What to Eat: In your 20s

We’ve broken down the ideal diet into easy bites, so you get your daily dose of nutrients. Part 1 of a series on What to Eat.


You’re in your terrific 20s and no matter how many all-nighters you pull or how often you go out partying with friends, your body loves you back. Here’s how you can keep that bond going strong.

Key nutrients you need

1. Protein

“Lean proteins are the building blocks of the body so you can make and keep calorie-burning muscle. Protein helps you tone your muscles, and maintaining high metabolic rate,” says Mumbai-based nutritionist and dietitian Karishma Chawla from Eat Rite 24x7. Space out your protein intake through the five to six meals you eat during the day. This will prevent muscle breakdown.
Eat this: Get your quota of muscle fuel by eating “skimmed paneer, egg whites, lean chicken, fish and whey protein powders. Low fat milk, tofu, sprouts and legumes are fortified with protein as well,” says Karishma. For vegetarians and vegans, “pulses like moong, rajma, chole and channa are high on protein, with moong being the leader at 17-25% and is also easily digestible, as opposed to rajma and chole that many find difficult to digest. Algae is also protein-rich, and nuts like walnuts, almonds and pista are rich in mono-saturated fats,” says Mumbai-based clinical nutritionist Kanchan Patwardhan of Kanchan's House of Health & Nutrition.
Ideal intake for a man: 20%
Ideal intake for a woman: 25%

2. Good Fats

“A diet that cuts out fat completely is undesirable, because fat is needed to absorb essential vitamins like A, D, E, K,” says Naini Setalvad, Mumbai-based obesity and lifestyle disease consultant. “Adequate fats are essential for maintaining body functions,” adds Karishma. Bottom line: Our body needs good fats to improve blood cholesterol levels and lower our risk of heart disease. These fats may also benefit insulin levels and controlling blood sugar, which can be especially helpful if you have type 2 diabetes.
Eat this: These good fats—Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and Polyunsaturated Fatty acids (PUFA) are found in cold-pressed coconut, mustard and olive oils; nuts, seeds, and avocado, says Naini. Rice bran and ground nut are sources of good fats too.
Ideal intake for a man: 10%
Ideal intake for a woman: 15%

3. Carbohydrates

Unlike simple carbs (sugar, refined flour) complex carbohydrates from whole grains and fruits, help sustain good energy levels and stamina keeping a 20 something energetic throughout the day. Prachi Sanghavi, nutritionist and co-founder of the diet app MyDIETist App says, “Befriend snacks that are high on complex carbs (like banana and oats) and protein (eggs) to keep the motor humming. Complex carbs are slowly absorbed by our body, but give us energy for a prolonged period of time. In addition, these carbs will help give your muscles the energy they need for your workout.” Since many people in their 20s hit the gym hard, getting the right amount of carbs can help women maintain a healthy weight and lower the risk of certain chronic diseases. A low carb diet can cause fluid dehydration, constipation, weakness and nausea; besides being a great strain on the kidneys.
Eat this: “Oats, quinoa, whole grain flours like jowar, bajra or whole wheat are high on the good complex carbohydrate scale,” says Karishma. Avoid bad carbs, which come from added sugar in candy, sweets and soft drinks
Ideal intake for a man: 65%
Ideal intake for a woman: 50%

4. Vitamins & Minerals

Iron helps metabolise proteins and plays a role in the production of haemoglobin and red blood cells. Due to the amount of blood lost during menstruation, women in their 20s need more than twice the amount of iron that men do. Your muscles and heart need potassium to function properly. Omega-3 fats are beneficial for optimal heart functions, boost the level of serotonin, a feel-good chemical in your brain—good news, since people are particularly susceptible to depression in their 20s. Calcium and manganese serves as building blocks for your bones, while vitamin B12 powers up your circulation. Magnesium increases calcium absorption from the blood into the bone.
Sources: “Calcium sources are milk and other dairy products, green leafy veggies, broccoli, almonds and turnip. Iron sources include kidney beans, sesame seeds, spinach, soya beans, cashews, pumpkin seeds and red meat,” says Karishma. Fruits like apples, bananas, yogurt, strawberries, a garden salad and a side of broccoli provides all the potassium you need. “Salmon and tuna are the best sources of Omega-3 fats, but you can also get your fill from walnuts, ground flaxseed, and canola oil,” adds Karishma. Plan a dietary chart that has a good dose of soya beans, lentils, spinach, sesame seeds, kidney beans, prunes, cashews and pumpkin seeds. Good sources of magnesium include leafy green vegetables, summer squash, broccoli, halibut, cucumber, green beans, celery, and a variety of seeds.
Ideal intake for a man: 5%
Ideal intake for a woman: 10%

** Note: All figures will increase if a woman is pregnant, and further if they are nursing.
Figures will also differ according to your level of physical activity

Images courtesy: Shutterstock
Visuals created by Vartika Pahuja


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