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Eating for the Time of your Life - Nutrition Throughout Adulthood

DK PublishingDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks
Photo: Healthy choices - Try to make healthy eating a priority, especially when dining out. Order an appetizer or a salad and share an entrée to prevent overeating. © Provided by DKBooks Healthy choices - Try to make healthy eating a priority, especially when dining out. Order an appetizer or a salad and share an entrée to prevent overeating.

Healthy choices - Try to make healthy eating a priority, especially when dining out. Order an appetizer or a salad and share an entrée to prevent overeating.

Nutrition Throughout Adulthood

Your food choices throughout adulthood can help ensure good health into old age.

Do you take your health for granted? If you are like most people between 20–50 years old, you have never had to worry about your health. However, you may have noticed that you cannot just eat whatever you want and stay thin like you did when you were younger. Maybe you have put on extra weight and have not been able to exercise as much as you used to due to your busy schedule at work or home. Those of us between the ages of 20 and 50 usually feel that we are healthy. We are too busy to go to the doctor and we really do not think we need to change our diets, and why should we?

What you eat and how much you exercise can significantly impact your current and future health. If you eat lots of fat and sugar and do not exercise, chances are you will feel sluggish at work and will not be motivated to exercise. But this stage of life is the most critical time to determine your future health and probably the easiest time for you to begin adopting healthy dietary habits, an active lifestyle, and to quit smoking if you smoke. By making the effort to eat a well-balanced diet and exercise on a regular basis, you will feel better today and have more energy. You will also probably live longer and the years you have will be healthier.

Eating for two

Making healthy food choices and gaining enough weight during pregnancy have been shown to improve the health of your baby. We show you which needs are increased during pregnancy and while you are breast-feeding, as well as how to meet these needs with food and vitamin and mineral supplements. Since breast-feeding is best for your baby, we describe the benefits for you and your baby and show you how to breast-feed with success.

Nutrition for athletes

The nutritional needs of athletes vary depending on the amount and type of physical activity you are involved in. We describe the specific requirements for both endurance and nonendurance athletes, focusing on supplements and sports drinks, and provide suggestions for meals and snacks for active people .

Menopause and older adults

The population of older adults is rapidly expanding worldwide, and in the second half of this chapter, we address the nutritional needs for optimum health of men and women as they age—through menopause, over 50 years, and older than 70 years . Lifestyle changes, such as taking part in regular physical activity, can ease the symptoms and effects of aging and help you feel better as you advance in age.

Do men have specific dietary needs?

Due to a larger muscle mass, men have a higher metabolic rate than women. This means they need more calories and also more of certain vitamins and minerals, specifically those involved in releasing energy from food.

Men’s larger bodies contain more water, bone, muscle, organ tissue, and fat than women’s, and their increased muscle mass requires more protein for its maintenance. Therefore, men tend to eat more food than women.

Each day, men burn up about 600 calories more than nonpregnant women do. Men’s needs for carbohydrate are the same, but they need more fiber—38g per day compared to 25g per day for women. There is no recommended amount of dietary fat, but men require 60 percent more essential fatty acids than women . While men’s daily recommended intake of protein is the same as women’s at 0.8g per 2.2lb (1kg) of body mass, their intake needs to be 10g per day higher on average due to their greater muscle mass. Dietary and health recommendations for men include:

Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Rich in nutrients, the health benefits of these foods cannot be overstated.

Avoid saturated fats. Keep meat intake to a minimum. Use low-fat or fat-free dairy products. Limit ice cream and other fatty foods, such as french fries.

Drink alcohol in moderation. Limiting it to 1–2 drinks per day will give you the health benefits without the risks.

Manage stress. Stress is unavoidable and not necessarily bad for you—it is how you react to stress that determines its effects on your health. Techniques such as yoga or meditation can help.

Do not smoke cigarettes and cigars, and try to avoid passive smoking.

Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight, especially around the abdomen, is a risk for heart disease and diabetes.

Make exercise a priority. Get plenty of physical activity to stay healthy.

Have annual medical checkups.

Nutrients for men

The nutrients here are thought to have an impact on fertility, prostate health, and the prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease.


These nutrients occur in tomatoes, watermelon, and pink grapefruit and may lower the risk of prostate and lung cancer.

Vitamins B6, B12, and folate

These B vitamins lower blood levels of homocysteine, thus lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Selenium and vitamins C and E

These antioxidants are necessary for normal fertility in men, and adequate intake or supplements may help to improve fertility.

Zinc and folate

A combination of zinc and folate supplements may improve fertility in men.

When do women’s dietary needs change?

Because women are generally smaller than men and have less muscle mass they require fewer calories. However, you will need more calories during pregnancy (when you are eating for two), and if you decide to breast-feed, you will need extra calories and nutrients to produce enough breast milk. Athletic women also need more calories than those with a more sedentary lifestyle.

Iron for blood loss

Throughout the reproductive years, women need more iron in their diet to replace the iron in the blood lost as a result of menstrual periods. Otherwise, you may be at risk of iron-deficiency anemia, so it is important to eat plenty of iron-rich foods.

Folate for pregnancy

During pregnancy, women need extra calories and nutrients and more of most of the vitamins and minerals. The B vitamin folate is very important. An increased intake of folate before conception and in early pregnancy prevents neural tube defects in babies. Extra iron is also necessary in pregnancy, to produce new red blood cells for the mother’s increased blood volume and also for her baby.

New mothers need extra calories and nutrients. A woman’s body needs to recover after delivery. Increased amounts of iron and various vitamins and other minerals are vital for returning to normal health.

Calcium for bone health

Breast-feeding is recommended as the best way to feed your baby for the first six months of life. Mothers need a balanced, nutritious diet not just for themselves but to produce the nutrient-rich milk for their baby. Since calcium is lost from the bones to make breast milk, mothers will need extra calcium. By restoring lost calcium, you will protect yourself from the degenerative bone disorder osteoporosis during and after menopause and into old age.

Which foods are good for women?

Folate, calcium, and iron are key nutrients for women. Try to eat foods rich in these nutrients.


Good sources of folate include green vegetables, such as cabbage and spinach, and legumes, such as chickpeas and kidney beans.


This mineral is naturally abundant in milk and other dairy products, sardines, and spinach.


Foods that are naturally rich in iron include spinach; dried fruit, especially prunes; and legumes, such as soybeans and kidney beans.

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