Life stages

Life stages

As we go through life, we move through different stages of development, each with its own biological, psychological, and social characteristics. At each life stage, our motor skills, social relationships, and cognitive abilities change, along with our nutritional needs and key psychological concerns. The right nutrients offers an overview of the nutrients recommended at each life stage and the right foods helps describe where to find them.

Find out more by selecting a life stage below

Pregnancy | Infancy and childhood | Adolescence | Adulthood | Older age

Pregnancy

The concept of ‘eating for two’ is over simplified, but nutrition during pregnancy is especially important, for the health of both mother and baby. For the mother, good nutrition will reduce the risk of anaemia and ease symptoms of fatigue and morning sickness. For the baby, the food consumed by the mother during this time directly affects the development of the brain and spinal cord.

What we advise…

A healthy, balanced diet, as recommended for all adults, but with emphasis on long chain omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins A, B9 (folic acid), B12, C, and D, iron, iodine and antioxidants to help the baby’s brain develop.

Regularly eating food rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients to prevent maternal inflammation, which can lead to mental health issues and disruption of brain development in children.

Reducing or avoiding foods that are high in sugar and omega-6 and low in omega-3 EPA, to reduce chances of inflammation.

Eating oily fish at least twice a week.

Important note
Oily fish is a good source of many of the recommended nutrients during pregnancy. Many pregnant women worry that by eating fish regularly, the baby will be exposed to too much mercury. However, you would need to eat several kilograms of fish each week for mercury levels to be of concern.

Key nutrients…

DHA and EPA

Impact…helps to develop the baby’s brain, including memory, learning, behaviour, neural repair, vision and emotions.
Low levels of DHA are linked to dyslexia, ADHD, autism, and dementia.
Found in…oily fish, like mackerel, sardines, salmon and tuna.

Vitamins C and K

Impact… lowers the risk of miscarriage from oxidative stress, protects the baby’s brain tissue, and prevents birth defects.
Found in…citrus fruits, potatoes, and dark green leafy vegetables.

Folic acid

Impact…protects the baby against spinal cord defects and brain damage.
Found in…green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, bananas, and beans.

Choline

Impact…heightens mother and baby’s memory and learning.
Found in…eggs, poultry, and dairy.

Other good nutrients

Vitamin B12 and zinc.

Infancy and childhood

The first years of childhood, especially the first two years, set the foundation for thinking, learning and overall brain health. Good nutrition is fundamental to this. What we eat, and the behaviours we learn towards food during childhood, help to determine both our brain and physical health as we get older. This includes our mental health, concentration, hyperactivity, and risk of developing dementia, as well as our potential for developing diabetes, heart disease and cancer. A lack of the right nutrients might result in poor ability to sleep, issues concentrating, hyperactivity, mood swings and destructive behaviour.

What we advise…

A healthy balanced diet, focused on nutrients and eating patterns that support motor and physical development as well as growth. Sources rich in DHA, EPA, vitamins A,  B12, and D, folic acid, iron, iodine, zinc and choline help to optimise brain development.

Eating regularly gives developing brains a more consistent supply of energy and helps with concentration.

Reducing or cutting out junk food and additives can help to minimise symptons of dyslexia, ADHD and autistic spectrum disorder.

Key nutrients…

DHA and EPA

Impact…helps to improve memory, cognition, information processing, learning, and development of skills such as reading, writing and spelling.
Low levels of DHA are linked to dyslexia, ADHD, and autism.
Found in…oily fish, like mackerel, sardines, salmon and tuna.

Iron

Impact…improves cognition, memory and mood.
Found in…red meat, liver, lentils, chickpeas, green leafy vegetables, breads and cereals.

Zinc

Impact… develops and grows the brain and other organs, and improves immune system function.
Found in…shellfish, legumes, meat, nuts.

Calcium

Impact…regulates electrical signalling in the brain.
Found in…dairy, green leafy vegetables, and tofu.

