There's never a time in your life when you don't need to eat well. That said, there are periods when your diet -- and certain elements of it -- demands particular vigilance. Follow this helpful eating guide so that you and each member of your family can be certain you're getting the right nutrients you need -- now.
Iron deficiency, one of the most common nutritional deficiencies among North American children, can make your child feel tired, thereby affecting her learning skills. Iron is necessary for producing hemoglobin, the part of red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. The best food sources are red meat, organ meat, enriched grains and cereals, dried fruits and green leafy vegetables. If your child isn't a meat eater, look for iron-fortified cereal and pasta, dried fruits such as raisins or apricots and green leafy vegetables such as broccoli or kale. Serving these foods with a vitamin C-rich food (e.g., cereal with orange juice) will aid absorption.
An easy way to calculate the amount of fibre required by a child or adolescent is to add five to his age: the total is the number of grams of fibre he should eat in a day. For example, a five-year-old should eat 10 grams of fibre daily (achievable by eating five servings of grain products and five servings of fruits and vegetables). Concentrate on kids' traditional favourites - apples, carrots, oranges, bananas and breakfast cereals - and serve child-size portions (oe cup/50 millilitres of vegetables or cereal instead of 1/2 cup/125 millilitres). Snacks can be excellent sources of fibre; offer fresh fruit (half an apple or a sliced orange), vegetables (a small carrot with a yogurt dip) or peanut butter on a cracker.
Some typical fibre values:
• 1/2 cup (125 millilitres) baked beans: 10.3 grams
• 1/2 cup (125 millilitres) peas: 5.7 grams
• 1 pear: 5.1 grams
• 2/3 cup (150 millilitres) toasted whole wheat cereal: 3.1 grams
• 1 apple: 2.6 grams
• 1 orange: 2.4 grams
• 1/2 cup (125 millilitres) corn: 2.2 grams
• 2 tbsp (25 millilitres) peanut butter: 2 grams
• 1 slice whole wheat bread: 1.6 grams
• 2 tbsp (25 millilitres) raisins: 0.8 grams
One in four women will suffer from osteoporosis as an adult. One of the keys to prevention besides exercise is calcium, but waiting until your 30s or 40s to bone up is too late. Research shows that because bone mass is formed early in life, osteoporosis prevention must begin in childhood and adolescence. The newest guidelines from the Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine in Washington, D.C., recommend that teenagers get 1,300 milligrams per day (these recommendations mark the adoption of nutritional standards common to both Canada and the United States).
To get more calcium in your teen's diet, try offering yogurt smoothies, pizza with cheese, cheese submarine sandwiches, frozen yogurt, tacos or nachos with grated cheese, tall lattes or even chocolate milk. (It's a myth that we don't absorb the calcium in chocolate milk. Although it's true that the oxalic acid in the chocolate is known to bind with calcium, making it difficult to absorb, the percentage of calcium unavailable to the body is very small.) If your teen is off dairy products, you can suggest calcium-fortified soy beverages or calcium-fortified orange juice as a substitute.
Some typical calcium values:
• 1 cup (250 millilitres) milk: 300 milligrams
• 1/2 cup (125 millilitres) yogurt: 230 milligrams
• 1 ounce (30 grams) low-fat mozzarella cheese: 207 milligrams
• 1 ounce (30 grams) Cheddar cheese: 204 milligrams
Essential for growth and reproduction, zinc is needed to make genetic materials. It helps boost the immune system and may even help fight colds. The best food sources are seafood, red meat, eggs, poultry, dried peas and beans, dairy products and nuts. Researchers are now exploring the link between vegetarian diets that contain inadequate amounts of zinc and eating disorders. By the age of 18, 80 per cent of young women have dieted, and up to 15 per cent of those have symptoms of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia. In Ontario alone more than 100,000 men and women have clinical eating disorders. Anorexia and zinc deficiency have a number of symptoms in common, including weight loss, alterations in taste and appetite, and depression. Many young women with anorexia are vegetarians, a practice that could increase their risk for zinc deficiency. The theory is that a zinc deficiency may make it more difficult to treat an eating disorder. If your teen isn't eating meat, encourage him to bump up his intake of dairy and whole grains.
