Women: How to eat right for your AGE – from teenage years until after the menopause

It’s no surprise that our eating habits change as we get older as our palates become more sophisticated or as we’re introduced to new flavours over the years.

But are you eating the right food that provides the necessary vitamins and minerals for your body at each stage of your life?

Ella Allred, nutritionist at SuperfoodUK.com told FEMAIL what ingredients we should be consuming to ensure we’re getting the nutrients we need during every decade.

LATE TEENS

There is immense pressure to look good on young women as they segue from childhood into adult life.

And this combined with teenage self-consciousness, not to mention the comparisons to ‘perfect’ women on social media, can drive young women into food fads and extreme diets.

Growing numbers of teens are opting for very low carb diets or going vegan, which if not done properly will mean that some important nutrients will be missing from the diet.

This also comes at a time when we are still growing and maturing, and therefore need the extra nutrition of a balanced healthy diet.

Ella says that we are still laying down the foundations of bone health and our future vitality and wellbeing as teenagers.

The focus should be on calcium and magnesium rich foods for bones such as green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains.

If you're in your late teens then you should focus on calcium and magnesium that can be found in almond milk

Almond milk makes a fabulous drink and alternative to cow’s milk. Fresh figs are another great calcium rich food which and be eaten several times per week.

We also need healthy fats at this age for the productions of hormones. Our diets should include omega 3 fats such as oily fish, flax and chia seeds.

Fibre and zinc support the skin, especially if acne is present, so packing in seven portions of fruit and vegetables and switching to whole grains is important.

Eggs and chicken make zinc and are protein-rich foods which are needed for growth and development.

Healthy foods which are on trend at the moment and great for those in their late teens are; almond butter and almond milk, spiralised courgettes used as an alternative to pasta dishes, spinach smoothies and chia pudding.

Eggs and mixed nuts make handy nutrient rich snacks. Oatcakes and hummus are also good options.

EARLY TO MID 20s

Our early 20s are usually filled with adventures, late nights and parties. It can sometimes be hard to maintain a healthy and balanced diet whilst on various ventures.

In our early 20s it is likely we will experience a lot of late nights and parties, eating foods like mushrooms rich in vitamin B help your body cope with the adventurous lifestyle 

Eating foods rich in B vitamins will help your body cope with the excessive alcohol consumption and partying that can be more common for 20-somethings.

So foods such as mushrooms, eggs, green leafy vegetables, kale chips and fish are good options in this decade.

Women in their 20s also need to ensure that they are consuming adequate iron, as menstruation can deplete stores quickly if diets do not contain sufficient amounts.

Red lentils are a great source of iron, as are sunflower seeds, nuts, fish and beef.

MID TO LATE 20s

Generally in this life stage women are looking at stepping up on the career ladder, improving career prospects as well as maintaining our friendships and relationships.

Magnesium rich foods help the body to relax and deal with stress and a fast pace life.

In our late 20s women may be experiencing more stresses in life and magnesium found in dark chocolate help our body to relax 
In our late 20s women may be experiencing more stresses in life and magnesium found in dark chocolate help our body to relax

Eat foods such as beans, avocados, dark chocolate and whole grains for a magnesium boost.

Most of the population do not consume enough magnesium so focusing on this nutrient, particularly in a busy life style is important. Sugar and coffee should be kept to a minimum as these deplete our magnesium stores.

30s – 40s

Women may choose this time to have babies and therefore it is important to eat a diet that will nourish you and any future pregnancies.

Women who are planning to start a family in their 30s-40s need to concentrate on a diet rich in folic acid which can be found in foods such as asparagus 

A diet rich in folic acid is recommended. Spinach, kale, asparagus, beans and citrus fruits are all great sources.

Try making at least one portion of your daily fruit intake citrus, and have two servings of green leafy vegetables.

Green vegetable juice is a great way to pack in nutrients such as folic acid and when combined with fruit makes a tasty beverage!

40s – 50s

During this decade of our lives, a lot of women find that their energy levels are in decline, as well as their ability to concentrate.

Women in their 40s-50s sees our production of CoQ10 needed for energy and concentration take a decline so try fitting in two portions of sardines or mackeral a week 

Our production of the antioxidant CoQ10, which is needed for both energy and concentration, goes into decline from the 30s on and in your late 40s you may be noticing it.

Consider eating two portions of sardines or mackerel per week, which contains coQ10, as well as beef and peanuts. The B vitamins in these foods will also help further with energy producing and concentration.

THE MENOPAUSE

Many women fear this life stage, however if we eat correctly, symptoms can be kept to a minimum. Foods containing phytoestrogens act like oestrogen in the body, helping to dampen down any symptoms caused by the sudden drop in hormones.

During the menopause you should look to foods containing phytoestrogens which acts like oestrogen in the body, it can be found in chickpeas therefore hummus 

Try consuming chickpeas, sesame and flax. Hummus makes a delicious snack that is packed with phytoestrogens. Spreading it on flax crackers is a symptom busting combination.

Fermented soy is another beneficial food during the menopause because of its plant oestrogens and it also has the benefit of being rich in isoflavones. Tofu makes a great protein rich food which can be used to replace meat. Also try eating natto, a traditional Japanese food made from fermented soy beans, and tempeh, a nutty variation of tofu, for extra support.

BEYOND THE MENOPAUSE

When we cease to menstruate, our requirement for iron decreases. Limit foods such as liver and organ meats and focus on getting iron from vegetable sources instead.

Eating green and leafy vegetables, such as kale, can allow us to get our iron intake without eating meat 

Iron from vegetable sources, known as non-haem iron, allows our body much more control over how much is absorbed than meat sources do. We do still need iron, just not in the quantities that we did before.

Focus on green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds. After the menopause, our body composition can shift, and a tendency to gain fat around the middle may occur. To avoid this, we need to eat foods that do not give us blood sugar spikes and dips, which can make the problem worse. Focus on eating protein and complex carbohydrate with every meal and snack.

This will help to keep blood sugar levels stable, reduce our risk of diabetes and help to avoid excess calcium loss from bones.

Try making all of your grains whole grains, switch white potatoes to sweet potatoes and consume protein such as eggs, beans, nuts and seeds. Eliminate any refined sugar and include healthy fats such as oily fish, avocado and coconut oil.

Source: The DailyMail

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