The Changing Nutritional Needs of Women After 40
by Valerie Spohr, CNP, nutrinimble
As women age, their bodies go through many beautiful changes caused by their hormones. From becoming mothers and raising families to pursuing successful careers and becoming role models, women embrace their femininity and power in countless ways. However, as women enter their 40s, they also slowly enter the premenopausal phase of their lives, which changes their nutritional needs and increases the risk of osteoporosis.
As a holistic nutritionist, I believe that prioritizing strong bones and overall health is crucial for women over 40. While calcium is an essential nutrient, there is a common misconception that dairy is the best source of calcium. Consuming excessive amounts of dairy may actually lead to bone loss instead of preventing it.
Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt are often praised as excellent sources of calcium. However, some evidence suggests that consuming high amounts of animal protein, including from dairy products, can increase the body's acidity. When our bodies become too acidic, calcium is released from our bones to neutralize the acid, leading to bone loss.
Nevertheless, studies have shown that countries with the highest dairy consumption also have the highest rates of osteoporosis, and excessive dairy consumption may increase the risk of fractures in women over 40. One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that high dairy intake was associated with an increased risk of hip fractures in postmenopausal women. Another study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that a higher intake of animal protein was associated with lower bone density and an increased risk of fractures.
Furthermore, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has pointed out that calcium absorption from plant-based sources is generally superior to that from dairy. This is because plant-based sources are generally lower in acid-forming protein and higher in nutrients like magnesium, which is essential for calcium absorption.
As women enter this new phase of their lives, it's important to focus on consuming calcium-rich foods that are healthier and more bioavailable. Here are some calcium-rich foods that every woman over 40 should include more often:
Leafy greens: Kale, collard greens, arugula, bok choy, spinach, turnip greens, mustard greens, and watercress are all excellent sources of calcium.
Tofu: Tofu made with calcium sulfate is an excellent source of calcium, with some varieties providing up to 400 mg per serving.
Fortified plant milks: Many non-dairy milks like soy milk, almond milk, oat milk, and rice milk are fortified with calcium, offering up to 300-500 mg per cup.
Nuts and seeds: Almonds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds are all great sources of calcium. A quarter cup of almonds contains about 100 mg of calcium, while two tablespoons of sesame seeds provide around 200 mg.
Beans and lentils: Many types of beans and lentils are high in calcium, including white beans, navy beans, chickpeas, and black beans. Half a cup of cooked white beans provides approximately 80 mg of calcium.
Figs: Dried figs are a good source of calcium, with six dried figs providing about 100 mg of calcium.
Broccoli: Broccoli is a good source of calcium, with one cup of cooked broccoli containing around 60 mg of calcium.
Seaweed: Nori, wakame, and kelp are all good sources of calcium, with one tablespoon of kelp powder containing around 60 mg of calcium.
Oranges: While not as high in calcium as some other foods on this list, oranges are still a good source.
As women go through the various stages of their lives and embrace their femininity and power, prioritizing their health and well-being is crucial. While dairy is often promoted as an excellent source of calcium, it may not be the best option for women over 40, as excessive consumption can lead to bone loss. There are healthier and more effective sources of calcium available that can help maintain strong bones and overall health.
Furthermore, maintaining a balanced nutrient intake and healthy lifestyle habits such as regular exercise and adequate sunlight exposure are crucial not only for preventing osteoporosis but also for overall health and well-being. By doing so, women can fully enjoy all the exciting experiences that life has to offer.
Calcium Power Bowl Recipe
2 cups of greens ( I used a mix of baby kale and arugula)
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup red quinoa, cooked
1 block of tofu, cubed
1 avocado, sliced
1/2 cup toasted almonds
1 cucumber, sliced
4-5 radishes, sliced
½ tsp garlic powder
1 tsp herbs de Provence
1 tbsp cornstarch
Salt and pepper
For the dressing:
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
Salt and pepper, to taste
Water, as needed to thin the dressing
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
Toss the chickpeas with a drizzle of olive oil, garlic powder, herbs de Provence, salt, and pepper. Spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes until crispy.
Meanwhile, prepare the tofu by tossing it in a little bit of cornstarch, salt, and pepper. Heat up a pan over medium heat, add a drizzle of olive oil, and cook the tofu until crispy on all sides. To assemble the bowl, divide the greens among 2 bowls. Top each bowl with roasted chickpeas, crunchy tofu, avocado slices, toasted almonds, cucumber slices, radish slices, and cooked quinoa.
In a small bowl, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, minced garlic, nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper. Add water as needed to thin the dressing.
Drizzle the dressing over the bowls and serve.
Feskanich, D., Willett, W. C., Stampfer, M. J., & Colditz, G. A. (1997). Milk, dietary calcium, and bone fractures in women: a 12-year prospective study. The American Journal of Public Health, 87(6), 992–997. https://doi.org/10.2105/ajph.87.6.992
Sellmeyer, D. E., Stone, K. L., Sebastian, A., Cummings, S. R., & Study of Osteoporotic Fractures Research Group. (2001). A high ratio of dietary animal to vegetable protein increases the rate of bone loss and the risk of fracture in postmenopausal women. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 73(1), 118–122. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/73.1.118
Weaver, C. M., Proulx, W. R., & Heaney, R. (1999). Choices for achieving adequate dietary calcium with a vegetarian diet. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 70(3 Suppl), 543S–548S.