Published on: 11/18/2020
Happy middle aged woman eating fruit while making a smoothie

Whoever coined the phrase, “Aging Gracefully” certainly wasn’t a 50-something-year-old-perimenopausal woman. There is nothing graceful about night sweats, hot flashes, insomnia, cravings, and mood swings. We could write an entire series on this stage of life in The Rebellious RD. We, as I am honored to have my lifelong friend, Lori Klein, LCSW-C, co-author this important series with me. Our shared interests in clean eating, healthy living, and enjoying all things in moderation have put us on this journey together. The journey is different for everyone, but the commonality of “the change” is a shared experience and we need to talk about it.

While we are lucky to be alive…and aging, it sometimes feels like we need to be in a constant state of vigilance. We need to be aware of our changing bodies and then shift our mindset in relation to our physical, emotional, and mental wellness. Since we live in an anti-aging and nutritionally sensationalized world, this internal strife can lead to disordered eating and other health consequences. It is crucial to move away from a diet mentality to a more individualized approach and to focus on meeting the nutritional needs of the body and mind.

The distress associated when weight and body changes occur at the same time that a woman’s identity and life go through major changes is akin to a natural disaster. Along with the discomfort of sweating when sitting still and out-of-the-blue-irritability, this stage of life can also cause a change in body fat distribution leading to more fat in the abdomen or weight gain (an average of 5 pounds), a decrease in estrogen and sarcopenia (loss of lean muscle mass). Having fun yet🙃?

In addition to working, managing a COVID-free house, dealing with the pandemic, and worrying about loved ones (especially older people in our lives), now is the time to focus on YOUR overall health and wellness. While 2020 has left us feeling like we don’t have a lot of control over what happens around us, we do have some control over how we lead our lives in our own homes — what shows to binge, what to cook or pick up from our favorite local restaurants, and who we spend time with (outside and socially distanced, of course). This is a great time to focus on YOU. If you can create healthy and mindful habits now, you will really benefit when life starts to feel more open, normal, and free.

There are plenty of dietary needs that become much more important as we age. Good nutrition and regular exercise are important for heart health and mind, but they are also essential for keeping your bones healthy. Most women think about how much calcium they need when they are pregnant or nursing, but it sometimes gets forgotten afterward.

Genetics play a big role here, but if you do not consume or absorb enough calcium and vitamin D throughout your life, you put yourself at risk for developing osteoporosis. Osteoporosis or “porous bone” is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both. Your bones become less dense and weak, as the healthy spaces in your bones grow much larger. As a result, bones may break from a fall or, in serious cases, from just sneezing or minor bumps. If you have experienced a stress fracture(s) and/or broken bone(s), a bone density test should be at the top of your list. Reach out to your physician to schedule, ASAP.

So how much Calcium should you aim for each day?

50 years old and younger = 1000 mg/day
51 years old and older = 1200 mg/day
70 years old and younger = 1000 mg/day
71 years old and older = 1200 mg/day
Vitamin D is calcium’s BFF, as it is key to calcium absorption.
50 years old and younger = 400–800 IU daily
51 years old and older = 800–1000 IU daily
Keep in mind, that the safe upper limit of vitamin D is 4,000 IU per day for most adults, so do not overdo it. More is not always better!
So how are you going to get all of this calcium and vitamin D goodness? Through delicious and nutritious foods, of course. There are plenty of supplements out there, but the absorption through food and nature is best.
Calcium sources:
 *Fortified soy milk and other plant milks
 *Low-fat dairy products (milks, yogurts)
 *Some dark green leafy vegetables (e.g. broccoli, kale, okra, collard greens, bok choy)
 *Tofu (made with calcium sulfate)
 *Figs
 *Blackstrap molasses
 *Fortified breads/flours
 *Fortified orange juice
 *Sardines or canned salmon with bones
Vitamin D sources:
 *Vitamin D-fortified cow’s milk
 *Fortified soy milk or other plant milks
 *Skin exposure to sunlight (Allow 10 to 15 minutes or so of unprotected sun exposure to your arms, legs, abdomen, and back. Between 10 am — 3 pm is best, but be sure to follow up with sun protection.)

We kept the recipes to two, pushing the importance of the sources listed above, and how to simply include them in every dish.

Getting 1200 mg a day of calcium is a challenge as I don’t eat dairy (from a cow) and I refuse to try sardines or canned salmon with bones😝. I use oat milk — I found that Planet Oat’s oat milk has the most calcium per cup at 350 mg! It may have other additives that aren’t great, but here the good (of the calcium) outweighs the other potentially less helpful ingredients for me. I always use unsweetened as I get plenty of sweetness from the other ingredients. As an added bonus, this sweetener (molasses) also contains magnesium, potassium, and iron! Sometimes, I add cacao nibs and/or chia seeds for texture or taste.

1 cup frozen fruit (mango, strawberries, banana) ~35 mg calcium
1 cup frozen spinach or 2 cups fresh spinach ~80 mg calcium
1 teaspoon blackstrap molasses ~14 mg calcium
2 cups Planet Oat oat milk ~700 mg calcium
1 Tablespoon nut butter (Almond: ~45 mg calcium)
1/2 small avocado, optional

Throw it all in a blender and give it a whirl. Approximately 874 mg of calcium. TIP: If you eat dairy, adding Greek yogurt to this smoothie will make it even more impactful for your beautiful bones!

Kale is that overachieving friend who is just good at e v e r y t h i n g. You know the type :). We discussed (Going Green, 9/6/20) how kale supports your body’s natural ability to produce digestive enzymes, as well as load you up with folate, calcium, antioxidants, vitamin K, and polyphenols. It is clearly one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet🏅. Cook it up with some chickpeas for a plant-based protein, along with additional vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

1 pound kale, washed, stems removed, chopped into bite-size pieces ~608 mg calcium
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 teaspoon coriander
1 15-ounce can no-salt-added chickpeas, rinsed and drained ~ 157 mg calcium
Freshly ground black pepper and salt, to taste

Place cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil, garlic and onion. Sauté until browned, about 5–7 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, coriander, and kale.
As kale begins to wilt, about 4–5 minutes, stir in chickpeas. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 3–4 minutes. Remove from heat. Add black pepper and salt to taste. Place in a serving dish. Makes 4 side-dish servings or 2 lunch/dinner servings. Approximately 765 mg of calcium.

🥬Quick Tips for Cooking Greens

  • A quick braise in a cast iron skillet with just a tablespoon of olive oil and any choice of spices
  • Stir fry in a wok with a touch of sesame oil, salt and pepper
  • Pan steam with no oil in a non-stick skillet and cover; add some spice
  • Sauté in a skillet with olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes
  • Or no cooking – just throw in a blender with your choice of milk, nut butter, yogurt, and natural sweetener

The cost of your good habits is in the present. The cost of your bad habits is in the future. 

~ James Clear


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With a longstanding dedication to healthy cooking and eating, I promote nutrition with a rebellious twist: the belief that perfection is not required for success on your wellness journey. 

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