COLUMN: Strong bones, healthy life

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My friend, Joyce, fell recently and broke her ankle. After surgery, she’s couchbound for a while as her ankle can’t bear weight. A similar thing happened to my friend, Marybeth.

We all want healthy bones, and most of us know that healthy bones require adequate calcium. It’s true that dairy foods generally deliver the highest amounts of calcium per serving. But there are other foods to include in your diet as well, like tofu, bok choy, kale, broccoli and calcium-fortified orange juice.

Calcium as we age is just as important as calcium for our kids. It’s true that for most people the bone-building years end somewhere between age 25 and 30. After that peak is reached, bone mass is generally stable until age 50, when a steady decline begins, according to researchers at Tufts University in Boston.

But there’s still plenty we can do to preserve our bones. Keeping active, eating a healthy diet, avoiding smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and limiting alcohol consumption are all ways to slow down bone loss and prevent osteoporosis.

All exercise is good for bone health, especially weight-bearing activity. New research finds that all types of physical activity (swimming, yoga, tai chi, dancing, walking) are beneficial. A study, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, found that a 12-minute regimen of 12 yoga poses designed to target common fracture sites (spine, hip and femur) increased participants’ bone density when practiced daily over a 10-year period.

Should you take a calcium supplement? If you don’t get enough calcium, it’s a good safety net. Be aware that your body can only absorb 500 milligrams at a time, so choose a supplement that stays under that level.

There have been news articles that supplements can cause kidney stones. However, most of the kidney stone data comes from the 2006 Women’s Health Initiative trial where study participants were taking as much as 1,200 milligrams per day from supplements alone, far above the RDA of 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams for most adults.

The bottom line? Work in some exercise, grab a yogurt or roast some broccoli and track your calcium like you track your calories for your bones to be strong when you need them to be.

Q and A

Q: Are there any foods that can help ease headaches?

A: It’s well known that environmental factors such as certain foods, noise, lighting, changes in sleeping patterns, alcohol use and exposure to strong smells or allergens can trigger headaches. Research finds that vitamins and minerals found in some foods may have a positive effect on headaches by preventing, stopping or soothing symptoms. Eating some foods regularly, such as fatty fish (salmon and tuna), leafy greens (broccoli, romaine, spinach) and nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts), may reduce how often you experience headaches. Other foods, including ginger, beans and legumes, plus proper hydration, may help soothe the pain once a headache has started.

Recipe

When I’m looking for a quick weeknight recipe, I often think stir-fry. Here’s a beef and broccoli stir-fry from Cooking Light. Serving it with brown rice boosts the fiber.

Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry

2 (3 1/2-ounce) bags boil-in-bag brown rice

2 tablespoons dry sherry, divided

2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce, divided

1 teaspoon sugar

1-pound boneless sirloin steak, cut diagonally across grain into thin slices

1/2 cup lower-sodium beef broth

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon hoisin sauce

1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

2 tablespoons canola oil, divided

1 tablespoon bottled ground ginger or 2 teaspoons fresh ginger

2 teaspoons minced garlic

4 cups prechopped broccoli florets

1/4 cup water

1/3 cup sliced scallions

Cook rice according to package directions, omitting salt. Meanwhile, combine 1 tablespoon sherry, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, sugar and beef. Stir together broth, cornstarch, hoisin sauce, Sriracha and remaining 1 tablespoon sherry and 1 tablespoon soy sauce; set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add beef mixture; saute 3 minutes or until browned. Remove beef from pan. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan.

Add ginger and garlic; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add broccoli and 1/4 cup water; cook 1 minute. Add scallions; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add broth mixture and beef mixture; cook 2 minutes or until beef is thoroughly heated and sauce is slightly thick. Serve beef mixture over rice. Serves 4 (serving size: 1/2 cup rice and 1 1/2 cups beef mixture.

Per serving: 356 calories; 28 grams protein; 29 grams carbohydrate; 13 grams fat (3 grams saturated); 4 grams fiber; 4 grams sugars (1 gram added); 464 milligrams sodium.

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Springfield, Ill., and the media representative for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For comments or questions, contact her at charfarg@aol.com.

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