Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Age concerns

Don't you hate it when you just miss the bus ... I just missed it now on the way home from work, but at least I can use the time to write a nice long blog!

Flying fairly blind in terms of who reads this, I'm working off the assumption that most of you are a similar age to myself so have similar health concerns.

However our nutritional needs vary quite a lot over our lives and so, not wanting to overlook any of my readers, I want to cover some of those differences.

As a child you have relatively high calorie needs compared to your size, so as well as needing lots of nutrient rich fruit and veg, toddlers and young children need a fair amount of fats and natural sugars as well as plenty of calcium for bone development.

In our teen years hormonal changes kick in that can be quite unbalancing and unsettling - at this time sugars and saturated fats should be minimized, but energy requirements are still high so lots of essential fats, wholegrains and protein are still needed. Lean meat can be particularly important in terms of protein, but also for key minerals that are depleted during puberty such as zinc and iron.

In our twenties we tend to do our least healthy living - burning the candle at both ends, drinking to excess and eating out or on the run. Even if you're burning off all the food you eat don't mistake staying slim with being healthy. However manic things get you need to make sure you drink enough water and eat your fruit and vegetables. Also avoid extreme dieting - your body might respond well in the short term, but you're setting yourself up for weight gain in your thirties.

In our thirties life starts to slow down and the pounds may start to pile on. Stay physically active with regular exercise but remember you need more sleep and downtime than you used to - training for an ironman whilst still only sleeping 6-7hours isn't going to work.

If you're becoming less active you'll need to shift the balance of your meal towards protein and eat less carbs (but don't go totally low-carb). To keep the weight off and reduce the risk of developing heart disease or cancer eat less meat proteins and have more fish and vegetarian proteins and avoid refined sugar as much as possible. Also remember your body might not be ok with the diet of your twenties - in particular you may have developed some food intolerances, so re-evaluate how your body responds to your diet and adjust accordingly.

In our forties and fifties protein becomes much more important as muscles will naturally start to waste. A combination of eating protein at every meal and actively training can slow this down, but without weight training your muscles won't have the stimulus they need to maintain their mass, so going for a swim or doing some yoga isn't enough. This is also important to maintain bone density, avoiding the risk of a disabling break later in life.

Digestion also slows down with age, so super chew your food and consider enzyme and stomach acid supplements to help the process. Soya, pulses, flax and other phytoestrogens also become important at this time for women in dealing with their reduced oestrogen levels.

From your sixties onwards your body and diet start to regress - appetite may fall and your ability to digest and make use of nutrients will definitely become impaired. Time to start eating like a teen again! Go for calorie dense but nutrient rich foods such as nuts and seeds and oily fish and supplement with whole oat muesli bars and other healthy treats. Eating rich, creamy and fatty foods may start to disagree with you as digestion becomes impaired so reduce your dairy intake.

If you're struggling to maintain muscle mass you may want to eat a bit more meat and probably need a stomach acid supplement to digest it and if you're not already taking supplements you definitely need to be now as your body won't be able to extract all the goodness from your fruit and veg.

If you make it too 100 (something I'm aiming for) then you're obviously doing something right and you shouldn't change a thing!

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