You are what you eat: Nutritional advice for all ages

a heart shaped bowl with fruits and foods

A complete guide to staying lean and healthy at any age. Plus, try a virtual body makeover to see how you'd look if you gained or lost weight!
It's no secret that following a diet that includes sweet and fried foods will make you belly and flab. But what should you eat to stay trim and strong? The foods that work for women in their 20s don't necessarily have the same results for women in their 40s, 50s and beyond. Below you will read how to stay healthy in each decade.

At 20

'Your body is in the process of growing,' says Ashley Koff, a dietitian in Los Angeles. 'A balanced diet will improve your weight and health.'
Forget your student habits. Still eating your first meal after 3pm? That's not a good idea if you're trying to lose weight. 'Eating every three or four hours will maintain optimal metabolic performance,' advises Stephen Gullo, president of the New York City Center for Health and Weight Control Sciences. And forget about convenience foods. 'By cooking at home, you'll reduce added salts, sugars and preservatives,' says Koff.

Eat right for energy. Cookies are a convenient solution when you're in a hurry, but white, processed carbohydrates are metabolized quickly, causing a sharp rise and fall in blood glucose levels, explains Joy Bauer, a New York-based nutritionist and author of 'Healthy and Delicious'. She suggests eating wholegrain products in combination with protein for breakfast, as protein slows down the rate of carbohydrate absorption. And to keep your energy levels up throughout the day, opt for green vegetables such as broccoli and spinach or consume green juices. 'They have incredible rejuvenating ingredients,' observes Koff.

Reduce caffeine. You may have gone through entire exam periods with just Red Bull, but caffeine causes the body to secrete calcium, which is essential for your bone density, says Koff. So she suggests cutting down on your overall caffeine consumption and replacing it with tea.

Watch your alcohol consumption. Avoid sugary mixes and prefer to drink wine, light beer or heavy alcohol combined with soda in moderation. Koff warns 'Make sure you hydrate your body, not only with water but also with water-based fruits and vegetables, coconut juice which is rich in potassium and avocados.'

At 30

You will start to notice the effects of ageing on your body. 'As your metabolism slows down, you may begin to have difficulty losing or maintaining your weight,' says Mehmet Oz, vice president and professor of surgery at Columbia University in New York.

Avoid mommy syndrome. 'Avoid eating your children's leftovers or skipping meals because your needs now take a back seat,' Gullo observes. 'Make sure to always have a snack of whole grain bread and light cheese triangles or a granola bar on hand.'

Boost your energy. Are you tired of trying to balance the needs of your children and the demands of your career and social life? Foods that contain high-quality carbohydrates and protein provide a lingering energy effect, Bauer explains. Try to include green beans, black beans, red beans and peas in your snacks and meals.
Restore nutrients. During pregnancy, the nutrients your body has stored are depleted. It is important to replenish them with products that are rich in nutrients and healthy fats such as almonds, flaxseed oil, olives and margarine.

Boost your metabolism. If you're struggling to lose the extra pounds, Oz has a few tricks to help you lose weight: 'Eating a tablespoon of chopped red or green hot peppers will boost your metabolism by 23%. Green tea is known to boost your metabolism for a few hours. When you digest fish, an important source of protein, you burn twice as many calories as when you digest fat or carbohydrates.'

At 40

'As you enter the perimenopausal period to eventually reach menopause, estrogen levels begin to decline and make you more prone to fluid retention,' says Gullo. He adds, 'Your metabolic efficiency will continue to decline.

Limit carbohydrates to beat bloating. 'Each gram of carbohydrate binds 3 to 5 grams of water, and causes extra bloating,' Gullo observes. 'To minimize fluid retention, focus your diet primarily on vegetables that are low in starch and high in fiber.'Try cabbage, asparagus, asparagus, endive, broccoli and cauliflower.
Don't go on deprivation diets. 'Anything that has short-term effects won't help you,' says Koff. 'Your body loses its elasticity and won't recover as well if you keep losing and gaining weight.'

Cleanse yourself of estrogen. As you go through hormonal changes, it's important to properly metabolize hormones like estrogen to prevent certain types of cancer. Koff suggests adding flaxseeds and apples to your diet, as well as balancing your intake of plant and animal proteins such as tofu, beans, lentils and wild fish.

At 50

At this age the risk of disease increases. Experts agree that a careful diet can help you stay healthy.

Help your heart. 'The risk of cardiovascular disease increases by about 40 per cent,' warns Oz. And Koff adds, 'After menopause, women have more weight in their abdominal area, which affects the heart. 'Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B play a key role in heart health.' Try wild fish, soy, whole grain products and broccoli.

Fight breast cancer. 'About 75 per cent of cases occur in women aged 50 and over,' says Oz. 'Limit alcohol to less than one drink a day and fat intake to less than 35% of the calories you consume per day, and limit foods high in saturated fat. There is a clear link between obesity and breast cancer.'

Add antioxidants. Your body is gradually slowing down, so keep it strong with cancer-fighting antioxidants like those found in berries and beans.

At 60+

'This is the time to reap the benefits of the good life you've led,' says Oz. 'But it's never too late to get started. 'Within 3 months of making a lifestyle change, your survival curve will climb to new levels.'

Eat meals more often. 'Splitting your 3 meals a day into 5 or 6 portions can reduce the stress that food causes your body and protect your metabolism from overworking,' Oz explains.

Fill up on fruits and vegetables. Look for ones that are high in vitamin C and E, which can reduce your risk of Alzheimer's, Oz says. Try citrus fruits, broccoli, tomatoes, chard and cranberries.

Boost your immune system. 'Ageing can cause you to become immunosuppressed,' explains Koff. 'Shiitake mushrooms, wild salmon and vitamin D supplements help support your immune system.

Relieve aches and pains. 'Foods that reduce inflammation will help relieve pain,' says Bauer. 'Try pure pumpkin (not the pie mix), red peppers, turmeric and ginger.
If you eat less, will you live longer? 'We certainly have some interesting research to support this theory, but quality of life also plays an important role,' says Bauer. And Gullo adds, 'If you eat 'smart', you can eat more and still consume fewer calories. For example, most fish has fewer calories and fat per pound than beef.' He also explains that some studies suggest that resveratrol supplements can mimic the effects of a calorie-restricted diet by boosting longevity.

by Eleana Papacharalambous 

A specialist Health and Wellness consultant with a long history of developing specialist preventative and regenerative medicine centers

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