Menopause, we often think of moodiness, hot flashes, and weight gain, but an often overlooked side effect of menopause is osteoporosis. You may think of osteoporosis as a problem that your grandma or much older family member deals with, but osteoporosis prevention can start as soon as your early 20’s. I know, I know, what 20 year old is worried about osteoporosis or even their bone health?!
Your bones reach their highest strength and thickness in your early 20’s and it stays the same until you start menopause. Which means that you will have the same bone health from your 20’s into your 40’s and 50’s. After you start menopause, you’ll lose 2-3% of your bone health, which means your bones will become weaker. So, if you reach your best bone health by your 20’s, why worry about something you can’t change? Well, you can’t increase the strength or thickness of your bones but you can preserve that strength by a few key diet changes and regular exercise.
Calcium is the most important mineral for bone health because it helps keep your bones strong and rigid. But what is calcium without it’s best friend, vitamin D? Calcium and vitamin D work together to strengthen your bones and minimize the bone loss you’ll experience in menopause. Calcium is in a variety of foods: dairy, like milk and yogurt, vegetables, like broccoli and spinach, beans, and nuts. Although milk and broccoli have similar amounts of calcium, other vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber, keep our body from absorbing it as easily as milk, yogurt, and cheese.
Vitamin D is a tricky vitamin because the best and easiest way to get it is from sunlight, but we can also get it from oily fish, mushrooms, and fortified dairy, cereal, and bread.
Along with calcium and vitamin, protein is essential for bone health. Protein is essential for the structure of bones and help with the absorption of the vitamin and minerals that are needed for bone health. How much protein do you need for bone health? I recommend ¼ of your calories be from protein. Not everyone tracks calories, so making ¼ of your plate protein for breakfast, lunch, and dinner protein, as well as, having protein with every snack can help you reach that target. Protein can come from animal sources, like chicken, beef, fish, and eggs, but it can also be from vegetarian sources, like tofu, beans, and grains, such as quinoa. Milk, which has 8 grams of protein per 1 cup, is also a good source of calcium and vitamin D - hitting all 3 targets for bone health.
But, isn’t dairy bad because it is high in fat?! New research now shows that although milk has saturated fat (often thought of as bad fat) in it, drinking milk does not increase your risk of heart disease or stroke, like other high fat foods do.
If you want to have a one-on-one discussion about how to improve your bone health and ease your side effects of menopause, click here to work with me.