Page 1 of 4 -- Nutritional guidelines for men and women ages 25-35 on page 2.
Also known as folic acid and folacin, folate is linked to lower rates of neural tube defects, an umbrella term for malformations of the brain and spinal cord that occur in a fetus within the first month after conception. For this reason, it is recommended that women in their childbearing years take supplements. For all adults the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 400 micrograms per day. It is suggested that women planning to become pregnant take 400 micrograms of synthetic folic acid daily from fortified foods or a supplement -- this is in addition to the folate naturally present in a varied diet. The best food sources of folate are dark-green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, romaine lettuce, peas and Brussels sprouts; orange juice; organ meat; and dried peas and beans. In Canada, white flour, enriched pasta and enriched cornmeal are fortified with folic acid.
Some typical folate values:
• 1/2 cup (125 millilitres) cooked spinach: 130 micrograms
• 5 spears asparagus: 110 micrograms
• 1 cup (250 millilitres) orange juice: 109 micrograms
• 1 cup (250 millilitres) cooked broccoli: 80 micrograms
• 1 banana: 22 micrograms
If you take birth-control pills or suffer from premenstrual syndrome (PMS), vitamin B6 may be helpful. Some studies have suggested that oral contraceptives can deplete vitamin B6 levels. The link between B6 and PMS is less clear, but some women report it helps relieve their symptoms. It's true that insufficient levels of vitamin B6 can lead to depression and mood changes. The best sources of B6 in your diet are bananas, potatoes, meat, poultry, fish, whole grains and lentils.
It is one of the best-known vitamins; many people take it to help avoid or alleviate the common cold. But vitamin C, an important antioxidant, is also associated with lowering the risk of heart disease and certain cancers, and it may even ease some health concerns related to aging. A recent study of healthy young women showed that vitamin C may have a positive effect on lipid metabolism. Data from the Second National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which studied American adults aged 25 and over, suggests that increased vitamin C intake may decrease a person's risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. It also helps repair wounds, is vital for healthy teeth and gums, stimulates iron absorption and may even boost your immune system.
The truth is that we need vitamin C at all ages and stages. But around age 35 it's time to start planning your nutritional strategy against aging, of which vitamin C needs to be a part. The newest guidelines recommend that women receive 75 milligrams of vitamin C per day and that men receive 90 milligrams; smokers need an additional 35 milligrams daily. Don't go C crazy, though; the recommended upper limit is 2,000 milligrams per day. Great sources include citrus fruits and juices, berries, kiwifruit, red peppers, broccoli, melons and juices such as apple or cranberry that contain added vitamin C.
Some typical vitamin C values:
• 1 red pepper: 227 milligrams
• Half a cantaloupe: 113 milligrams
• 1 cup (250 millilitres) broccoli, cooked: 103 milligrams
• 1 cup (250 millilitres) orange juice: 103 milligrams
• 1 cup (250 millilitres) cauliflower, cooked: 73 milligrams
• 1 medium orange: 70 milligrams
• 1 kiwifruit: 68 milligrams
Research has linked tomatoes, especially cooked or processed ones, with a lowered risk of some cancers and heart disease. Experts believe the credit goes to lycopene, a powerful antioxidant and the pigment that makes tomatoes red. A Harvard University study (among others) showed that men who regularly ate tomato-based foods had lower rates of prostate cancer. Processed tomatoes, or those in foods such as tomato sauce or paste, tomato juice, spaghetti sauce and ketchup, contain significantly more lycopene than do fresh tomatoes. Lycopene is also found in pink grapefruit and watermelon. How much we should consume for optimum health has not yet been established.
Page 2 of 4 -- On page 3, learn about the special dietary concerns of those in their forties.
