements, or a combination.

Vitamin D: This nutrient helps your body absorb calcium, keeps your immune system strong, protects against breast and colon cancers, and even prevents hearing loss. But by the time you reach your 40s, levels of D quickly start to plummet. "There's no way to get enough vitamin D from your diet because very few foods contain it," says Bonci. Your best bet: a daily supplement of 600 to 1,000 international units.

Fiber: It reduces bloat and makes you feel fuller longer. Plus, "fiber helps decrease cholesterol and your risk for colon cancer," says Dr. Peeke. Aim for a mix of soluble (from fruits, vegetables, barley, and oats), and insoluble (from whole wheat bread and bran).


Over 60: Enjoying Quality Life

Eating well throughout adulthood pays off when people reach their 60s. Consuming healthy foods helps prevent the most common diseases that afflict this age group, including diabetes, cancer, stroke, hypertension and heart disease.

People in their 60s should continue with the healthy eating habits established earlier in life by enjoying a diet rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber found in fruits and vegetables as well as healthy fats, such as the monounsaturated fat MUFAs found in olive oil. They also should add strength-building exercise to their aerobic routine to protect against muscle loss associated with loss of balance, frailty and feebleness.

"Eating well and exercising is the first line of defense against aging," explains Somer. "Nutrient-rich foods and the right amount of exercise deliver important health benefits during each stage of life and are essential to staying happy, healthy and active, regardless of age.

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Disclaimer: Information on this web site was gathered from many sources in public domain such as published books, articles, studies and web sites. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Please discuss your health conditions and treatments with your personal physician.


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