Osteoporosis update

There's a reason parents want their children to drink milk. It's a great source of calcium, which is needed to build strong bones. We actively build bone until our mid-20s, then we start to slowly lose bone mass. One in 2 women and one in 4 men, ages 50 or older, will break a bone due to osteoporosis. In women, the risk of bone loss temporarily speeds up for about 5 years post-menopause.

While it's best to choose calcium-rich foods in our childhood, it's never too late to improve both bone and muscle health.

Here are some tips to fight osteoporosis from Environmental Nutrition newsletter.

--Supplement calcium if needed. Women under age 50 need 1,000 mg of calcium per day and women 50 and older need 1,200 mg. Men age 70 and younger need 1,000 mg per day and men 71 and older need 1,200 mg. Obtaining calcium from food sources is preferred, but supplemental calcium can be safely used to make up shortfalls. Calcium-rich foods include dairy products, canned sardines, salmon with bones, tofu with calcium, tempeh, calcium-fortified soymilk and some dark leafy vegetables.

--Be careful what you eat with your calcium. Spinach and beet greens contain oxalic acid, which makes their calcium unavailable. Cooking greatly reduces oxalic acid and eating a food with oxalic acid does not affect absorption of calcium from other foods you eat during the same meal. One food that will block calcium absorption is wheat bran -- if you eat wheat bran cereal with milk, you will not absorb all of the milk's calcium.

--Eat more produce. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables creates an environment in the body that prevents bone and muscle breakdown. Antioxidants and other nutrients, like potassium, in produce help prevent calcium loss.

--Take some Vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for absorbing calcium and it helps build muscle. We make vitamin D when exposed to the sun, however, most of us protect our skin from the sun. Food sources include fatty fish and fortified foods such as milk. Taking 800 to 1,000 IUs of supplemental vitamin D with food is recommended for osteoporosis prevents.

--Have some protein at each meal or snack. Most of us get enough protein at dinner, but make sure you get adequate protein at breakfast and lunch. Protein is good for building muscle and bone.

--Stay active. Weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, running, strength training, stimulates bone-building activity and builds and maintains muscles.

--Avoid smoking, excessive intake of alcohol, caffeine and sodium, all of which can increase calcium loss.

Q and A 

Q: Is it true that microwave popcorn contains substances that cause cancer? 

A: No, but at least one ingredient, when inhaled regularly, can cause lung damage -- what has been dubbed "popcorn lung." The chemical, diacetyle, is a natural byproduct of fermentation and is found in low levels in foods such as yogurt, wine, beer, butter and cheese. The trouble comes from the synthesized diacetyle added to impart an artificial flavor and smell to popcorn. Diacetyl is also used in some flavored e-cigarettes and is found naturally in tobacco.

Microwave popcorn bags may be lined with other potentially harmful chemicals, notably PFOS. This chemical prevents oil from migrating through the bag and is found not just in microwave popcorn bags but also in some fast-food wrappers, pizza boxes and other food wrappings. The FDA recently banned PFOS in all food packaging. The biggest concern with chemicals such as diacetyl and PFOS is for occupational exposure. There's no reason to panic if you eat microwave popcorn occasionally. Still it's always wise to have good ventilation in your kitchen. To avoid all of this, pop plain kernels with an air popper, on the stovetop or in the microwave. --University of California Berkeley Wellness Letter.

RECIPE

If you're looking for a good weeknight dinner, try this Broiled Flat Iron Steak with Brussel Sprouts and Sweet Potatoes. The steak is broiled over the veggies to add flavor. It's from Cooking Light magazine.

Broiled Flat Iron Steak with Brussel Sprouts and Sweet Potatoes 

6 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

6 ounces sweet potato, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced into half-moons

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 (1 pound) flat iron steak, trimmed

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, divided

1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided

Preheat broiler, with oven rack 6 inches from heat. Place Brussels sprouts and potato on a rimmed baking sheet; toss with 1 tablespoon oil and spread in an even layer. Place a wire rack in pan over vegetables. Rub steak with 1 1/2 teaspoons oil, and place on rack in pan over vegetables. Sprinkle steak with 1 teaspoon thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and half of pepper. Broil 10 minutes. Turn steak over; drizzle with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil, and sprinkle with remaining thyme, salt and pepper. Broil about 5 minutes or until done. Remove steak form pan, and let stand 5 minutes. Cut across the grain into thin slices. Place vegetables in a bowl; pour in pan juices and toss to coat. Serves 4 (serving size: 3 ounces steak and 1 cup vegetables).

Per serving: 289 calories, 26 g protein, 13 g carbohydrate, 15 g fat, 39 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 574 mg sodium.