As you age, the risk of heart disease increases. However, that risk can be lowered through diet - particularly one that includes fish. Fish, especially fatty fish, are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, unique types of fat that help reduce blood thickness, which makes it easier for the heart to pump blood through vessels. Omega-3 fats also make blood platelets less sticky, cutting the risk of clots, and they're associated with lower triglyceride levels, another factor in the development of heart disease. The best sources of omega-3 fats are fish that live in deep, cold water, such as mackerel, herring, salmon (fresh or canned), sardines, anchovies and trout. The second-best sources include halibut, bluefish, ocean perch, bass, red snapper and smelts. You can also get the fats from flaxseed and omega-3 eggs.
A powerful antioxidant linked to a lower risk of heart disease and cancer, vitamin E may also bolster the immune system. It is found in all body tissues and is important for their proper function and health. The jury is still out regarding heart health and vitamin E. Although several studies have linked lower rates of heart disease to the daily consumption of 100 international units (IU) of the vitamin, a recent Canadian study showed that it had no effect on people already at high risk for cardiovascular disease. New guidelines recommend that both men and women receive 15 milligrams (or 22 IU) of vitamin E daily, with a suggested upper limit of 1,000 milligrams (or 1,500 IU). Doses in excess of that may increase the risk of bleeding.
The best food sources of vitamin E are oils (especially safflower, sunflower, canola, olive and soybean), almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, avocados, wheat germ, wheat-germ oil, peanut butter and some leafy greens, such as spinach. As you can see from the list, consuming adequate amounts can be challenging if you're following a very low-fat diet. Assess your intake and cardiac risk before supplementing and check with your physician because supplements can interact with some drugs -- especially anticoagulants.
Page 3 of 4 -- 55 or older? Be sure to check out page 4 for specific dietary advice.
Age-related macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of vision loss in older adults. (The macula is the part of the eye that distinguishes detail in the centre of the field of vision.) Smoking, exposure to sunlight, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol are all thought to increase risk. Two dietary antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, have been associated with a lowered risk of this condition. The best food sources of these antioxidants are corn and dark leafy greens, such as spinach, collards, beet greens, mustard greens and romaine lettuce.
It may attract less attention than other nutrients but vitamin K is important for bone health. Research has associated a low vitamin K intake with a higher rate of hip fractures in older adults. In one study women who consumed lettuce one or more times a day had a 45 per cent lower risk of hip fractures than those who ate it one or fewer times a week. Vitamin K also plays an important role in blood clotting. The best food sources are leafy greens such as spinach, broccoli and lettuce.
Vitamin D helps your body absorb and use calcium and is found in fluid milk (but not other milk products), fortified soy beverages, margarine, fish oils, eggs and fatty fish such as salmon. Your body makes vitamin D from sunlight, but if you're sun smart you won't get much vitamin D this way. If you aren't a milk drinker or are housebound, try supplements, but be careful; since vitamin D is fat soluble, anything over 2,000 IU can be toxic. The recently released Dietary Reference Intakes recommend 400 IU for people 51 through 70, and 600 IU for people over 70.
Evidence suggests that as we age, our bodies do not absorb B12 from food as well as when we were younger. Found in meat, fish, poultry, dairy products and eggs and in some fortified soy products and breakfast cereals, vitamin B12 is important in red blood cell production and nervous system function. New recommendations suggest that people over the age of 50 get 2.4 micrograms of B12 a day by eating foods fortified with vitamin B12 or by taking a supplement.
Some typical vitamin B12 values:
• 3 oz (90 grams) cooked beef: 2.6 micrograms
• 3 oz (90 grams) canned tuna: 2.5 micrograms
• 1 cup (250 mL) fortified soy beverage: 1 microgram
• 1 cup (250 mL) milk: 0.9 micrograms
• 1 egg: 0.6 micrograms
Page 4 of 4 -- Find out what kids 5-15 should be eating on page 1.