Nutrition, Dieting and the “New” Middle Age

Have your heard the media talk about how 50 is the “new” 30, and 60 is the new “40”? Sometimes I like to believe that true. At 52, (OK, just about done being 52), I feel like I can run around, eat and drink like I did at 32. But I also had my first child at 32, and I promise you, I am certainly NOT interested in seeing that type of activity at any “new” age.

One of the reasons for this type of hype is that the media is saying what we want to hear. Who wants to hear about being old? I’m still having trouble rolling the words “Middle aged” over my lips. But the reality is-I am 52, I’m not 32. To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, my body is in pretty good shape, for the shape that it’s in. But my nutrient needs are changing, as is my body, and I must be realistic about accepting those changes.

As a nutritionist, I know I have to pay more attention to the types of foods I eat. There are many nutrients found in whole foods, and I will almost always recommend folks eat the whole food rather than take the supplement. This is because most of the time, there are other components in the food that make the body absorb the nutrient of interest more efficiently.

One nutrient in particular I’d like to discuss is calcium. We must make sure we’re getting enough calcium as we…mature. I know, as least for me, my bones won’t stay as strong as they used to without an effort on my part. Since I don’t lift weights (actually, my neck strains when I carry heavy bags of food into the house), to reduce my risk for bone disease I need to make sure I get enough calcium.

Dairy products are probably the best way to get calcium into your system. I recommend low fat dairy, especially if weight is a concern for you. One percent milk is sufficient if you like milk and want to watch your weight. I have heard skim milk referred to as “blue water” once too many times to ever recommend it to anyone. Besides, the difference between skim and 1% is only 18 calories-and for many people; those 18 calories, for some reason, make a big difference in taste.

Also, dairy products contain other substances that help the body absorb calcium more efficiently. Lactose, also known as milk sugar, helps increase the body’s ability to use calcium. For people who are lactose intolerant, low lactose milk is just as good. It simply contains a different form of lactose, and is easier to tolerate.

For many reason, lots of people don’t like, or can’t consume, dairy products. There certainly are other food alternatives for calcium, including enriched soy products, and greens such as kale and chard. Sometimes the calcium in vegetables products isn’t always available to our bodies, because it is tied up with other plant chemicals in the food, and our systems can’t use it.

This is where calcium supplements come in. Remember, the idea of taking these is to SUPPLEMENT your diet, not to REPLACE good eating, OK? However, since calcium is one particularly tricky nutrient for many people, especially women, to consume, supplements may be a good alternative.

There are many different types of supplements on the market. The two major types are: calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. Calcium carbonate tends to be less expensive, but it needs to be consumed WITH meals, and for some folks, it may cause constipation. The calcium chews contain calcium carbonate. Many people like this supplement, but you must only take one at a time. First of all, chew contains 500 mg-which is the maximum the body can absorb at one time. Second of all, if you start popping these like candy, you will find yourself in the market for a strong laxative! So be sure to watch how much you take at one time.

Calcium citrate is the other popular calcium supplement. This type of calcium can be consumed anytime of day and it is not constipating. However, it may be more expensive. As with the calcium carbonate, don’t consume more than 500 mg at a time, b/c, again, that’s all your body can handle at one time. Sometimes these tables come in 300 mg doses. If you only are able to take them once/day, then go ahead and take 2, understanding your body won’t be using the entire amount.

Again, if you are able to get all your calcium from foods, great. But as we, shall we say, mature, our bodies change, and many of us can’t handle dairy products like we used to. A good substitute is calcium supplements.

Now, if I could figure out what to take for my, my,,,memory issues, THEN I’d be in great shape!