Welcome to a post by my first—and best—guest blogger, Sharon Palmer, R.D., author of “The Plant-Powered Diet, The Lifelong Eating Plan for Achieving Optimal Health, Beginning Today.” Sharon is just lovely and she really knows food and how it can impact our lives. She’s also a freelance food and nutrition writer.
To learn even more about how eating wisely, her way, can help protect your heart, defend you against breast cancer and fight menopausal symptoms, read her new book. I am!
I’ll let Sharon take it away now, and I think you’ll learn so much from her.
Women are unique—thanks to our complex bodies, composed of a special blend of fat and muscle and regulated by hormonal systems specific to our sex. Though our bodies are masterfully designed to perpetuate the species, we are at risk for gender-related health concerns, many of which have a firm footing in lifestyle choices—in particular what we put on our plates. “The Plant-Powered Diet” explores the latest evidence linking diet to some of women’s top health concerns, including osteoporosis, breast cancer, heart disease, and menopausal symptoms.
Eating to avoid osteoporosis. When you go through menopause, you may experience rapid bone loss as your estrogen production drops, which puts you at risk for bone fractures and loss of strength and function. Two lifestyle factors rank equally high in promoting optimal bone health: fitness and food. “The latest science shows that nutrients like vitamin D and calcium, plus compounds called flavonoids found in green tea, provide bone-building action and support,” says Victoria Shanta Retelny, R.D., L.D.N., dietitian and author of “The Essential Guide to Healthy Healing Foods.” Since vitamin D and calcium work together to strengthen bone, getting plenty of both nutrients (600 International Units of vitamin D for women up to age 70, and 1,000 milligrams of calcium for women age 19 to 50 and 1,200 milligram for those over 50) is essential. Foods rich in vitamin D and calcium include vitamin-D fortified dairy products, such as milk and yogurt, and fortified plant-based milks like soy, rice and nut milks. Cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon, halibut, tuna and/or mackerel, as well as mushrooms that have been exposed to UV light, contain significant amounts of vitamin D. In addition, your body can manufacture vitamin D through exposure of the skin to sunlight. Calcium sources also include green leafy vegetables, tofu, almonds, and soybeans.
New studies indicate antioxidant-rich foods also may protect our bones. “Sipping a few cups of green tea daily may give women a bone-building boost from the flavonoid EGCG, which has been shown to mineralize bone,” says Retelny. “Vitamin C-rich foods like raspberries, strawberries, oranges, pineapples, grapefruit, kiwi, guava, and tomatoes help collagen fibers link together and create a strong connective tissue matrix, as well as help protect bones from free radical damage and increase bone mineral density or bone mass.”
Physical activity is critical in maintaining bone mass. In particular, weight-bearing activities (at least 30 minutes per day), such as walking, jogging, tennis, and dancing; and strengthening activities (twice a week for all major muscle groups) such as pushups and weight lifting, cause your body to work against gravity, thus strengthening bones and muscle and improving balance.
Tips to Beat Osteoporosis
- Eat calcium-rich foods, such as dairy products, soy milk, leafy green vegetables, and almonds.
- Boost vitamin D intake through exposure to the sun (10 – 15 minutes per day) and eating cold-water fish and vitamin-D fortified foods, such as milk, soy milk, and mushrooms.
- Enjoy a variety of antioxidant-rich foods, such as green tea, berries, and tomatoes.
- Include weight-bearing and strengthening activities in your daily routine.