Other good nutrients

Vitamins A, folic acid, vitamins  B12 and D, iron, iodine, zinc and choline.

Adolescence

During adolescence, we become less naturally impulsive and emotional and more reasoning-based, due to the development of the prefrontal cortex. Considering the significant changes that happen in the brain at this time, adolescents are particularly vulnerable to anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. Nutritional choices have a big influence on the remodelling of the brain and play an important part in preventing these issues.

What we advise…

A healthy, balanced diet, as recommended at every life stage, but with emphasis on DHA, EPA, B vitamins, zinc and iron.

Key nutrients…

DHA and EPA

Impact…helps to improve memory, cognition, information processing, learning, and development of skills such as reading, writing and spelling. Low levels of DHA are linked to dyslexia and ADHD.
Found in…oily fish, like mackerel, sardines, salmon and tuna.

B vitamins

Impact…supports those with depression, learning difficulties, and irritability.
Found in…red meat, eggs, wholegrains, and legumes.

Zinc

Impact…Improves symptoms of ADHD, hyperactivity and impulsivity.
Found in…fish, leafy green vegetables, fruits, nuts seeds, wholegrains.

Iron

Impact…Improves concentration and attention.
Found in…meat, legumes, dark green leafy vegetables.

Adulthood 

Our brains reach their prime in our early 20s. Beyond this age, our brains start to function less effectively, and our speed of thinking is the first thing to slow down. Over time, our memory and reasoning skills will also become slower as brain connectivity reduces.

This is a natural process that happens to everyone, and while we cannot fully prevent it, improved nutrition can help to slow it down. It can also reduce risks for obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

We advise…

A healthy, balanced diet, with an emphasis on fish, fruit and vegetables.

Reducing or avoiding processed food (omega-6) and refined sugars, which reduce concentration.

Key nutrients…

DHA and EPA

Impact…helps to regulate neuro-inflammation, preserve cognitive skills, and delay dementias.
Found in…oily fish, like mackerel, sardines, salmon and tuna.

Antioxidants

Impact…reduces oxidative stress and cellular damage, preserving brain network connectivity.
Found in…berries, wholegrains, vegetables, legumes.

Polyphenols

Impact…improve cognitive performance, reduce age-related neuronal decline, protect the heart and the nervous system, and are anti-cancer.
Found in…almost all fruit and vegetables.

Older age

As we age, most of us will suffer a natural cognitive decline. This decline varies on a spectrum, starting with just mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Unfortunately for some of us, this can lead to neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. As Western populations age the incidence of these disorders is increasing exponentially. Whilst the main risk factors are age and the genes you inherit, they are also greatly influenced by your diet and other lifestyle choices. Hence it is important to understand what we can do nutritionally at this stage of life to delay cognitive decline and potentially prevent the progression of neurodegenerative disease. 

What we advise…

In a similar fashion to the adult life stage particular nutrients have been documented to delay the cognitive decline accompanying ageing. It is even more important to upregulate these nutrients as the brain continues to shrink and our likelihood of neurodegenerative disease increases.  

Key nutrients

DHA and EPA

Impact…prevents cognitive decline, acting against inflammation, delaying dementia, and assisting neuronal regeneration.
Found in…oily fish, like mackerel, sardines, salmon and tuna.

B vitamins

Impact…helps to maintenance cognitive health, regulate how energy is used in the brain, produce neurotransmitters, and reduce incidence of depression.
Found in…red meat, eggs, wholegrains, and legumes.

Antioxidants

Impact…reduces oxidative stress and cellular damage, preserving brain network connectivity.
Found in…berries, wholegrains, vegetables, legumes.

Protein

Impact…produces dopamine and serotonin, reduces risk of dementia, and improves verbal memory
Found in…meat and legumes

Polyphenols

Impact…improve cognitive performance, reduce age-related neuronal decline, protect the heart and the nervous system, and are anti-cancer.
Found in…almost all fruit and vegetables.