Healthy Food Lifestyles: Can Seniors go Vegan?

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There has been a lot of discussions on sustainable eating and vegan diets. In some conversations, vegan and vegetarian are used interchangeably and sometimes misrepresented. A vegetarian/lacto-ovo-vegetarian does not eat meat, fish or poultry but eats dairy products and eggs, while a vegan does not eat any animal products.
However, these are not the only vegetarian diet options.
Here are five categories of vegetarians:

  1. Lacto-vegetarian: This excludes meat, fish, poultry but includes dairy products such as milk, egg, cheese, butter, and yogurt.
  2. Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: This excludes meat, fish, poultry but includes dairy products and eggs.
  3. Ovo-vegetarian: This excludes meat, fish, poultry, and dairy products but includes eggs.
  4. Pescatarian: This excludes meat, poultry, dairy products, and eggs but includes fish.
  5. Vegan: This excludes all animal products (meat, fish, poultry, eggs).

Seniors can adapt these diet categories; however, they are dependent on dietary and health needs.
Plant-based diets, which have recently become mainstream, have incredible benefits for seniors.
Here are some of the benefits:

  1. Slows down aging: It may sound too good to be true, but vegetarian diets have a reverse aging functionality. There is enough evidence that eating more vegetables moisturizes the skin, heals skin tissues, and makes one look younger. A study conducted by the US Department of Defense showed that their participants’ three months of plant-based consumption resulted in increased telomeres activity. In contrast, processed meat and non-fried fish “nipped at DNA” much more than coffee soda or fried foods. Telomeres are caps at the end of the human DNA strands. They shorten as we age, and once they expire, it means our time on earth is over.
  2. Increase cognitive functions: Vegetables and legumes such as broccoli, cauliflower, and legumes assist with cognitive brain functions. They act as brain boosters. The vegetables mentioned above lower cortisol, which reduces stress levels, and reduces the risk of getting cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s or Dementia.
  3. Boosts the immune system: The vegetarian diet helps to boost the immune system. It is because this diet is very rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Red bell peppers, for instance, have the most Vitamin C of all the fruits and vegetables. Red bell peppers are said to contain almost three times as much Vitamin C as a Florida orange. Sunflower seeds are also full of nutrients, especially Vitamin E, which helps maintain immune system functions.
  4. Manage chronic health conditions: Plant-based and vegetarian diets can assists with healthy blood pressure, healthy cholesterol levels and reduce the cases of diabetes. It can also aid longevity and improved quality of life.
  5. Maintain a healthy weight: The vegetarian diet can help lower BMI (Body Mass Index). It is because it aids in smooth digestion/metabolism. This diet also helps protect the muscle, especially when coupled with daily activities and healthy workouts. As people age, muscle mass loss can lead to health issues, so seniors need to keep a healthy muscle mass.
  6. Cost-effective: Plant-based and vegetarian diets are cost-effective since money can be saved instead of buying expensive meat (processed or non-processed) products. This diet is very cost-effective, especially for retirees who may have to adjust to a new income structure coming from retirement plans.
  7. Reduce risks of cancer: Plant-based and vegetarian diets may also reduce the risk of cancer. Research has shown that a lot of cancer cases are linked to unhealthy meat consumption.

As much as the vegan diet has pros, there are also cons. Here are some things to be mindful of:

Vegan diets may be lacking in certain nutrients like B12, which can only be found in meats. It may be helpful to take supplements.

It might also be helpful to check calcium levels every once in a while. Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and broccoli have an abundance of calcium, even pressed orange juice.

It is also essential to check protein consumption. Seniors (65 years and older) are required to eat proteins at least 1 to 1.2g per kg of body weight. Meat and its by-products are high in protein, but some vegetarian food items are high in protein. These include nuts, legumes, dairy products, and soy-based foods such as soybeans, lentils, chickpeas, mushrooms, milk, yogurt.

There are so many benefits for seniors who decide to take the vegetarian route. However, we advise that if you’re a senior seeking to switch to a vegetarian diet, consult your doctor, nutritionist, or healthcare provider. Every individual has their own unique dietary needs, and it may be best to consult a dietician before making any dietary changes.

Here at GYC Senior Care, we care about our seniors’ health and giving them the best quality care they deserve. We believe food can affect an individual’s health, wellness, and overall quality of life. It’s not something we take for granted. We hope you found this insightful.

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