At the turn of 30, a common denominator in most peoples' lives is the indifference towards a disciplined diet. But as your metabolism starts to change, so do your dietary needs. This requires practical readjustments.
Ageing is an inevitability and there are a lot of things beyond our control, like genes and other environmental factors, but everyone has control over their own lifestyle factors.
It is crucial to have a personalised approach to diet that not only promotes physical health but also strengthens mental clarity and emotional stability. With a few little tweaks here and there, you really could make your 30s as flourishing as your 20s.
In this article, The Business Standard set out looking for answers as to what constitutes a healthy diet for the '30 plus' men and women, revealing professional insights from a health professionals that are meant to serve as the foundation of a healthy adulthood, and the challenges that most Bangladeshis over 30 face when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
But when it comes to pragmatism, a healthy diet is not just about the 'do-s.' It also has a lot to do with the 'don'ts.' Along with what one should consume, there are foods and habits which one must cut down on as well.
Manage your macros
When it comes to tailoring a 'balanced' diet for the average Bangladeshi over 30, a lot of practicality comes into the equation.
Dr Rayhan Shahidullah, a MBBS doctor who has expertise on field of internal medicine and longevity science reveals that diet is not necessarily about the diet or the food one takes — it is more about the habits that one needs to incorporate.
"I would say the most important factor for people over 30 is to develop a routined, healthy eating habit and make sure that their meals are more protein-rich than carbohydrates or fats," said Dr Rayhan.
For a lot of people, "protein-rich" may translate to compensating by eliminating carbohydrates from their meals, but Dr Rayhan says that it is just a myth and that recent nutritional science studies have proven that carbohydrates, being one of the three macronutrients, are equally necessary for a balanced diet.
"The idea is that you have to increase your protein intake, which can range from 1.5-2g/kg of body weight. Carb intake must be moderate in comparison and the fat consumption should be very low and that too only from healthy essential fats," he said.
"Protein is a top priority. There's a reason why protein is considered as the element of longevity."
In third world countries, carbohydrates are the most easily available food source. Also a lot of people, due to the tiresome lifestyles they lead, do not invest that extra time for procuring the freshest products everyday and it is highly advisable to make sure your protein is always fresh.
Then again, the food expenses come into the equation and not everyone out there can afford to spend high amounts for their diet. In Dr Rayhan's experience, he has seen most people opting for eggs as their main source of daily protein intake as it is (usually) cheap and always available.
Load up on fibre
Consuming more fibre is crucial for maintaining good health, as it lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and certain cancers. Dietary guidelines recommend women aged 31-50 to aim for 25 grams and men for 31 grams per day. Upping fibre intake can potentially reduce biological ageing by 5.4 years.
To meet your daily fibre goal, aim for 8-10 grams with each meal, including fruits and whole grains.
For breakfast, a cup of cooked oatmeal offers four grams of fibre. Add fruits like bananas or diced apples for an extra boost. And for lunch and dinner, incorporate carbs, with half your plate filled with colourful veggies and a quarter with whole grains.
Including carbs in meals can help you stay full longer, and curb carb cravings, leading to a healthier, longer life.
Limit processed meat
Resorting to our local gourmet shop for cold cuts is a bad idea, especially as you age. Eating processed meats can raise your chances of getting cancer. Having just one sausage a day, which is about 50 grams, is linked to a 16% higher risk of colorectal cancer, as per a 2017 report by the American Institute for Cancer Research.
On a positive note, the same report highlights that consuming three servings of whole grains daily can lower the risk of colorectal cancer by 17%. This could be because fibre has a positive impact on the gut, providing good bacteria with nourishment and producing substances that lower inflammation and help prevent chronic diseases.
Calcium and vitamin D — the super micronutrients
As we grow up, our bones become stronger. By the time we're 25-30 years old, our bones are fully formed. But once we hit our 30s, they start to lose some of that strength. That is why it's crucial to eat foods rich in calcium like yoghurt, cheese, broccoli, spinach, kale, and almonds.
For people between 31 and 50 years old, the recommended daily intake of calcium is 1,000 milligrams.
And Vitamin D is important to help your bones absorb that calcium. Furthermore, to help keep your bones strong, it's not only about getting enough calcium and vitamin D but also doing strength exercises. This way, you can maintain your bone strength as you get older.
Vitamin D has an effect on your mental health as well.
Dr Mahjabeen Haque, a professor at the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology, said that there is a link between vitamin D deficiency and mental health. "If there is a deficiency of vitamin D, one of the happy hormones called serotonin is not produced. Serotonin is related to helping keep our mood in good shape," said Dr Haque.
She said that studies suggest that there is a link between the level of serotonin and impulsive behaviour. When the level of serotonin runs low, people exhibit impulsive behaviour.
"When they exhibit impulsive behaviour, all of a sudden, they do something or other without thinking about the consequences of it," said Dr Haque. "The results of impulsive behaviour are almost always bad."
The four commandments
Dr Rayhan leaves us with four commandments which he applies to his own patients and clientele.
First and foremost, he advises his clients to ensure consistent meal times. If one fails to follow this practice to the letter, even sticking to it 80% of the time should bring in the benefits.
The next thing that Dr Rayhan focuses on is the portion of the meal. Even though it is not possible for everyone everyday to measure their intake to scale, consistency in the amount of food that one person takes will pay dividends down the line.
Thirdly, he advises to engage in moderate physical activity at least two to three days per week. "A lot of people set unrealistic goals when it comes to fitness, forgetting that fitness is not about achieving a certain goal — it is about preserving a healthy lifestyle," he said.
Most people lead their lives without discipline and even if they spend two days of the week adhering to their schedules, they falter in the remaining five.
Dr Rayhan saved the best for last. He is of the notion that if any individual fails to comply with any of the above 'commandments,' the one thing they must ensure is a good sleep schedule.
"The health aspect that I promote the most is fixing your sleep. Sleep controls everything. Sleep regulates hormonal and chemical changes within the body. Lack of a proper sleep schedule affects mortality as well."
He further stated that a good sleeping pattern directly feeds into one's intrinsic desire of adhering to dietary and fitness schedules.
"A good night's sleep improves your cognitive powers and all of that in turn improves your appetite and general sense of well being. That triggers your inner feeling of exercising and maintaining a good diet," he concluded.