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Changing My Diet for a Healthy Long Life

One of the important things my mom stressed when I was a kid is that I needed to drink milk because it had calcium. Calcium had no meaning, but the look in her eye meant listen and swallow. I do not care for the taste of milk, so sometimes she would make cocoa to help with my body’s need for calcium.

What earth-shattering moment made me decide it was time for introducing calcium into my diet? To be truthful, a few months ago I realized that I could easily be around for the next few decades and it was up to me to decide how I want to live those thirty to forty years. The slender, active young adult I used to be has become an older, less energetic, heavier person. Renewing my walking, stretching and toning activities requires the level of calcium recommended by the USDA. I was shocked to review my daily food intake and discover how little calcium I was getting.

In my high school general science class, we learned that bone mass was typically set by 20 years of age. The right amount of calcium while young builds strong bones. As I moved into my thirties, I noticed great-aunts shrinking. They told me it was part of growing old. My doctor explained it was osteoporosis, which causes bones to degenerate. Once again, it was time to face a healthy glass of milk and other foods high in calcium.

Slipping away from the habit was easy. I know the body does not make calcium, so added a small yogurt to my daily intake. At my annual checkup, the doctor would ask if I took a calcium supplement and I would answer, “No, should I?” The standard reply to start if I felt I should did not inspire me to action.

I recently read that when a person turns 51, the recommended calcium intake is 1200 mg a day. It is only 1000 mg for ages 19 through 50. That got my attention and changed both my diet and activities.

Delighted to find out almonds are high in calcium, I eat five to ten almonds each day. Including broccoli and spinach as the vegetable of choice for dinner at least five nights a week boosts my calcium intake. I check the nutrients on cereal boxes and buy those with the most calcium. A splash of milk in the bowl provides calcium and all-important vitamin D. I found a sugar-free powdered energy drink that supplies 30 percent of my daily calcium. I still have my daily helping of yogurt and add other leafy greens at lunchtime.

Our black Labrador, Flag, takes me on a walk each day. She is growing old, so we take it slow and easy. I soak up some vitamin D and get exercise while sharing a special adventure with my four-legged furry family member. My system thrives on the daily calcium I provide. This keeps my bones strong and me healthy, a wise investment in my future.

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