Nutrition in the Adult Years
Setting the Stage: Nutrition in the Adult Years
The period following adolescence up to the age of 65 termed as adult years of a person is where he/she spends a major portion of his/her life. This is the best time for action plans against diseases and steps to maintain health. This group is miscellaneous with nutrient needs differing based on lifestyle, health conditions and physical activity. The good news is that many adults, especially women, are adapting to nutritious foods and healthier lifestyles. Whole grains and fiber are becoming an important part of their diet compared to fats, trans-fat and sodium. Magazines and television are major sources of nutrition facts for adults. All these coupled with a number of awareness campaigns and health programs have contributed to increased life span of adults.
The Wellness Years
Wellness is the process of being aware of and actively working toward better health. Better health means physical, mental and spiritual health. This definition clearly indicates that wellness can start at any age and health condition of a person. Early and middle adulthood years are best known periods for health and wellness to be frontbenchers. Women sacrifice their health for the sake of their children in food-insecure families. The adult years of a person are the right period to build on positive factors, demolish the negative ones and evaluate the health conditions for a better quality of life. As adults play a dominant part in the society, their wellbeing has a tremendous effect over humanity.
Nutrition-Related Risk Factors
Heart disease, cancer, cerebrovascular disease, chronic lung disease and diabetes are leading causes of death globally. Except for cerebrovascular disease all others are related to diet and lifestyle. Overweight is a main risk factor that affects prevention and control of all chronic diseases. Almost more than half of the adult population over the age group of 20 is overweight or obese. Undernutrition and underweight are also equally prominent in the society. Women try to maintain a slim body by starving literally. This not only affects their health but also their fertility and ability to conceive.
Physical activity also plays a dominant role in reducing health issues and a lack of it might lead to certain types of cancer, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. Always remember that a positive mind leads to a positive body. The right foods combined with exercise is the secret of a healthy body. Youngsters today are becoming aware of the importance of exercise and healthy lifestyle. Life expectancy has increased and mortality rate due to the above mentioned diseases has decreased.
Nutrition for Women
Breast-feeding has a lot many positive impacts on the mother and her infant. It lowers the risk of diabetes, focuses on weight stability and strengthens the bone. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) associated with menses causes a lot of cramping, general discomfort, anxiety, depression and fatigue. This occurs almost a week before menses and increases in severity through menstruation. Though the primary cause has not been identified, hormone imbalance and nutrient deficiency (vitamin B6 and calcium) are said to play an active role. Including these deficient nutrients, vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, soy beverages and whole grains help to manage PMS.
The period after which menses stops is of immense nutrition concern and health changes in women. This period illustrates the end to reproductive years and ensuing changes in hormone balance. Estrogen production starts to gradually decrease after 50 years indicating that menopause may happen any time. Side effects of decrease in estrogen are many. Bone mass decreases, cholesterol levels change and brain function, notably memory, is affected. For some women menses start to decline gradually in frequency and duration and for others it simply stops abruptly. Symptoms start to show early in the form of decreased energy levels and hot flashes. Hot flashes are a sudden feeling of heat throughout or on the upper part of your body.
A whole-hearted approach to stay healthy after menopause would surely make one’s life easier. Eat a healthy diet high in fiber, low in fat, with lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains and legumes. Supplement your food with calcium, vitamin D, vitamin K and magnesium for bone health and soy foods to control hot flashes. Most important is to indulge oneself in any form of physical activity for ideal body weight and emotional stability after menopause.
Nutrition in Men
Heart attack is the numero uno disease affecting men right from their young age. Other leading causes of death include prostate cancer and lung cancer. Phytochemicals are plant substances that act as natural defense systems in plants and also help to defend humans against cardiovascular diseases, cancer and other few diseases. Lycopene, a carotenoid, is one such chemical that reduces the risk of heart disease and prostate cancer. Carotenoids are subclasses of phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables. Tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit and guava are excellent sources of lycopene which help prevent certain ailments.
Multivitamin-mineral supplements, energy bars and energy drinks replete with iron have become synonymous with fitness and health in today’s world. Excessive iron intake is harmful for men and postmenopausal women as the required activity to dispose away this iron is missing in them. Some people have the gene for hemochromatosis and iron overload in which case excess care is needed to get rid of the iron content.
Food Trends and Patterns
Cooking at home and eating it has become a thing of the past. Limited culinary skills and time have paved the way for many eateries and snacking outlets. People spend quite a lot of money on these joints. These have increased the intake of food having high sodium, sugar and fat content and lowered the intake of fruits, veggies and whole grains. Also the low-income populations who eat food just to fill their stomach are totally devoid of any nutrition. This is just the opposite of the MyPyramid recommendation. MyPyramid recommends filling the narrow part of the pyramid (meaning reduced intake) with fatty and sweetened food and the broader part (generous portions) with the fruits, veggies, dairy, legumes and whole grains to achieve a balanced diet.
In spite of all this most meals are consumed at home and the good news is that more men have come forward to engage themselves in the kitchen. Very few vegetables and fruits are consumed daily out of the many varieties available. Also vegetarians have limited access to proteins through foods such as nuts, legumes, lentils, beans and tofu. Overall, fat consumption is more than recommended, animal sources outweigh plant-based sources and actual milk consumption has decreased. All these affect the required levels of minerals, calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamins A, C and E in our body.
Intake of nutrient-rich foods alone cannot fulfill the needs of certain people. “Certain people” include pregnant women, people suffering from chronic illness, vegans and people addicted to drugs or alcohol. Other people with special needs are ones allergic to certain foodstuffs, people unwilling to prepare food, those with disabilities and people restricted to limited diets due to economical restrictions. These needs lead to the use of nutritional supplements. Vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein in pill or capsule form is what generally strikes us immediately. But food fortification (for example: energy drinks and energy shakes) has started to gradually capture supplementation markets. This is turning into a widespread business.
MyPyramid acts as a perfect guide to choose between what to eat and what not to eat. But nutritional professionals cannot rely on this alone to guide their patients. Specific advise on the benefits of unsaturated oils, advantages of eating five different coloured veggies and fruits daily and whole-grain consumption must be explained for best results.
Dietary Enhancements: Functional Foods
Functional foods are foods meant to provide more benefits than their regular nutrient value. For example, an orange juice fortified with calcium is a great source for healthy bones. Fruits, veggies, legumes, soy, nuts and yoghurt are said to have added benefits in preventing chronic ailments, promoting healthy gastrointestinal tracts, lowering cholesterol and sugar levels and many more which are still being researched.
Soy is the most talked about food in the market currently for its use in reducing heart disease, cancer and vasomotor symptoms in women in additional to its high protein content. But few globally acclaimed reports prove otherwise, thus bringing soy under scrutiny again.
All these bring in more awareness to treat food as a whole package rather than isolating and extracting certain food components. Lifestyle modifications, balanced diets and genetics are the stepping stones for wellness. These dietary enhancements are tools to aid in this wellness process and cannot be relied upon solely to provide the best end result.