These may be the years of rotation of the plates. Our careers and relationships fall into place and with that comes the stress of mortgages and family commitments.
We’re not as young as we used to be and it’s harder to bounce back as fast as we once did. If your mountain of food so far has been a lighter shade of beige, then health worries and sightings of sick relatives could lead you to reach the food rainbow.
Although it can be tempting to go on a restrictive diet of salads and excessive exercise, Tew warns that you still need a lot of energy at this age, ‘so carbs should be a third of your plate’ .
These are usually also the parenting years, where folate, choline, iodine, vitamin D, protein and fiber become crucial for mothers. Nine out of 10 women have low levels of folic acid in their blood – essential to protect the fetus from neural tube defects.
“Most people know that folic acid should be taken during pregnancy to reduce the risk of neural tube defects,” Wilson says. “However, it is rarely stated that because people’s intake is so low, supplements should be taken for about three months before conception to increase levels.”
The British Dietetic Association recommends a daily supplement containing 400 mcg during the preconception period. You can get folate from foods such as dark green leafy vegetables, beans, peanuts, sunflower seeds, and whole grains.
She is also concerned about the level of iodine deficiency among women of childbearing age in the UK. Iodine is needed to make thyroid hormone, which controls the density of neurons in the brain.
The World Health Organization describes iodine deficiency as “the most important preventable cause of brain damage” in the world. “Unfortunately, iodine deficiency is the norm, affecting 67% of pregnant women in the UK,” says Wilson. You can find iodine in seaweed, fish, shellfish, dairy products and eggs.
Once pregnant, vitamin D and high-quality protein are needed for tissue growth, as well as fiber for gut health, as many pregnant women will suffer from constipation.
For men, cutting back on beer binges in their 20s is key for fertility, Hobson says. “If fertility is a goal, you should avoid drinking and smoking, as it affects your sperm health. Heavy alcohol consumption can wipe them out for several months, as it reduces the hormones needed to make them.
It takes more than 30 days for a sperm cell to reach maturity, so every time a man drinks over a 30-day period, he exposes the developing sperm that many times to alcohol.
Zinc is important for men, and especially for those trying to conceive, as it is used for the production of male sex hormones. “Try to eat foods such as eggs, nuts, seafood, seeds, and whole grains. Vitamin C is also important for fertility, as it has been shown to help prevent sperm from clumping together, which is a cause of infertility. You should get all the vitamin C you need from your diet by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.
If the stress is really rampant, try taking magnesium, as the body quickly becomes depleted during prolonged stress. Low magnesium can also exacerbate anxiety, creating a vicious cycle.
Those with only one eye on the future will now be stocking up on nutrients for a healthy future life by eating a diet rich in antioxidant polyphenols (which may offer protection against the development of cancers, cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis and diabetes), potassium (associated with lower risk of high blood pressure, kidney stones and osteoporosis), omega-3s (for heart and vascular health) and vitamin B5 (which has anti-aging properties, as it soothes, softens and hydrates the skin and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles). Who doesn’t want to look good in old age?
Average age (including perimenopause)
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