By Cassandra Barnes

As we get older our priorities, hobbies and eating habits change. Naturally, so will our nutritional needs. Each nutrient has a particular set of functions in the body.

Throughout our lifespan we will need some nutrients more than others to support a healthy balanced lifestyle and meet our individual needs.

Here, nutritionist Cassandra Barns offers a comprehensive guide explaining the amount of calories and types of nutrients you need as you age.

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Each decade of your life requires a different focus. Image / NZ Herald
Each decade of your life requires a different focus. Image / NZ Herald

IN YOUR 20s

If you're suffering spotty skin in your 20s it could be because you're lacking certain nutrients in your diet. Photo / Getty
If you're suffering spotty skin in your 20s it could be because you're lacking certain nutrients in your diet. Photo / Getty

• CRANK UP THE CALORIES

Our 20s are usually the time when we're most active and have the highest metabolism.
So we can get away with eating more.

However, make sure most of your calories come from nutrient-rich whole foods such as whole grains, vegetables, fruit, fish, eggs and pulses.

Don't rely on processed foods: you'll suffer more energy slumps and may pay for it with health problems later in life.

• EXTRA ENERGY WITH B VITAMINS

When you're more active, you don't just need more calories; you also need more of the vital nutrients that convert those calories into energy.

These include B vitamins, which are naturally found in whole foods or for an extra boost, try taking a daily B vitamin supplement such as Mega B Complex from Quest Nutra Pharma.

• BANISH BREAKOUTS WITH ZINC

If you're suffering spotty skin in your 20s it could be because you're lacking certain nutrients in your diet.

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Eat zinc-rich foods such as pumpkin, sesame seeds, chickpeas and oysters, as well as good-quality red meat each week.

IN YOUR 30s

Life can start to get more stressful in our 30s. It's important to consider how diet impacts stress levels. Photo / Getty
Life can start to get more stressful in our 30s. It's important to consider how diet impacts stress levels. Photo / Getty

• TAKE CARE OF YOUR FERTILITY

If we haven't already had children (but still want to!), our 30s are when we need to think about protecting our fertility.

Now is the time to give up unhealthy habits such as smoking and going out drinking every night, which can have drastic effects on fertility and chances of a successful pregnancy.

This doesn't just apply to women: the health of the sperm can have just as big an impact, so men need to watch their habits and nutrition too.

• PROTECT YOURSELF FROM STRESS

Life can start to get more stressful in our 30s. Our job might be more demanding. We might have children or a spouse to consider, and a mortgage to think about. The carefree days of our 20s seem a long time ago!

To help yourself manage stress, balance your blood sugar by eating whole foods, avoiding junk foods, and eating protein-rich foods with each meal.

Keep taking your B vitamins. And if you're going through a demanding time, consider adding either a Siberian ginseng or rhodiola herbal supplement.

These are 'adaptogenic' herbs that may help us to be more resistant to the effects of stress, as well as support our energy levels.

• EAT SKIN-HEALTHY FOODS

This is often the time when the first wrinkles start to appear too. Focus on increasing your vegetable and fruit intake for their anti-ageing antioxidants.

This may be a cliché, but getting a "rainbow" of colours of vegetables and fruit can be the best way to get all the antioxidants we need.

Make sure to include orange veg such as sweet potatoes and carrots, and reds and purples such as berries and red cabbage. And go for seven a day rather than just five a day.

IN YOUR 40s

It's often in our 40s when we really start to notice the first signs of ageing. Photo / Getty
It's often in our 40s when we really start to notice the first signs of ageing. Photo / Getty

• RELAX TO THE MAX WITH MAGNESIUM

Our 40s can be a stressful decade, as many of us cope with the demands of a growing family, mortgage and career.

On top of this, it is also the time when hormone levels can start to change, with women heading towards menopause and men, andropause (the male menopause).

Magnesium levels can be depleted when we're stressed so eat plenty of green leafy vegetables to get more magnesium, or consider taking a daily supplement.

Magnesium is vital and can help with muscle relaxation, sleep and hormone regulation.

• ANTIOXIDANT AND ANTI-INFLAMMATORY NUTRIENTS

It's often in our 40s when we really start to notice the first signs of ageing. Joints can start to ache, and more lines and wrinkles appear.

