Eating well is essential at every age, but your nutritional needs change throughout your lifetime. Find out which key nutrients are important and how they can help you make the right food choices in your 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond...
While this is a period of your life where you’re probably at your most footloose and fancy free, it’s also the time to start taking your health seriously. How well you take care of yourself in your 20s and 30s sets the stage for how you feel later in life. There are some key nutrients that women in their 20s should consider, including:
Between 45 and 75 percent of women are deficient in Vitamin D. So what gives? It could be a combination of too much time spent indoors and not taking a supplement. The recommended intake of vitamin D for women is 400 IU a day. Milk and other products are often fortified with Vitamin D, but a supplement may be needed to meet your requirements.
Folic acid is a type of B vitamin. For women in their childbearing years, folic acid is needed to reduce the chances of certain birth defects. Even if you don’t plan on becoming pregnant anytime soon, if you’re sexually active, it’s a possibility. Plus, folic acid also plays a role in heart health. 400 mcg of folic acid is the recommended amount for women in their 20s. Whole grains, beans and leafy green veggies are good sources of folic acid.
Calcium is important at any age, but you start losing bone mass after about age 35. Don’t wait until your 30s and 40s to protect your bone health. Shoot for 1000 milligrams a day of calcium from supplements and low-fat dairy sources.
During your 30s, you may be juggling a career and family responsibilities. Your to-do list may never seem to end. But now is not the time to slack on proper nutrition. Your busy lifestyle means you need all the right nutrients to fuel your days. Consider some of the following:
During this busy decade, it’s helpful to do what you can to stay healthy and energetic. Low levels of vitamin C are associated with an increased risk of certain cancers, strokes and high blood pressure. Getting enough vitamin C can help you fight infection, heals wounds and keeps skin healthy. 85 milligrams is the recommended dose for women over 18. Citrus fruits are great sources of vitamin C.
Women in their 30s lose iron each month during menstruation. If iron levels dip too low, you’re at risk of developing iron deficiency anemia. Anemia can leave you feeling cranky, tired and weak. Consider adding iron-rich foods to your diet including turkey, lentils and spinach.
Vitamin B6 and B12
Both vitamin B6 and B12 help protect your heart. Your 30s is a good time to start paying attention to cardiovascular health. Vitamin B6 and B12 may help your body get rid of homocysteine, which contributes to plaque formation in the arteries. 1.5 milligrams of B6 is recommended for women in the 30’s and 2.4 micrograms of B12. Eggs, poultry and fortified cereals are sources of the B vitamins.
40s and Beyond
Although it can vary, women in their 40s may start to see hormonal changes associated with perimenopause. They may also see a decline in their metabolism, which can lead to weight gain, especially around the midsection. To keep off those pesky pounds, consider eating about 100 fewer calories each day than you did in your 20s. There are also some other key nutrients to consider.
Phytonutrients contain antioxidants that may help prevent certain diseases. If that were not enough, some research suggests they may help slow the ageing process. Grapes, berries, carrots and kale are good sources.
Potassium is a nutrient you may have overlooked. According to the USDA, only about 50 percent of women get enough potassium. The mineral is important for healthy heart function and proper digestion. Bananas, sweet potatoes and citrus juices are good choices.
Omega 3’s deliver some big health benefits for women in their 40s. For example, omega 3’s are thought to lower triglyceride levels. They may also help lower blood pressure and may decrease symptoms of certain chronic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. In addition to supplements, sources of omega 3’s include tuna, salmon and flaxseed.