In the adult years, individuals focus their time and energy on building careers, contributing to society, nurturing their offspring, realising goals and planning for their retirement. Nutrition and lifestyle should be integrated in achieving the above mentioned goals, as they can support people and help them maintain good health during retirement. Alas, finding this balance needs the support of healthcare professionals to pro-actively guide adults to a healthy lifestyle.
Nutrition in the adult years should focus on maintaining health by using foods, specifically plant based foods and their nutrients (like fibre and phytochemicals), to optimise the functions of the liver detoxification system, immunity and the digestive system, as well as other systems in the body. By following a nutrition program based on the principles of a defensive nutritional paradigm, adults can maintain and improve their health while preventing disease.
Changes and risks in adulthood
Physically the changes that occur during 22-50 years of age are the decrease in lean body weight and the accumulation of fat stores. In South Africa, according to the MRC’s (Medical Research Council) report for Dietary Changes and Health Transitions in 2006, 40% of women are obese from about 35 years of age, while more than 20% of women are overweight. It is estimated that obesity is the highest in black females and white males (21%).
Inactivity is one of the factors responsible for the increase of body weight figures. The transition from school yard to work place, finds most adults in a sedentary working lifestyle (desk job). Adults in comparison to teens have far less opportunities to engage in sports and activity. Modern living has also helped adults to become more sedentary as there has been a shift to less physically demanding work and lower levels of daily physical activity due to cars, technology in our homes and more static entertainment options.
Modern life has manipulated our foods to be readily accessible and highly processed. The only problem is that our bodies are still old stone-age machines and are battling to cope with these modern foods. Due to economic activity, adults are often away from home and are necessitated to take their meals in work canteens or public eateries. (it is estimated that a quarter of meals are not eaten at home) High energy sugary drinks (including alcoholic beverages) currently account for a fifth of daily energy consumption. Which brings us to the conclusion that opportunistic eating will contribute to half of an individual’s daily consumption as processed, energy dense and nutrient poor options.
While the world’s average weight is increasing, so is the incidence of chronic lifestyle diseases. It is estimated that physical inactivity causes two million deaths world wide every year, including 10-16% of breast cancer, colon cancer and diabetes cases, and 22% of heart disease. Lifestyle diseases due to poor nutrition resulting in weight gain account for 59% of the 57 million deaths annually and for 46% of the global burden of disease. In South Africa preventable diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes account for 73% of deaths.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) agrees that the consequences for modern living can be prevented and would be highly beneficial to individuals. WHO feels that changing to a healthier diet, cessation of smoking and increasing physical activity has the power to decrease 90% of type 2 diabetes cases, avoidance of a third of cancers and 80% of heart diseases.
Making a change for better health
Over a period of every two weeks, make one small change and work hard at achieving it over the next two weeks. Once you are doing it as a habit, keep at it and decide on a further change. These changes over time can yield great results.
The following 10 goals are formulated to counteract what studies found were reasons why young adults gain weight and become predisposed to lifestyle diseases:
- Find one 10minute lifestyle activity (climbing stairs) and do 20 minutes of exercise daily.
- Limit your intake of red meat to only 250g once a week. Have a meat free day and two fish meals a week. Especially fatty fish like herring, sardines, pilchards and salmon.
- Make sure that your meals resemble the MyPlateTM with each meal. With half of the plate having vegetables, a quarter having whole grain low-medium glycemic index starch and a quarter of a plate a protein- rich food like fish, low-fat dairy, legumes or lean meat of chicken, pork and beef.
- When selecting fruit and vegetables make sure you get a variety of colours: green, yellow, white, red and black. As various colors indicate the various phytochemicals they contain. In the case of red, as found in watermelon and tomatoes, they contain lycopene that has been shown to lower the risk of prostate cancer. Eating more raw vegetables and a variety of colors will help reduce your risk for chronic disease.
- Replace sugary fizzy drinks with water, diet soft drinks or herbal teas.
- Reduce the amount of sugar in coffee or tea. Try and drink a variety of hot drinks like coffee, black tea and herbal tea rather than just coffee.
- Switch to fat free dairy and ensure you drink at least one cup of fat free dairy a day.