Health

Nutritionist Susie Burrell’s guide on the foods to eat to stay healthy in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s

It should come as no surprise that your body has different calorie and nutrient requirements depending on your age.

So nutritionist Susie Burrell has broken it down – revealing the key foods to include in your diet no matter which age bracket you fall into.

20’s

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The blessings of youth mean that through our 20s we still have the muscle mass we need to burn plenty of calories, especially when maintaining a regular training schedule.

From a food perspective, this means the body needs to be fueled with good quality carbs via starchy vegetables, wholegrain bread and cereals.

This is not a time for strict diets that slash carbs and calories if the goal is to optimize metabolic rate.

Nutritionist Susie Burrell has offered her guide on what foods to eat at each stage of your life to stay healthy.
Nutritionist Susie Burrell has offered her guide on what foods to eat at each stage of your life to stay healthy. Credit: susie burrell

While the volume of good quality carbs each person requires differs, younger, active people do have higher energy requirements and as such will need good quality carbs at each meal.

The 20s are also a time when peak bone mass is still being established, which means ensuring an optimal calcium intake is crucial to ensure bone health in the years ahead.

This translates into three to four serves of calcium rich foods every single day for adults.

30’s

As we move into our 30s, family and work commitments increase.

So, too, do the energy demands of daily life.

Iron-rich foods including lean red meat, eggs, legumes and wholegrain cereals are of particular importance, especially for women with low iron levels – impacting about 25 per cent of Australian women.

For meat eaters, including red meat in the diet at least three to four times each week will help to ensure that iron requirements are met.

For meat eaters, including red meat in the diet at least three to four times each week will help to ensure that iron requirements are met (stock image).
For meat eaters, including red meat in the diet at least three to four times each week will help to ensure that iron requirements are met (stock image). Credit: Getty Images

Fertility may also be on the minds of many.

This means ensuring an adequate intake of zinc from wholegrains, nuts, seeds and seafood, along with two to three serves of Omega-3 rich fish, like Atlantic salmon.

Busy lives can mean more time spent indoors.

And with a significant number of Australians suffering low Vitamin D levels, especially through winter, it’s important to ensure Vitamin D rich foods such as whole eggs, oily fish and fortified milk daily, for mood regulation and bone health.

40’s

This is the decade in which metabolic rate can slow, as we tend to become a lot less active.

And risk factors for a number of chronic diseases, including heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, start to rear their ugly head.

Keeping a close eye on the scales and working to prevent weight gain is important.

It may require a reduction in energy-dense, processed carbohydrates, including white breads and cereals, to help support blood glucose control.

The 40s is also the time to pay more attention to digestive health.

Wholegrain breads and cereals will help to support gut health (stock image).
Wholegrain breads and cereals will help to support gut health (stock image). Credit: Getty Images/Tetra images RF

Ticking the box on a daily intake of 30g of dietary fiber – via at least five serves of vegetables, two serves of fruit and choosing wholegrain breads and cereals – will help to support gut health.

It will also reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer, one of Australia’s most common types of cancer.

50’s

The 50s is a time to really pay attention to the quality of foods in your diet to ensure the right balance of fats and antioxidant rich foods, for a natural anti-inflammatory effect.

The first steps to take?

Reduce heavy carb-rich foods such as rice, pasta and cous cous, in favor of lighter, vegetable-based carbs.

And simultaneously increase dietary fiber, by aiming for seven to 10 serves of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Additionally, bumping up seafood and shellfish will boost omega-3, zinc and iodine – nutrients linked to reducing inflammation and optimizing metabolic rate.

Bumping up your intake of seafood to reduce inflammation and optimizing metabolic rate (stock image).
Bumping up your intake of seafood to reduce inflammation and optimizing metabolic rate (stock image). Credit: Getty Images

A daily serve of nuts and seeds, and opting for extra virgin olive oil as the fats of choice, will help to achieve the right balance of fats in the diet.

And avoiding bad fats from deep fried foods and processed snacks will help to keep the heart healthy and blood-glucose levels controlled.

Most importantly, if you are carrying extra weight, shifting even 5kg will help to significantly reduce the risk of developing a number of chronic diseases.

Ideally, we need to aim for a waist measurement of less than 80cm for women and 90cm for men.

The 60s and beyond

With creaky joints, more brittle bones and an increasing incidence of cancers – including prostate, breast and bowel – nutrient-rich eating becomes even more important in your 60s and 70s.

Women in particular need at least three to four serves of calcium-rich food each day to keep the bones healthy.

Men need to increase their intake of lycopene (via cooked tomatoes) and selenium (through Brazil nuts) to help support prostate health.

Omega-3 rich foods, including oily fish, nuts and seeds, should be consumed most days to help naturally reduce inflammation in the body.

And a focus on good fats – via extra virgin olive oil, nuts and seeds, and as little fast and processed food as possible – will help to keep the heart healthy.

While calorie requirements may be reduced over time as we get older, nutrient demands increase.

This means you may need fewer meals.

But every meal needs to be packed full of fresh vegetables and lean proteins to ensure you are getting all the essential nutrients you need.

susie burrell is a Sydney nutritionist and a dietitian for Channel 7’s Sunrise.

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