Every member from different age group has a specially designed diet regime that must be followed to maintain a strong body and a sharp mind. A healthy diet helps in slowing down the aging process as well, along with acting as a buffer against diseases like high blood pressure, heart and respiratory disease, and cancer.
A diet does not always have to be extreme with unpleasant food items, but a balanced intake of protein, carbohydrates, fat, fiber, vitamins, calcium, and minerals.
Proteins help us by providing energy to the body while benefiting cognitive functions. However, excessive amounts of protein can be harmful to people with kidney diseases.
Carbohydrates are one of the primary sources of energy for our body. But consumption of refined carbs like sugars can be harmful and unhealthy for the body. Thus, its vital for us to consume complex, unrefined carbs like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, etc. to prevent rapid spikes in blood sugar, mood fluctuations and build up fat, especially around the waistline.
Fats, as there are trans fats which are unsaturated fat associated with adverse health effects, there are other sources of fats which are saturated. These healthy fats, such as omega 3, protect the brain and heart and are essential to our physical and emotional health.
Fiber is usually attained from plant-based food sources (grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans). It can be of two types, insoluble and soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber cannot dissolve in water, as it is bulky. It helps in preventing constipation.
Best sources of insoluble fiber are whole grains, wheat cereals, and vegetables (like carrot, tomatoes). Soluble fiber is the one that can dissolve in water and help control blood sugar level as well as reduce cholesterol. Best sources of soluble fiber include fruits like apples, pears, citruses, along with barley, nuts, and barley.
Nutritional intake varies from age group to age group. The diet a child will be demanding is entirely different from an older adult, or a pregnant woman.
1)Birth – 6 months of age: Breast milk is considered to be the ultimate infant formula that protects the baby, and contains immunological factors beneficial for its development. Fruit juices must be avoided until the baby is six months old.
2)6 – 12 months of age: Although breastfeeding should continue until 12 months at least, solids can be introduced in the diet. Diet rich in zinc and iron (pureed meat, poultry, cereals, beans, and legumes) must be included.
Salt, sugar, honey, whole nuts, or any other hard foods should not be included. Cow’s milk should not be fed until the child is a year old. Occasional exposure to sunlight is good for the baby as it provides with vitamin D.
3)Young children: As the child grows in age, there is an increase in proteins, vitamins, and minerals in the diet. These will help them with their rapid growth spurt in adolescence. Whether the food is adequate or not can be seen through appropriate weight gain and development. Water intake must be optimal, and fruit juices and soft drinks are better left avoided.
4)Teenage years: Around this time, extra energy is highly required for growth and physical activity. However, this does not mean they can indulge in fast food or empty calories. Even if fast food is consumed, it needs to be balanced with nutrient-dense foods like fruits, legumes, wholegrain bread, fish, and vegetables.
There also is a need for calcium intake, which is fundamentally vital for growing bones. Adolescent girls should be more encouraged to consume milk and milk products.
5)Older teenagers and young adults: There is a gradual change in the lifestyle of young adults as they enter their early 20s. It is a time where their maximum of the time a shift in the social environment. Thus, along with this shift, there are high chances that individuals may make changes in their lifestyle.
It is crucial to make a deliberate effort to limit one’s alcohol consumption and altogether avoid smoking. It is essential to be physically active by engaging at least an hour of exercise, alongside eating healthy by including food items rich in iron and calcium.
6)Pregnant women: During pregnancy, the body requires an extra of 1400 to 1900 kilojoules per day during the second and third trimester. Pregnant mothers must not “eat for two” and should give more importance to diet quality than quantity.
There are some nutrients that become more important for intake during pregnancy, like:
- iron which is needed for oxygen transport in the body,
- vitamin C helps with iron absorption from food,
- folate (found in legumes, green leafy vegetables, fruits) which is very important in the initial stages of pregnancy to avoid neural tube defects in the baby,
- iodine is very important for the normal growth and development of the baby, and
- calcium requirements must be met but it does not have to increase or go beyond.
Alcohol consumption and smoking can lead to various problems in the baby, further leading to spontaneous abortion, stillbirths, and even low birth weight.
7)Lactating mothers: It is highly recommended to eat nutrient-dense foods that are rich in zinc, folate, and calcium. Fluid intake becomes important and increases by 750-1000 ml of basic needs to prevent the mother from dehydration and constipation.
8)Menopausal women: Since thinning of bones is very common among post-menopausal women due to hormone-related changes; it is imperative to have a diet rich in calcium (milk), high-fiber, and low-fat and low-salt diet. A study shows that phytoestrogens (found in soy products like tofu) help in reducing many menopausal symptoms like hot flushes, mood swings, etc.
9)Older people: Studies all over have concluded that older people need to remain active and healthy that prevents illnesses and diseases, and also increases longevity. Diet rich in legumes, eggs, fish, lean meats, nuts, fruits and vegetables, cereals and low-fat dairy foods, along with regular exercise, are a must.
Food rich in fiber is compulsory to consume, and table salt should be avoided. Vitamin D that helps with maintaining healthy bones can be boosted by spending a little bit of time outside in the sun. Also, the drinking of adequate water is essential.
Following a flowchart similar to this can help maintain a fit and healthy body, both physically and mentally. A healthy body not only makes a person look good but also prevent from developing illnesses and diseases.