As we get older, the nutrients our bodies need change.
Here's what you should be adding to your shopping list for a healthy boost at different stages of your life.
In your 30s:
Think about prevention
What you do at this age will affect your future health, but risks from lifestyle-related health conditions including some forms of dementia, heart disease and type-2 diabetes can be reduced by cementing good dietary habits now.
Cement healthy habits
Breakfast is the essential building block of a healthy diet; make sure it is nutrient-rich and made with good quality, fresh food. For a wholesome breakfast try an egg on toast with mashed avocado blended with olive oil, pepper and garlic on toast. Alternatively, live yoghurt with nuts and dried fruit (e.g. 2-3 apricots) provides a healthy blend of nutrients.
Find healthy energy sources
Wherever possible, use fresh ingredients as they are unprocessed and unseasoned, which means they are likely to have better nutrient profiles. Also try and make your meals from scratch. Strike a balance through the week with two portions of red meat, plus a variety of fish - including oily fish - at least once. Use protein bases such as beans and nuts, as well as a variety of carbohydrates, including quinoa and sweet potato, for sustained and nutritious energy sources.
In your 40s:
Prioritise rest and recovery
Now your body's ageing mechanisms are becoming more active, you may notice your energy levels declining. Sleep is essential; protect a healthy sleeping pattern by reducing dependency on tea and coffee. This will calm your adrenal glands and allow a more stable sleep cycle. If you drink alcohol then be sure to have a few days where you don't drink. Aside from other health implications, alcohol can inhibit sleep.
Minimise left-over bad habits
It's time to recheck the food habits you are in once again. Age-related factors mean many functions begin to naturally decline, even without any additional health conditions. Maintaining good health requires a little more effort for many of us. I find keeping a close eye on your blood sugar balance useful as excess sugar, if stored as fat, can affect weight. Much evidence also suggests this affects some hormone levels in women, too.
In your 50s:
Look after your bones
Make sure you eat plenty of dairy (as long as your system can digest it well) and leafy vegetables to get calcium and vitamin D into your system. Get out in the sun for 15 minutes a day in the summer months to boost your vitamin D levels – important at any age but especially now. Men in their 50s (from their 30s, in fact) also experience a degree of bone loss and so calcium and vitamin D is essential for them too.
Think about heart health
Heart problems can occur with increasing age and a balance of essential fatty acids (walnuts, salmon, sardines, soybeans, tofu, sprouts, cauliflower, flaxseed, etc) has been well documented to support cardiovascular health. Saturated fats can be lowered by eating alternatives to meat and processed fatty foods such as cakes, biscuits and fried foods.
Eating sufficient fibre through foods such as peas and baked beans can support in achieving a healthy gut and, in addition to a reduced fat intake, can support in reducing heart disease risk.
In your 60s:
Give your diet a review
This is a good juncture to review and reset your dietary patterns, ensuring you are getting three square meals and a good breakfast to bolster your energy levels throughout the day, and keeping an active lifestyle. Low energy and susceptibility to illness may be tell-tale signs of a poor diet.
Oats can support healthy digestion as a probiotic. At this stage, you will want to keep up your intake of B vitamins from wholegrains and seeds (these have a variety of healthy benefits) and keep a richly varied diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables.
In your 70s and beyond:
Keep eating little and often
You will be more aware of the ageing process in your seventies and eighties, but you can still manage a healthy diet to support you through the change. Your appetite may decline over these years, and physiological functions will be slowing down. Recovery from illness may be slower and you may also be taking long-term medications to protect you against a variety of health risks associated with old age. Malnutrition is thought to affect 10% of the elderly in the UK, so above all enjoy your food and eat plenty.