Eat right for your age

Good health magazine
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Brought to you by Good Health magazine

It's no secret that eating well makes you feel great... and a healthy body equals increased body confidence. So discover the foods that will help you to feel fit, fabulous and sexy at at any age. By Bonnie Vaughan.

In Your 20s

You're at your physical peak. You've got energy to spare, and think little of burning the candle at both ends. Late nights, skipping meals and grabbing takeaways, snacks and sweets on the go — you can handle it! Or can you?

You need more:
Calcium You're building the foundation for your future bone health now, so calcium is a must. "Bones don't fully thicken until your late 20s or early 30s," says Dr Catherine Itsiopoulos, spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia. Nuture them by making low-fat yoghurt with fresh fruit your go-to snack.

Protein Because your body's cells are still growing, a daily intake of 60g to 70g of protein is vital. "Lean proteins are very important for a healthy metabolism and cellular renewal," says nutrition writer Judy Davie, aka The Food Coach. For protein in your diet, lean meat, poultry, eggs, fish, legumes and beans all fit the bill.

You need less:
Alcohol Binge-drinking, or drinking daily, introduces a range of long-term health issues — liver problems, high blood pressure, reduced fertility, heart attack, obesity and increased risk of cancer in later years. Itsiopoulos's advice is simple: "Have a couple of alcohol-free days every week."

In Your 30's

You're focused on career or children, or both. It's exhausting. It's also when you begin to age: By your early 30s your bone mass has peaked, your muscle mass begins its decline and your metabolism starts to drop.

You need more:
Low-GI carbohydrates Oats, wholegrains, quinoa, sweet potato, brown rice, beans and pulses all break down slowly and release blood sugar gently into the bloodstream, which helps sustain energy levels. "They'll help feed the brain as well," says Davie.

Folate If you're trying for a baby you need 400mg to 600mg a day to produce and maintain new cells and reduce the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Folate-rich foods include asparagus, broccoli, chickpeas, wholegrain breads and walnuts.

You need less:
Mindless snacking If you're eating on the run or skipping meals, it's likely because you're putting in so many hours at work and/or caring for your kids. It's easy then to reach for chips, cake or chocolate when hunger strikes. But now that your metabolism is slowing, the kilos will start to pile on. Davie recommends sticking to three meals or five small meals a day, and not just picking up food along the way

In Your 40's

Along with the standard two to five per cent metabolic rate drop, your hormone levels are fluctuating, leading to irregular periods and, in some women, perimenopause. High cholesterol, heart disease, joint inflammation and unhealthy weight gain, especially around your middle, are now vital considerations.

You need more:
Omega-3s Numerous scientific studies have shown that long-chain omega-3 fatty acids can reduce triglycerides and inflammation, boost heart health and immunity, balance hormone levels and enhance mood. The best sources are oily fish — salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, trout — and a good quality fish oil supplement providing a daily maintenance dose of at least 1200mg of EPA and DHA combined. "If you aren't already taking a supplement, now's a good time to start," says Davie.

You need less:
Saturated fat "High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease, and saturated fats can increase that," says Itsiopoulos. Avoid foods that have the words ‘hydrogenated oil' on the label. Replace animal fats with olive oil and healthy spreads like reduced-fat canola. Healthy diet shifts like putting avocado on your wholegrain toast instead of butter — it's rich in monounsaturates, antioxidants and omega-3s and 9s — will also help prevent extra abdominal weight gain, which is very hard to shed.

For the full story, see the May issue of Good Health. Subscribe to 12 issues of Good Health for $49.95 and go into the draw to WIN a trip of a lifetime to Tahiti and Los Angeles, valued at $26,000!

Image: Good HealthJulia Morris "Laughter is great for your health" Image: iStockDating again…at any age Image: iStockWell-oiled in the art of cooking Image: iStockWhat the money gurus wish you knew