Maybe you just joined the 30-something club, or maybe you've been a card carrying member for several years now. Either way, if you are a woman who has entered into this eventful decade, chances are you have given some thought to the things that are now different, both in your life and your body.
You've probably discovered that drinking until 1am on a weeknight is no longer what you want to be doing. This discovery may have coincided with the realization that there are, in fact, hangovers that no bacon, egg, and cheese can cure. And you may suddenly be more conscious of reasons to be on top of your game, physically and mentally: you may be trying to accelerate your career, launch your own business, or start a family.
A great way to repair any damage done to your body in your 20s, take care of yourself in the present, and prepare your body for the years ahead is through the foods you eat.
Here are six foods to keep your body in peak condition as you and it get through this next decade together:
1. Cold-Water Fish
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So you get an ache in your joints after an intense workout every now and then; arthritis is the least of your current concerns, right? Wrong. Now is actually the time to be proactive in preventing the onset of arthritis later by upping your intake of cold-water fish.
Every time you eat a six-ounce serving of cold-water fish — including salmon, mackerel, trout, halibut, or white tuna — you get up to 1,000 milligrams of DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids. And the oil in that fish is going to help to slow down cartilage degeneration and reduce the factors that cause inflammation.
2. Fortified Cereals
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Fortified vitamin-packed cereals are an easy way to get up to 100 percent of your folic acid requirements out of the way in just one bowl every morning, while getting a filling breakfast. This move is also going to do you a lot of favors if you decide that a pregnancy is in the cards for you right now, as folic acid — a B-vitamin — is necessary for the proper cell growth and development of an embryo. When taken one month before conception and throughout your first trimester, folic acid has been proven to reduce the risk of a Neural Tube Defect (NTD)-affected pregnancy by more than 70 percent.
Because most American women don't get the recommended 400 micrograms of folic acid per day during their childbearing years, getting it all in one meal at the beginning of the day is going to make you feel like you just checked a giant task off your to-do list.
3. Hard Cheeses
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You never thought it would happen to you, but sadly it did. Your metabolism slowed down. You can no longer eat a double bacon cheeseburger for dinner without making it harder to zip up your jeans the next morning or down an entire pint of Ben & Jerry's without still feeling it in your stomach hours later.
It's not your fault. Starting around age 25, the average person’s metabolism declines between 5 percent and 10 percent per decade.
But do not grieve; there is hope. Consuming low-sugar, high-protein snacks will keep your metabolism going throughout the day and fill you up enough that you are less likely to binge in the first place.
The best food for this job is a slice of hard cheese — like Swiss, cheddar, or provolone — once a day. Cheeses like these have up to 11 grams of protein per 1.5 ounce serving and almost no sugar, keeping your overall blood sugar down.
4. Dark Leafy Greens
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The kale trend couldn't have come at a better time for 30-somethings, as this dark leafy green supplies your body with a significant amount of vitamin K, which protects bones from osteoporosis and helps to prevent against inflammatory diseases.
And because kale is packed with antioxidants, it may be one of the best cancer-preventing foods. Studies have shown that eating 2 to 3 servings of green leafy vegetables per week may lower the risk of stomach, breast and skin cancer.
The phytochemicals and antioxidants in kale have also been shown to decrease the risk of several cancers, as well as heart disease which is the number one killer of women in America and is in fact "more deadly than all forms of cancer."
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If there is one thing you wish didn't come with your 30's membership card, it might be the introduction of those fine lines on your face. Sure, they are imperceptible to everyone but you, but if they bother you, there is something you can do that doesn't require injecting anything scary into your forehead: eat more beans.
Come again? Yes, eat more beans. They are rich in antioxidants that can help the body deal with free radicals, the skin-damaging molecules caused by the sunlight and pollution your body has been exposed to over the past few decades. But cooking fresh beans several times a week doesn't fit your schedule, you say. That, friends, is why hummus just became your new best friend. Eat the delicious chickpea-based dip on a sandwich as a spread for lunch or dip carrots, celery, asparagus, or a few pita chips in it at snack time. Bet you can feel the antioxidants at work already.
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Almost all nuts have significant nutritional content, but peanuts, hazelnuts, and walnuts in particular are the ones 30-somethings should be eating on a regular basis. These nuts are packed with vitamin E, an antioxidant that boosts that immune system of yours and helps keep it from getting thrown out of whack by the new demands in your life. Now more than ever, your body can't afford to get run down.
These nuts are also loaded with B vitamins, which prepare you for the toll stress can take on your body, like increasing your blood pressure and throwing off your hormones.
Grab a handful of these guys each day to see the most benefits.
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