These can be the record turning years. Our careers and relationships adjust, and with it comes the stress of mortgages and family commitments.
We’re not as young as we were and it’s harder to get back on our feet as quickly as we did. If your food mountain up to this point was a lighter shade of beige, then you might be reaching for the food rainbow for health reasons and observing sick parents.
While it may be tempting to settle on a restrictive diet of salads and excessive exercise, Tew warns that you still need plenty of energy at this age, “so carbs should make up a third of your plate.”
These are also typically the maternity years, when folic acid, choline, iodine, vitamin D, protein and fiber become crucial for mothers. Nine out of ten women have low levels of folate in their blood – important for protecting 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,” says Wilson. “However, it is seldom made clear that dietary supplements should be taken about three months before conception to increase levels because population intake is so low.”
The British Dietetic Association recommends a daily dietary supplement of 400 mcg during the period leading up to conception. You can get folic acid from foods like dark green leafy vegetables, beans, peanuts, sunflower seeds, and whole grains.
She is also concerned about the extent of iodine deficiency among women of childbearing age in the UK. Iodine is needed to make thyroid hormones, which control the density of neurons in the brain.
The World Health Organization describes iodine deficiency as “the most important preventable cause of brain damage” worldwide. “Unfortunately, iodine deficiency is the norm, affecting 67 per cent of pregnant women in the UK,” says Wilson. You can find iodine in seaweed, fish, shellfish, dairy products and eggs.
After pregnancy, vitamin D and high-quality protein are needed for tissue growth and fiber for gut health, as many pregnant women suffer from constipation.
For men, cutting back on the beer binges of their 20s is essential to fertility, says Hobson. “If fertility is a goal, you should avoid drinking and smoking as it affects the health of your sperm. A heavy drinking session can wipe them out for several months as it reduces the hormones needed to produce them.”
It takes more than 30 days for a sperm to become mature. Every time a man drinks in a 30-day period, he exposes the developing sperm to the alcohol that many times.
Zinc is important for men and especially for children as it is used in the production of male sex hormones. “Try to eat foods like eggs, nuts, seafood, seeds, and whole grains. Vitamin C is also important for fertility as it has been shown to help prevent sperm clumping, which is a cause of infertility. You should get all of the vitamin C you need from your diet by eating lots of fruits and vegetables.”
If stress is really prevalent, try taking magnesium as the body is quickly depleted when stress is sustained. Low magnesium levels can also worsen anxiety and create a vicious cycle.
Those with an eye to the future are laying the nutrients now for a healthy later life by consuming a diet rich in antioxidant polyphenols (which protect against the development of cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and diabetes), potassium (linked to a lower risk of high blood pressure, kidney stones and osteoporosis), omega-3 fatty acids (for heart and vascular health) and vitamin B5 (which has anti-aging properties since it soothes, softens and moisturizes the skin and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles). Who doesn’t want to look good as they age?