Your 20s are a time of self-discovery, freedom, and a period in which anything and everything seems possible. But they are also the decade in which you will make some your first life-changing decisions. Believe it or not, one of those big decisions is how you feed your body.
Now, before we get into the scariness that is everything you are currently doing wrong nutrition-wise, keep this in mind: Many women only find out later in life how they could have been eating better in their 20s. They wish someone had told them back then what the effects of their decisions would be on their bodies 15 years down the road.
So while you can’t turn back the clock, you can start making better choices now and have fewer regrets later. After all, “the more you know,” right?
1. You Think You're Too Cool For Metamucil
According to the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, women ages 50 and under (that means you) need 25 grams of fiber a day. If you didn't know that, it's not your fault: Fiber supplement marketing mainly targets an older demographic. But you do actually need fiber now, mainly to help prevent major illnesses later in life.
Fiber is kind of a multitasking supplement. It lowers cholesterol levels and helps to normalize blood glucose and insulin levels, which is important in preventing heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It's known for "keeping things moving," and in doing so, it lowers your risk of colorectal cancer. Fiber has another benefit specifically for women: Research suggests that it may help protect against breast cancer.
Because fiber is found in several foods, including raw fruits and vegetables, high-fiber cereals, and complex carbs like brown rice and whole-grain bread, you don't actually have to take Metamucil. But it does now come in a convenient pill form. So think about it, OK?
2. You Have No Idea How Much You Need Iron
You know that friend you met for the first time in middle school who has come back to visit you every single month since? Since she started coming to town, she has been taking some of your body's iron with her when she leaves.
Menstruating women need at least 18 mg of iron everyday (over twice as much as men their age) because they lose around 1 mg for every day of their period each month. And because not a lot of young women know this, iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in women. The biggest effect of an iron deficiency is the development of anemia, which you don’t want because it makes you tired and breathless.
Don't waste your time being mad that your male counterparts don’t have to worry about this (although it is entirely unfair). Enjoy eating more good sources of iron, including red meat, chicken, fish, fortified cereals, legumes and nuts, and leafy greens.
3. You're Not Preparing For That Maybe-Someday Baby
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4. You're Ignoring Your Last Chance to Save Your Skeleton
5. You're Eating The Wrong Kind of Microwaveable Meals
6. Your Attention to Skin Health Has Had A Negative Side Effect
But don’t you dare put down that bottle of sunscreen! You can get Vitamin D in other ways. It's found in low-fat dairy products, eggs, oysters, salmon, tuna, and of course, vitamin D supplements. Women up to age 50 need at least 600 IU's of vitamin D per day.
7. You're Too Focused On Calorie Counting
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8. You Think Taking Care of Your Ticker Can Wait
9. You Were Trying to Speed Up Your Metabolism And Instead You're Killing It
When you don’t eat as many calories as you burn, you lose weight. But when you do that to an extreme, you mess with your body’s natural metabolic rate.
There are two reasons for this. First, some of the weight you lose when you shed pounds is muscle, which naturally helps to burn calories. Second, your body has a weight that it wants to be at, "comfortable weight." It may be the weight you are currently at or the weight you were provided with thanks to genetics. When you start to try to lower that weight, your body tries to keep you from "starving" by slowing down your metabolism so it can hang on to calories.
If you want to lose weight in a healthy way without destroying your metabolism, accept that it will take time for your body to adjust and recognize that it is still getting enough calories, just not as many as before.
If you've cut back your intake and are going crazy at the gym and still seeing no change on the scale, it is probably because you are hurting your metabolism and your body. Better to go slowly and remind yourself that your body is just looking out for you. If you take in fewer calories than you burn, safely, your body will adjust over time. It's not stupid, just cautious.
10. You're Way Too Free: Sugar-Free, Carb-Free, Fat-Free, Gluten-Free
There has been a spike in the “health food” market in the past few decades, with U.S. sales of organic food and beverages growing from $1 billion in 1990 to $24.8 billion in 2009. This is due in part to the fact that many consumers have become more health conscious in the last decade.
Unfortunately, this has resulted in a lot of products that aren't so good for you being sold as though they are. Pay attention to labels and know what they mean. An "organic" product has to meet certain regulations to earn that official government stamp, while the term "all-natural" is not regulated at all. Also know that while it's possible to purchase all-natural, gluten-free chocolate chip cookies and sugar-free pudding, junk food is junk food no matter whether it is organic, sugar-free, fat-free, or gluten-free. And even though these foods are valid options for people with specific dietary restrictions or needs (diabetes, gluten intolerance, etc.) and they are likely to save you a few calories too, they have little to no nutritional content.
So in general it is best to avoid processed, packaged foods. But you knew that one already, right? Of course you did.