During menopause you need to think about food for your menopausal bones.
Bones aren’t static, they have cells that make bone and cells that dissolve bone. When we are young we make more bone than we lose but around the menopause years bone loss speeds up due to decreasing levels of estrogen. Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones characterized by brittle and fragile bones. If you suffer from osteoporosis you are more likely to suffer a fracture if you fall. Even a small fall may cause a fracture in someone with osteoporosis which may not have in someone not suffering from osteoporosis. Another possible symptom of osteoporosis is loss of height and a bent-forward posture, which is caused by small fractures in the vertebrae of your spine affecting your posture.
We cannot modify some of the risk factors that cause osteoporosis, like sex, age, race, family history, and body frame size. But there are other risk factors that we can modify to decrease our risk of getting osteoporosis, like sedentary lifestyle, excessive alcohol consumption, tobacco use, and low calcium intake.
Calcium is important to maintain healthy bones. The heart, muscles, and nerves also use calcium. According to Dieticians of Canada “women between 51-70 years of age should aim for an intake of 1000 milligrams (mg)/day and stay below 2000 mg/day. This includes calcium from food and supplements”.
Good sources of calcium include
- Milk, cheese, yogurt, kefir – choose low fat
- Vegetables – dark green leafy
- Fish – with bones
- Nuts – almonds
Fortified soy beverages and calcium-fortified orange juice and cereals are sources of calcium but keep in mind the calcium in these products is added, so it falls into the calcium supplement category.
Osteoporosis Canada “strongly recommends that everyone obtain their calcium through nutrition whenever possible. Even if you take excess calcium from your diet that is not harmful.… getting more calcium than you need from supplements can be harmful. Excess calcium from supplements has been associated with kidney stones, heart problems, prostate cancer, constipation and digestive problems. Do not take extra calcium from supplements if your diet is already giving you enough calcium”.
According to Osteoporosis Canada:
to know whether or not you need to take a calcium supplement, you really need to figure out how much calcium you are getting in your diet. Here is a very simple way to calculate this.
First, give yourself a baseline of 300 mg of calcium simply for eating anything at all. This is because there is a small amount of calcium in a variety of foods such as breads, muffins, oranges, etc. At the end of the day, even without eating any high calcium foods, you can’t help but get about 300 mg of calcium in your daily diet.
Now, add another 300 mg for any of the following high calcium foods:
- 1 cup (250 ml) of cow’s milk or goat’s milk (including whole milk, 2%, skim or chocolate milk)
- 1 cup (250 ml) of fortified soy, almond or rice beverage
- 1 cup (250 ml) of fortified (or calcium rich) orange juice
- ¾ cup of yogurt (175 ml)
- 2 slices of cheese
- one chunk of cheese (a 3 cm cube)
- salmon, canned with bones (1/2 can or 107 g) or sardines, canned with bones (7 medium or 84 ).
Vitamin D helps your body absorb and use calcium and improves muscular function. Vitamin D is a hormone synthesized in our skin by sunlight. We can also get vitamin D through fortified foods and supplements. Osteoporosis Canada says that “it is impossible for adults to get sufficient vitamin D from diet alone, no matter how good their nutrition. Therefore, Osteoporosis Canada recommends routine vitamin D supplementation for all Canadian adults year round”.Adults over the age of 50 should aim for a daily intake of vitamin D between 800-2000 IU. Taking more than 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily should be done only under medical supervision. Too much vitamin D can cause kidney stones, nausea, constipation and other health problems.
Best Food Sources of vitamin D:
The Osteoporosis Canada website offers a calcium calculator that’s very easy to follow:
Three servings of any of the above will give you about 900 mg of calcium, and if you add the 300 mg of baseline calcium for eating anything at all, this will ensure the 1200 mg of calcium you need if you are over 50. Don’t forget to add in any calcium you might be getting from a multivitamin tablet .
- Eggs yolks
- Fortified soy beverage
Prevention is the best remedy, so think about your bones and eat wisely to prevent osteoporosis.
Teresa Isabel Dias is a pharmacist and Certified Menopause Practitioner (NCMP) who provides education and support on symptom management for women at work and at home so they’ll feel like themselves again and enjoy a vibrant and productive life.
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