Eating healthy throughout our whole lives is important, and your 20s is a time where you're really starting to develop habits that can have an impact on your health when you're older. That being said, it's important to eat the right foods in your 20s, so you not only stay healthy now, but reap the benefits later. It's tempting to want to stick to eating ramen or relying on frozen dinners and pizza 24/7, but now is the time you really need to start thinking a little more about nutrition.
"Diet is so important in your 20s because your diet can play a significant role in your overall health," says Adina Franklin, MS, RD, LDN over email. "In your 20s you are still shaping your health and the development of risk factors for chronic diseases. Having a well balanced and varied diet can also help mitigate inflammation, which is a process involved in nearly every chronic disease in some way. Including anti-inflammatory foods in your diet while you're still in your 20s is not only a great way to get ahead of inflammatory processes early on, but also get in the habit of including smart foods in your diet so that as you age."
If you're looking to give your diet a boost to protect your health now and later on, try incorporating these 11 foods into your diet while you're in your 20s.
"Spinach is one of the world's healthiest foods," says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN over email. "It's often thought of as a good source of calcium and iron, but spinach also boasts high amounts of Vitamins A, K and manganese, all important for bone health. It's important to make sure your bone health is up to par, as most people reach peak bone mass between ages 25 and 30."
"Salmon is rich in protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fats which can help build and preserve precious muscle as well as reduce inflammation, something to pay attention to earlier rather than later," says Harris-Pincus.
"Especially if you're on a budget, which many people in their 20s may be trying to stick to, beans give you a lot of nutrition bang for your buck," says Franklin. "They're high in fiber, iron, and potassium, and beans are a much cheaper way to get these nutrients than certain animal proteins or vegetables." Franklin recommends using dried beans to avoid BPA in cans and other preservatives.
Whether its walnuts, almonds, pistachios, or cashews, nuts are a good snack to incorporate into your diet. "Nuts are packed with nutrition, including healthy fats and vitamin E," says Harris-Pincus. "Research has shown those consuming a handful of mixed nuts a day lowered their risk of dying from heart disease and cancer."
Despite their bad rap, eggs are actually a great option to include in your diet. "Eggs are actually another really nutrient dense food that includes protein, B vitamins and even omega-3 fatty acids if you buy eggs from chickens fed flaxseed," says Franklin. "You want to make sure to eat the yolks which many people do not realize. The yolk contains all of those healthy fats and vitamins, and actually has just as much protein as the whites."
6. Sweet Potatoes
Not only are sweet potatoes high in fiber, but they are rich in an antioxidant called beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and other important nutrients, according to Authority Nutrition. The root vegetable is also important for help fighting off cancer.
7. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt has been trendy in recent years, and for good reason. The food is packed with protein and loaded with vitamins and minerals, according to Healthline. Additionally, Greek yogurt is a probiotic-food and can help boost your immune system as well as reduce digestive problems.
Ditch the white rice and pasta and opt for a bowl of quinoa instead. The health food, which is actually a seed, is one of the few plant foods that contains all nine essential amino acids, according to Authority Nutrition. It is also high in antioxidants and can help improve your metabolic health.
"Berries are rich in anti-inflammatory phytochemicals called flavonoids," says Franklin. "These flavonoids fight inflammation in the body and are known to prevent damage to our cells. As we age, we want to try to mitigate cell damage as much as possible."
Here's an excuse to eat avocado toast for breakfast daily: "Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fats and chock-full of potassium and B-vitamins," says Franklin. Although the low-fat diet craze ran its course, we know that it's critical for health to include an adequate amount of fat in our diets and avocados are a great way to include that fat."
It's time to spruce up your salads with some hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, or even pumpkin seeds. Seeds are high in healthy fats and fiber, and many of them contain omega-3 fatty acids as well, according to SFGate.
Most importantly, it's best to eat a balanced diet that includes whole, unprocessed foods, but these foods in particular are loaded with the nutrition you need as a young adult.
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