As women move through different stages of their lives, their nutritional requirements continue to change. A diet consisting of healthy food is obviously important, but differing amounts of certain vitamins and nutrients are needed during different phases of growth and development. What is considered a healthy diet when you were a young girl is not the same as when you are in your child-bearing years and definitely not the same as when you’re a post-menopausal woman.
Healthy Food for All Age Groups
When you’re in your late teens and early 20’s
These are the years where you will build up your bone density which is why calcium intake is so important during these years. Calcium not only helps with healthy bones, it also helps to keep your muscles, nerves and heart strong and healthy. 1,000mg of calcium every day is recommended. Sources of calcium include dairy products, fortified cereals and juices as well as dark, leafy green vegetables, beans, and almonds. The good news about calcium rich dairy products is that they are considered functional foods. This means that in addition to their nutritional value, they also provide protection against chronic diseases. Adding functional foods to a diet consisting of a variety of healthy food, including calcium rich foods will help to ensure that you remain healthy during early adulthood. As an added bonus, the protein that is found in dairy products also helps to maintain healthy blood pressure.
During menstruation years, consuming enough iron is important as well to prevent iron deficiency anemia. Protein, including lean meats, fish and poultry are examples of healthy food that contain iron. Plant sources of protein that have iron include beans, spinach and dark leafy green vegetables.
The Importance of Fruits, Vegetables and Protein
In your late 20’s and early 30’s…
An increasing number of women are having children later in their lives, which means that folic acid is an important nutrient during this stage. The reason folic acid is important is because it helps to prevent neural tube defects in fetuses. Currently, the recommendation if you plan on getting pregnant is 400 mcg of folic acid daily. This can come from healthy food that is fortified with folate or from a supplement. Sources of folate include lentils, beans, asparagus, green leafy vegetables, pasta and bread with enriched wheat flour, avocado, eggs, and seaweed among many others. Additionally, many of these foods are also good sources of protein which helps to prevent iron deficiency anemia, related to menstruation, during these years as well.
During this decade, it is also important that you start incorporating functional foods into your diet to prevent chronic diseases. Try adding healthy food that contains omega-3 fatty acids as well as monounsaturated fats to your diet which will help to protect against heart disease.
In your 40’s
Consuming healthy food including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables is important during this phase of life. Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Consuming functional foods that contain fiber is important during these years as fiber will help to protect against heart disease as well as some forms of cancer.
In your 50’s
This is the stage where women enter menopause which involves drastic hormonal changes. Weight gain usually occurs because of these hormonal changes. Therefore, cutting back calories during this phase is important. Getting enough Vitamin D during this phase is also vital. Sources of Vitamin D include fortified juices and cereals as well as salmon and tuna. A Vitamin D supplement may be needed during this phase of life.
From Your 60’s onward
During this phase many women do not get enough protein. Consuming enough protein is vital to maintaining healthy muscles. Additionally, consuming enough protein may also be connected to good bone health. It is recommended that women eat 5-6 sources of protein per day. Good protein sources include: lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, beans and low fat dairy.
Vitamin B12 is also essential during this phase of life as it helps to maintain a healthy nervous system. The animal protein sources mentioned above contain Vitamin B12, but a supplement may also be required.
As women age, their nutritional requirements change and it’s important to make sure you are consuming the right healthy foods to help maintain optimal health at every stage of life. Consuming healthy food, including various functional foods will help to protect you against disease and will help you to live a long, healthy life.