By the time you’re “thirty and flirty,” your bones are at their prime, you have peak bone mass and your joints feel healthy. Then life happens.
Your career starts to really pick up, your family grows in size, you suddenly have toddlers to quieten or teenagers to counsel, and you have aged parents to take care of. In the midst of it all, your bones and joints start to succumb to the friction and pressure, they were, up until now, coping with beautifully.
Don’t panic. The body ages; it will happen. What is in your control is the support you give it as it transitions. For your skeletal system, yes, your lifestyle during your growing years matters, but what you do once you cross thirty also matters. And this is irrespective of whether or not you were active as a teenager.
Let’s Not Dally, Here’s the Plan of Action
Now we’re not going to give you an exhaustive list of every single thing in the world that helps your bones and joints. Instead, we’ll give you just five pointers that are at the crux of it all.
1. Ensure One Meal Loves Your Bones and Joints
Make sure at least one meal in the day has both calcium- and vitamin D-rich ingredients.
For some background, bones are made of this very flexible, spongy material called collagen that is toughened by a mineral called calcium phosphate. Hence, calcium. Without vitamin D, your bones wouldn’t be able to absorb calcium very well. Besides, it also strengthens your muscles.
So, Which Ingredients?
You would have heard or read that fatty fish, dark leafy greens, beans, nuts, seeds, and milk are the go-to calcium-rich foods and tuna, salmon, cereals, beef liver, cheese, and eggs are great for vitamin D. All true. But remember how we keep telling you that your innate metabolic personality (prakruti) really, really matters? It does here, too.
So, you need to filter these foods to pick ones that balance your predominant functional energy/energies.
For instance, the slow and steady personality shouldn’t be having too much oil because they already produce lots of it. There should be less fatty fish in their diet. The light and quick, on the other hand, need more oil for their dryness and so more fatty fish. Also, eggs in any form are aggravating for the intense. See what we mean?
Here are lists to get you started:
- Light and Quick: Salmon, sardines, tofu, fresh figs, almonds, pistachios, chia seeds, sesame seeds, parmesan cheese, yogurt, spinach, sweet potato, watercress, orange juice, oatmeal
- Slow and Steady: Tofu, white beans, spinach, kale, pumpkin seeds, okra, black beans, watercress, Brussels sprouts, mustard sprouts, rhubarb, oat bran
- Intense: Tofu, cottage cheese, white beans, kale, mung beans, celery, cilantro, prunes, oatmeal/oat bran
Vitamin D-rich Foods
- Light and Quick: Salmon, tuna, oyster, shrimp, eggs
- Slow and Steady: Eggs, shrimp, mushrooms (white, stir-fried; shiitake, stir-fried; portabella, grilled)
- Intense: Shrimp, mushrooms (white, stir-fried; shiitake, stir-fried; portabella, grilled)
Break the lists down. Pick foods you already like and think which ones could easily be added to your diet. Consider things like availability, your go-to recipes, and possible toppings.
2. Step Outside In the Morning
Your skin can make its own vitamin D when you step out in the sun. In fact, that’s your easiest source of the vitamin.
All you need to do is spend some time in the morning sun (when it’s not blazing). Don’t time yourself, stay as long as you feel comfortable because here too your unique metabolic personality will play a role. Intense individuals tend to get overheated and sunburned much quicker so they need to go as early in the morning as possible and not overstay.
3. Spend More Time on Your Feet
And we don’t mean just standing up or walking. Your fitness mantra should be: strength, flexibility, and balance.
This mix is important because what’s good for your bones may not be good for your joints. For instance, weight training is all about strength but heavy weights take their toll on your knees and elbows. So, variate and moderate.
A combination of weight training, gentle yoga, and/or Tai Chi would make a good routine. Even swimming and dancing! As you grow older, especially as you cross 50, you’ll need to change things up keeping in mind your new limitations. Flexibility and balance become even more important to avoid falls. Do as much as you feel comfortable doing, never pushing yourself too hard but always trying to stay at a healthy weight.
4. Limit Meals On the Go
They are usually loaded with sodium and carbs and they stinge on vegetables! Sodium decreases your calcium levels and carbs lead to weight gain, both of which you do not want. You should anyway be giving yourself time to sit and eat.
Now feels like a good time to say: stop eating thoughtless meals. Nutrition doesn’t just happen, especially not if you’re in the habit of takeaways and microwave-and-eat foods. Put some thought into what you put into your body and trust only restaurants and food brands that understand that responsibility.
5. Give Up the Bad Habits
Never a crowd-pleaser, but we want you to be your healthiest self and will say it anyway. Quit smoking and reduce your caffeine (sodas and coffee) and alcohol intake. All of them mess with your bone health. And with so much stress piling up during the midlife years, you’ll need to find the strength to fight these urges even more.
Your friends and family can be your encouragement and support, but for most people, it helps to talk to others facing the same problems and addictions. There are so many success stories to be inspired from!
Should You Start Noticing A Slight Imbalance
According to Ayurveda, the density of bone tissue and the “light and quick” vata energy are inversely proportional. When one increases, the other decreases.
So, when your bones and joints start showing signs of wearing out, like your back creaking when you bend to pick something up from the floor or your ankles hurting after a longish walk, it’s a vata imbalance. You deal with it by pacifying vata.
Some ways you can do that is by eating more earthy foods (like sweet potatoes, beets, avocados), creating a sense of routine, keeping warm even on windy days, doing a self-massage with sesame oil, reducing screen time, and trying to reconnect with nature. You don’t have to try everything. Go with those that make you feel grounded.