Getting plenty of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients such as those found in colorful vegetables or curcumin from turmeric, could help delay these changes and help with joint and skin-supporting properties.

Try taking a concentrated curcumin supplement such as CurQuMax from Quest Nutra Pharma, which contains black pepper to aid absorption.

• LEND YOUR LIVER SUPPORT

Do you find that the effects of drinking alcohol last longer in your 40s than they did in your 20s?

This could indicate that your liver needs more support. Eating dark green vegetables, onions and garlic, and "cruciferous" vegetables such as broccoli, kale and cabbage can all help your liver.

IN YOUR 50s

This can be the decade when our eyesight noticeably deteriorates. Photo / Getty
This can be the decade when our eyesight noticeably deteriorates. Photo / Getty

• BE HEART-HEALTHY

We need to be particularly conscious about keeping our heart healthy from our 50s onwards, as this is the time when problems often start to show up - in both men and women.

Taking regular exercise, watching the salt content in our diet, and eating plenty of vegetables and fruits for their fiber content and antioxidants is important.

• IT'S ALL IN THE EYES

This can also be the decade when our eyesight noticeably deteriorates. To help prevent this, eat plenty of foods rich in lutein - a yellow pigment that concentrates in the macula of our eyes and may help protect our eyesight.

Good examples are spinach, kale and broccoli, yellow vegetables such as yellow peppers and squash, and good-quality eggs, which also contain lutein in the yolk.

A lutein supplement such as Nature's Plus Ultra Lutein could be a good choice if you're looking for extra support for your eyes.

• RAMP UP YOUR SKIN SUPPORT

By our 50s, the effects of ageing can really start to show in our skin.

This is another reason to ramp up your intake of orange, yellow and green vegetables, which provide carotenoids that may be particularly protective against the effects of ageing and skin damage.

Taking a collagen supplement or a skin support anti-ageing supplement could help too.

IN YOUR 60s

Older people are more prone to deficiency in vitamin B12. Photo / Getty
Older people are more prone to deficiency in vitamin B12. Photo / Getty

• BOOST YOUR BONE HEALTH

Bone strength in both women and men can deteriorate by our 60s. Calcium and vitamin D are especially important for bone strength.

As well as getting calcium from dairy foods, green vegetables, nuts and seeds, take a bone support supplement such as Once A Day Osteo from Quest Nutra Pharma, which combines calcium with vitamin D.

It can also be beneficial to incorporate regular weight-bearing or impact exercises such as weight training, dancing, jogging or tennis into your routine.

• FLOAT AWAY AGEING WITH FISH

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which can be found in seafood, have a variety of important roles in the body, such as maintaining healthy eye, brain and heart health.

They have also been found to play an essential role in the structure and appearance of the skin as they form part of cell membranes in the epidermis (the top layer of skin) and form a matrix around the cells.

This helps maintain the skin's barrier function and prevent water loss, helping to maintain a younger complexion.

• NURSE YOUR NERVES WITH VITAMIN B12

Older people are more prone to deficiency in vitamin B12, which is needed to support nerves, brain function and build red blood cells to transport oxygen around our body.

Deficiency in B12 may also cause a build-up of homocysteine in our body, a substance associated with harmful effects to the heart, brain and bones.

Oily fish and red meats are among the best natural sources of B12.

IN YOUR 70s

It's important to keep active in the later years of your life. Photo / Getty
It's important to keep active in the later years of your life. Photo / Getty

• KEEP MOVING

As we age, we lose muscle strength. This can lead to problems with mobility, as well as increasing our likelihood of falling and causing more damage.

Staying active - walking, dancing, tennis or any other activities you enjoy - can help preserve muscle strength as well as joint mobility.

Keep up your intake of oily fish and your turmeric supplements too, as they can help reduce inflammation and keep your joints flexible.

• SUPPORT YOUR MEMORY

Now is the time we really need to think about protecting our brain and memory. Eating lots of oily fish is a great start, as DHA (one of the omega-3s in fish) is super important for our brain.

Eggs are another great "brain food" as they contain choline - a substance needed for the myelin sheath that surrounds our nerve fibers and enables our brain to transmit nerve impulses efficiently.

Ginkgo biloba can be a good herbal supplement to start taking at this time, as it may help maintain circulation to the brain and support memory.