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Eat according to your age for optimal health

Growing older requires dietary changes to boost your health and vitality.

Like it or not, your body will go through changes as you age. With each new phase, you will have to navigate the natural evolution to maintain optimum health.

When you are in your 20’s it may feel like you have unbridled energy fuelled by snacks and irregular eating patterns.

However, once the big ‘four-ooh-no’ hits it may feel like your energy levels are similar to that of a sloth.

As a person ages, diets will need to adapt and replenish nutrients needed to sustain the nutritional needs of the body.

“Many people do not realise that embracing transitions at every stage of life is pivotal for overall well-being,” said Mbali Mapholi, partner dietician for Tetley and Laager.

“We must adapt our diets according to the needs of our bodies.”

Here are some dietary tips for each decade of adult life:

20’s – lay the foundation for adult nutrition
This is when you lay the groundwork for lifelong health, which means it is crucial to address your specific nutritional needs.

• Make lean proteins such as eggs, chicken, fish, beans, dairy and nuts the cornerstone of every meal to support muscle development.

• Incorporate iron-rich foods like lean meats, legumes and fortified cereals thus ensuring optimal energy levels to prevent fatigue.

• Healthy plant fats sourced from avocados, nuts, nut butter and oils, contribute to cognitive well-being and brain health.

• The inclusion of various fruits and vegetables not only provides essential vitamins and minerals but also introduces powerful antioxidants to combat stress.

• Hydration remains paramount enhance your water drinking habits by infusing it with flavours like lemon or orange, berries, cucumber, and herbs. Experiment with homemade iced green teas incorporating fruit slices and herbs for a refreshing twist.

30’s – nurturing health and balance
“Navigating the fast-paced lifestyle of your 30s requires strategic nutritional choices to sustain energy levels,” said Mapholi.

“Life tends to be more demanding at this age, with the growing demands from work and family life. Ensure that you eat at least three times a day.”

• Prioritise essential nutrients sourced from whole grains such as sorghum, couscous, beans, chickpeas, brown or seeded bread and brown rice daily. These nutrient-dense foods provide a steady release of energy throughout the day.

• Include lean proteins to support muscle health and provide necessary amino acids.

• Dietary fibre is vital, lean on fibre-rich foods like vegetables and fruits to aid digestion and support heart health.

• Your calcium intake needs to increase with the inclusion of dairy or fortified plant-based alternatives will increase bone health.

• Hydration remains key rather opt for teas with minimal or no caffeine, such as Rooibos. You can also incorporate water-rich foods like watermelon, cucumber, and lettuce to increase fluid intake.

Photo: Olivia Jones Communications

40’s – embracing nutrient-rich choices
“At this age, your metabolism may slow down which means making nutrient-rich choices to support your body’s evolving needs,” explained Mapholi.

• Hello omega-3 fatty acids. For heart and joint health include lean, protein foods rich in these essential fats. Oily fish such as salmon, pilchards and sardines provide an abundance of this.

• Plant-based sources like walnuts and chia seeds will promote heart health and joint flexibility. Lean protein-rich foods are essential for muscle maintenance, ensuring strength and vitality.

• Integrate fibre-rich grains into your morning routine like sorghum, oats and high-fibre brown bread to support digestive health as well as maintain steady energy levels throughout the day.

• Colourful vegetables provide a diverse spectrum of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which are the foundation for immune function and cellular repair.

• Hydration is crucial for overall well-being, specifically joint health. Incorporate green Rooibos green tea, which has anti-inflammatory properties and contributes to optimal fluid intake.

50’s and beyond – promoting longevity
“As you enter the golden years, prioritising a holistic nutritional approach becomes imperative for promoting longevity,” said Mapholi.

“Small, frequent meals can aid digestion and nutrient absorption, providing a steady release of energy throughout the day.”

• Vitamin D is a key player in calcium absorption. Incorporate fortified plant milk or dairy to safeguard bone health thus, mitigating the risk of osteoporosis.

• Omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish like salmon as well as nuts like walnuts, are crucial for supporting brain health and cognitive function.

• Proteins play a pivotal role in muscle preservation, supporting overall strength. Increase your protein intake with eggs, fish lean meats, and plant-based proteins like beans, chickpeas, and lentils.

• Eat fibre-rich foods to maintain digestive health and regulate blood sugar levels thus, reducing the risk of chronic conditions.

• Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Addressing the increased prevalence of constipation with teas as well as water-rich foods which contribute to optimal fluid intake, ensuring your body functions optimally. Chamomile tea is also a great option for reducing anxiety and assisting with sleep.

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