Do you ever have those moments of realizing something that shakes your world, makes you sit back and say “well, fuck.”
This summer I’ll be turning 25 which in all honesty is still a very young age. My ovaries aren’t about to cough up their last egg. My hair isn’t near turning grey though to be honest I’ll never know when it does thanks to an amazing hair stylist. I may already have a few wrinkles from frowning too much but they aren’t age related…yet. Aside from an old ankle injury and a bundle of tight nerves I am in pretty good physical health.
But 25 is ¼ of 100; even if I live to be 100, I will have lived a quarter of my life already. That’s a bigger chunk of the pie chart than pac-man’s mouth. PacMan has eaten 25% of my life. Well, fuck. Plus 25, well that’s when things really official start to slow down. The metabolism of your youth is not going to be nearly as reliable when you eat that second donut. Bones aren’t storing any additional calcium you get into your diet. Your body in general is going to start losing that springy bounce-back-ability from nights of partying. In short: it’s time to grow up kid and start thinking about making sure that you are able to enjoy the next 50 years in good health.
As a woman one of the things I need to worry about especially is the calcium issue. A lot of us get the “Got Milk” message in our youth and there’s a lot of emphasis placed around getting calcium for growing bones. Did you know that’s not JUST about the initial growth phase though? True you need to make sure you have this vital nutrient to get big and strong but it’s actually also about making sure you get an influx of calcium to store in those bones—to last you the rest of your life. Around your mid-twenties your body stops storing calcium in your bones. Around your 30’s you start to lose bone density—you start losing calcium. It’s caused by a lack of exercise (which reinforces and strengthens not only muscle but bone) and it is exacerbated by a lack of sufficient calcium absorption in your diet.
Oh and do you know what else studies are revealing causes a breakdown of bone density? Soft drinks. Soda. The December 2008 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that long term soft drink consumption had a strong correlation with bone loss. Mom thank you so much for keeping us from drinking coca-cola growing up. I owe you.
The reason your body starts to lose calcium is because your heart needs calcium to work. Calcium plays a pivotal role in some cellular functions and I will try not to bore you to tears with the details. Basically in order to move certain chemicals in/out of your cells your body needs calcium to open a drawbridge of sorts. If your body isn’t absorbing enough from your diet, which it gets worse and worse at doing as you age, it starts to seek elsewhere for this resource. Guess where? That’s right. Your bones. t, that big scary word that we always see old ladies talking about on TV is essentially the result of your body mining your bones for precious calcium and leaving them porous and weakened. Women have it especially bad because the hormonal hell that is menopause also contributes to bone loss.
Thankfully there are a few things that really can help fight this off. Regular exercise will keep your bones strong and encourage calcium uptake from your diet. Running, hiking, weight lifting and anything that involves surface impact will help. Unfortunately from what I’ve read activities that are better for the joints (i.e. swimming) are less helpful in this regard. So try to vary your physical activity but ultimately any workout is better than none. There are also foods you can eat to help you retain bone density. Fermented foods and Fennel are especially good for you. Of course getting calcium into your body isn’t about just eating calcium. Our bodies usually require a delicate balance of various macro and micronutrients to successfully integrate the benefits from each. Calcium is much better utilized for example, when your meal is also high in potassium, magnesium and vitamins D&K. This is why it is still so, so much better to get nutrition from your food rather than a pill. Nature has designed her vegetables and fruits with our bodies partly in mind.
So here is one of my favorite slaws to eat with a meal. It’s got a ton of fiber and heart helping vegetables, in addition to being low calorie and full of healthy fats, and it tastes amazing.
Celery Root, Fennel Apple Salad
Adapted from a recipe published in Bon Apetit Feb2010 Read more