Healthy and nutritious diets for adults

A healthy and nutritious diet is one that contains sufficient minerals, vitamins, carbohydrate, protein and fat to keep your body healthy through the child bearing years and into old age. However, the pace of adult life can make such a diet very difficult to maintain and supplements can then prove valuable.

Adult women

Women require fewer calories than men, but they need almost as much protein and more iron during their childbearing years. The calorie restriction that many women impose on themselves can result in a diet deficient in a number of nutrients. If they lack sufficient cholesterol they can develop irregular hormonal cycles, loss of fertility, an early menopause and osteoporosis. Poor nutrition can also affect the success of pregnancy and women should eat well for several months before planning to become pregnant.

Special nutritional needs of women

CALCIUM, IRON AND ZINC are lost in the normal menstrual cycle.

CALCIUM AND MAGNESIUM can help to reduce period pains, and together with VITAMINS K AND D, BORON, ZINC, COPPER AND MANGANESE build strong bones.

VITAMIN C AND THE B-VITAMINS are needed in at least the recommended amounts to maintain health.

To avoid dietary imbalance, mineral and vitamin supplements should not be taken in large doses, except with professional guidance.

If you take birth-control pills

CHECKLIST FOR A BALANCED DIET
Adults should aim for:
  • A diet that varies from day to day and season to season
  • At least five portions of a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables each day (one portion is 100g (3.5oz)
  • High-fibre carbohydrate food chosen from whole grain products, pulses, fruits and vegetables
  • Adequate, but not excessive, protein from animal and vegetable sources
  • A moderate intake of fats and oils
  • A modest consumption of alcoholic drinks, if desired
  • Minimal intake of sugar and other refined carbohydrates, such as white flour
  • Avoidance of excessive salt and food additives, such as colourings, flavourings and preservatives
Women who take the birth-control pill may find that it can alter their nutritional needs, and this can be a problem for growing teenagers. A high nutrient diet is essential. If you are concerned about weight gain, eat proportionately more vegetables than fruit, as they generally contain fewer calories.

The birth-control pill increases the level of copper in the blood and supplements are unnecessary, but if you take a multi-mineral supplement, up to 1 mg of copper is safe. Avoid too much iron if your periods are light. The level of vitamin A in the blood increases while birth-control pills are taken. As vitamin A is known to cause damage to the unborn baby, some doctors advise delaying a pregnancy for three months after discontinuing the birth-control pill.

VITAMINS C, E, K AND THE B-VITAMINS, especially B6 AND FOLIC ACID, BETA-CAROTENE, ZINC AND SELENIUM all help to counterbalance changes caused by the birth-control pill.

Adult men

Active men usually require more calories than women and, if they wish to become fathers, they should eat a particularly good diet during the four months before the planned time of conception. This may seem a long time, but it takes more than 100 days for the cells in the testicles to undergo the number of cell divisions required to become sperm. At this time smoking and alcohol intake should be reduced or stopped.

Special nutritional needs of men

The following nutrients may help to promote an active sex life and successful fatherhood. VITAMINS A, C, E, F AND FOLIC ACID are needed for sperm production. CALCIUM, MAGNESIUM, ZINC AND SULPHUR, VITAMINS C AND B 12 AND INOSITAL are all present in sperm and may contribute to fertility. ZINC AND SELENIUM are needed to replace losses in spermatic fluid. ZINC, MAGNESIUM AND VITAMIN B6 may help if the sex drive has decreased. To avoid dietary imbalance, mineral and vitamin supplements should not usually be taken in large doses.