A mother’s nutrition needs never stop changing. In part one of this series, experts at Abbott Healthcare delve into a mother’s dietary requirements to fuel her health through her 40s, 50s and beyond
Prioritising a mother’s nutrition—from your pregnancy and lactation to grandchildren and your golden years—is vital to ensuring that you are the healthy, happy mother children love to be around. But just like motherhood never stops changing, neither does a woman’s nutritional needs. Here’s a decade-by-decade guide to fueling a mother’s health:
Nutrition Needs During your 40s and 50s
Befriend B12: Vitamin B12, which supports the health of both your red blood cells and nervous system, is a vital part of keeping you energised, especially when it comes to helping you make school lunches before work and drive the kids to football practice. However, throughout the years, your body’s ability to absorb and use the B12 you eat may wane. That’s because your gut gradually produces less Intrinsic Factor, a protein necessary for the intestines to effectively absorb B12. Severe fatigue and anemia can be the result of this. “B12 deficiency is very common among the Indian population due to poor dietary intake,” says Dr Irfan Shaikh, medical head for pediatric and maternal nutrition at Abbott Healthcare.
To make sure your levels are where they were in your younger years, a simple blood test at your doctor’s office can assess your levels. If you are low, talk to your doctor about supplementing or adding more meat, eggs and milk to your diet.
Consume more calcium: While calcium can help strengthen your bones in every stage of life, after age 50, your daily recommended intake increases from 1,000 to 1,200 mg per day. It’s important to talk to your doctor to evaluate your bone density, family history and calcium intake to prevent osteoporosis or to help slow the loss of bone density as you age. To increase your calcium intake, focus on incorporating whole foods including dairy, sardines, soy, leafy vegetables and salmon into your diet. Eat more fibre: In women, the risk of coronary heart disease increases after age 55, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. That’s where fibre comes in as it’s effective in lowering cholesterol levels and is said to improve heart health. To increase your levels of soluble, cholesterol-lowering fibre, reach for oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, fruit and vegetables. However, you need to make sure to gradually increase your fibre intake so as to avoid an upset stomach.
During your 60s and beyond…
Preserve muscle with protein: To walk your children down the aisle or run around the backyard with your grandchildren, it’s so important to maintain muscle mass. We naturally start losing muscle mass at 40 years of age —roughly eight per cent per decade. This number can nearly double to 15 per cent by the age of 70.
But to do so, you should pair regular physical activity and strength-building exercises with additional protein. Research published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, states that as you age, the body becomes less efficient at processing protein and incorporating it into your muscles. Incorporate protein-rich foods into every meal and snack. Fish, lean meats, eggs, beans and protein shakes are all great options. Bask in the sunshine: While you can get vitamin D in limited quantities from foods such as fortified milk, salmon and mushrooms, the vast majority of people’s intake comes through sun exposure. Unfortunately, many people don’t get enough of this important vitamin, and this defi ciency is increasingly common in old age. According to a study of 824 elderly people, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 47 per cent of women were defi cient in vitamin D throughout the winter, when vitamin D levels are generally at their lowest. Dr Irfan Shaikh points out that during old age, apart from spending less time outside, people can experience reduced skin thickness, impaired intestinal absorption, poor food intake of vitamin D and reduced liver and kidney function, further increasing the risk of defi ciency. For that reason, after age 70, the recommended daily intake of vitamin D increases from 600 to 800 IU per day. Talk to your primary care physician to have your levels checked.
Now, armed with all the right information, we surely hope that you’ll not only take better care of your children, but of your nutritional needs as well. After all, we all hope to live long enough to see our grandchildren grow, and one way to ensure you do so, is through proper care and a healthy lifestyle! MB
We naturally start losing muscle mass at 40 years of age —roughly eight per cent per decade. This number can nearly double to 15 per cent by the age of 70