Life after menopause is a whole different story for us ladies, the aches and groans become real. Life literally slows down. The skeletal system is the framework of our body, and for females, the bones are much thinner than their male counterparts. Bones are primarily made of a protein substance called collagen and calcium and other minerals in trace quantity like magnesium, sodium, zinc and phosphorous. The total calcium content for girls is achieved by the time they turn 18, and maximum bone density and strength are achieved by 30-which is known as the peak bone mass.
Post-30 the quantity of calcium starts depreciating rapidly for women and post-menopause it accelerates further, due to the absence of the female hormone estrogen. During pregnancy, a woman needs to nurture the growing fetus, and the demand for calcium is more during this time. Any women under the age of 40 need 1000mg of calcium a day to match the body’s requirement. But for women post-50, the requirement is about 1200mg/day. Vitamin K is essential since it is required by the body to absorb calcium from food into the bones.
Let us learn about some of the important nutrients that are required by women to have healthy bones and lead an active life. Though nutrient supplements are available, it is best to go natural, since there are no side-effects.
Lifestyle adjustments to have healthy bones
· Peace with the veggies
Remember, when your mother used to force you to eat the vegetables, it was for a reason. It is a rich source of vitamin C, which is good for your bone. Vegetables are extremely beneficial for older women like broccoli, cabbage, and nutrient-rich veggies.
· Exercise is your BFF for healthy bones
Strength training and weight-bearing exercise have been found to build and maintain strong and healthy bones, and prevents bone density loss and reduces inflammation in older women.
· Proteins is an essential food group
Protein constitutes about 50% of the bone composition. Low protein intake makes bone brittle. Post-menopausal women need about 86-100 gms of protein every day, and it protects bones from aging and weight loss.
· Calcium intake should be spread throughout the day
The body can absorb only 500mg of calcium at a time, and it is better to get the daily dosage of calcium through food rather than supplements.
· Vitamin D and Vitamin K play an important role
Vitamin D has a significant role to play in having strong bones, as it helps the body to absorb calcium but the deficiency of vitamin D is a common problem.
· Watch those calories
Having a diet of fewer than 1000 calories a day can lead to the loss of bone density in adolescents and older women.
· Maintain proper BMI
Maintaining a healthy weight is extremely important, as being underweight can lead to osteoporosis and osteopenia, especially for postmenopausal women. Losing weight and regaining it frequently, or losing a lot of weight in a short duration is harmful to the bone, as the bone loss during weight loss isn’t regained with an increase in the weight.
· Incorporate magnesium and zinc in your diet
Magnesium and zinc are important minerals in the bone that helps the bone density to peak during young age and maintain the same during old age.
· Omega-3 fats are good fats
The omega-3 fats have anti-inflammatory properties, promote bone growth in adolescents and protection against bone loss in older women.
Ways to incorporate the essential nutrients in your diet
Calcium is not only the primary component for bones, but also for healthy bones, nervous system, muscles, and heart. The bone is a living entity, the cells grow and die, to be replaced by newer cells. In a condition known as osteoporosis, the bones become brittle as the creation of the new bone tissue cannot match up with the loss of the old ones. It can also lead to other problems like anxiety, depression, insomnia, and irritability.
Doctors don’t usually suggest taking supplements. Some of the important food sources are dairy products, cheeses, leafy green vegetable kale, bok choi, spinach, fishes with bone, oatmeal, lentils, tofu, green beans, calcium-fortified juices, and cereals.
Milk is the primary source of calcium, but for those who are lactose intolerant, you can try soy milk and almond milk. These are equally beneficial.
Magnesium is required to absorb, and retain calcium, hence prevent the onset of osteoporosis. Women need an average of 300mg daily and more during pregnancy. You can get your daily dosage of magnesium in nuts like almonds and cashews, seeds-sunflower, flax, pumpkin and sesame., whole grains, seafood, legumes, tofu, mustard green, cucumber, and celery.
3. Vitamin D
It allows the body to absorb the calcium, and spending 10-15 minutes in the sun will allow your skin to generate enough Vitamin D. Fortified milk, cereals, eggs, cheese, fish and shrimp are some of the other good sources.
If you are breastfeeding or pregnant the requirement for vitamin D increases manifold to maintain a strong bone for both mother and child, and diet alone might not be able to meet the requirements. Prenatal vitamins might be prescribed. Speak to your doctor.
Some bad habits to discard
· Too much sodium or salt is detrimental, as it leads to leaching of calcium from the bone, making it weak. Avoid packaged food and processed food which are high on salt content.
· Cut back on the number of cups of coffee and tea that you slug down as you age. Caffeine inhibits the absorption of calcium by the body and makes your body excrete it more rapidly. you should have 1-2 cups of caffeine a day.
· Alcohol makes your body unable to absorb the essential calcium. Limit your alcohol consumption to 4 drinks per week.
· Cola- to balance the phosphate in colas, the body draws from calcium present in the blood.
It doesn’t require much work to eat healthily and stay healthy. Next time you go shopping for groceries, don’t pick the most colorful packet but spend some time reading the nutrition fact label behind. This will help you calculate the amount of nutrients that you are partaking and whether you are meeting your daily requirements. Spare 30 minutes of your day walking, jogging, running or doing aerobics.
Women are like vintage wine, gets better with age, but vintage wine in a broken bottle isn’t nice. So pay a little attention to your diet now, and reap the benefits later.