Seniors need to maintain their health by eating balanced nutrition, and a plant based diet can provide all the necessary whole foods. Even though plant based diets can be harder to manage than omnivore diets, they are still considered healthy and well suited for seniors.
Is a plant diet healthy for seniors? Yes, a plant based diet can be healthy for seniors. Increasing the total amount of plant based foods is beneficial for seniors since there are more ailments that can pop up as we age.
In fact, switching to a plant based diet earlier in your lifetime may prove to be a wise decision. The earlier you switch to a plant based diet, the earlier your long term health may improve.
There are many benefits for seniors to switch to a plant based diet, such as:
- Minimizing the risk of cognitive disorders such asamnesia, delirium, and dementia.
- Reducing the chances of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Prevention of diabetes.
- Reducing the probability of heart disease.
- Lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
This article seeks to explore incorporating a plant based diet for seniors. Answered below are frequently asked questions about seniors eating plant foods as a large part of their diet.
As always, it is recommended to consult a dietician or physician before completely changing any diet routine. They will be able to determine the best course of action for your personal situation.
Plant-Based Diet and Aging
The chances of getting health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and cancer increases as a person continues to age. Adopting a plant-based diet can assist in reducing the occurrence of these diseases in the following ways:
Helping the body rebuild and repair correctly
Research from UC San Francisco shows that taking a plant-based diet consistently for three months increases the production of telomeres enzymes, which slows down aging.
Telomere enzymes help basic cell replication by organizing chromosomes when our cells replicate. It’s basic functionality, but it can be the root cause of many different ailments and diseases we face while aging.
Improving your immune system
A plant based diet can boost your immune system by helping the healthy bacteria in the gut thrive.
A large part of your immune system resides in your gut bacteria and whole plant based foods help it flourish. We recommend eating high fiber foods and focusing on increasing foods that can provide essential vitamins and minerals for gut health.
Keep check of your heart health
As we age, our arteries start to harden, and cholesterol levels become more and more important.
High cholesterol is linked to having more blockages in your arteries, which can lead to higher blood pressure, respiratory issues, or even heart attacks. A plant based diet can help reduce cholesterol levels as you avoid high cholesterol foods and consume cholesterol lowering foods like avocados and nuts.
Plant-Based Diet for Over 60
A plant based diet can be beneficial at any age, and if you are over 60 then consider switching to predominately plant foods. As we age, our bodies need different types and amounts of nutrients than we did when we were younger.
When you are considering a diet change, the quality and sources of complete proteins, vitamin Bs, calcium, and iron is important. Many diets tend to lack adequate quantities of these essential nutrients.
If you are over 60 and trying to re-vamp your diet, consider the following plant based foods to add for a healthy balance:
- Nuts and legumes. They are rich in protein and health fats that can help reduce cholesterol
- Kale, turnips, broccoli, and spinach. These act as a great source of calcium, which is beneficial if you have osteoporosis. Both males and females can be susceptible to osteoporosis and we would recommend everyone measure their calcium intake to make sure it is up to par.
- Fortified soy, tempeh, and almond milk. They are rich in vitamin B12, which can help seniors produce more red blood cells. Studies have also shown that it can help improve cognitive thinking.
- Potatoes and cucumbers. They have a high percentage of water content which helps with dehydration. Dehydration is a common ailment that is not often talked about.
- Pumpkin seeds, tofu, beans, lentils, quinoa, and apricots. These are rich in iron that helps the body produceenough red blood cells.
Can a plant-based diet reverse aging?
No, unfortunately a plant based diet cannot reverse aging, but a plant based diet can help you age more slowly. It can also help you look younger, give you more energy, and comes with a number of other health benefits.
Here are a few ways a plant based diet can help you look and feel better as you age:
Improving skin health
When we age our bodies produce less collagen, which is one of the basic building blocks of our skin. Collagen helps keep our skin looking firm and youthful.
A plant based diet increases your intake of antioxidants, lysine, and vitamin C, all of which increase collagen production. Plant based foods also contain an abundance of vitamin E, which can help reduce sun damage from UV exposure.
Reducing the muscle loss
A plant based diet can help reduce muscle loss as it can provide complete proteins that will repair and build muscle. Soy and pea protein are complete proteins that will help your body recover.
Reducing aged associated diseases
A plant based diet can help reduce the chance of age related diseases and ailments. For example, a plant based diet can help reduce risk of heart diseases, strokes, and certain type of cancer.
A plant based diet can effectively reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and also keeps away known carcinogens found in animal fats and proteins .
Can a plant-based diet help dementia?
A plant based diet can possibly help with dementia, but unfortunately there are no known causes of dementia and no known cures.
There needs to be much more research on the topic, and we look forward to reading more studies as they come out.
Plant-based diets for seniors
A plant based diet is healthy for seniors and can reduce the risk of many different ailments. Here are a few foods we include in our plant based diet that might help you get idea of what to eat:
- Fruits: bananas, avocados, citrus, apples, and berries.
- Green vegetables: asparagus, carrots, zucchini, and beetroots.
- Root tubers vegetables such as sweet potatoes, turnips, celery root.
- Legumes such as peas, beans, and legumes.
- Seeds such as nuts, pecans, and chia seeds.
- Grains such as brown rice, buckwheat and quinoa.
Side effects of a plant-based diet for seniors
Switching to a plant based diet can be beneficial at any age, including for seniors. Most people report feeling great after switching, but there can be some side effects including:
- Risk of protein shortage. When first starting out on a plant based diet, it can be challenging to get enough protein. Because we are so used to recognizing protein via meat or dairy intake, then it can become challenging when those food are removed from the equation. Plant based protein is readily available, but it take a shift in thinking to make sure you are eating enough at all times.
- Risk of vitamin deficiencies. When you switch to a plant based diet, it can be difficult to get adequate amounts of all vitamins and minerals. This is for many reasons, including that you might be eating less total food, have less variety of foods, or focusing too heavily on nutrient light foods like starchy carbs. We recommend that you think through the meals for the week and make sure to get enough variety of densely nutritious ingredients.
- Risk of leaky gut problems. Certain people get a “leaky gut” after they switch to a plant based diet because many of the plant based protein sources also come with anti-nutrients. These are compounds that make it difficult for the body to absorb nutrients. We recommend you eat lots of fiber and consider taking probiotic supplements, but if you think you have a leaky gut it might be best to speak to a dietician, nutritionist or doctor.
- Disruption of hormones. If you exclusively eat soy or tofu as a protein source, you may develop hormone imbalance issues. High levels of soy have been linked to increased levels of estrogen, which can be harmful for both men and women. We recommend to vary protein source and limit the total amount of soy you eat.
Plant Based Diet for Seniors: Conclusion
Adopting a plant-based diet can be very beneficial for seniors as it helps reduce the risk of many age related ailments. From arthritis to diabetes, cholesterol levels, blood pressure and heart disease, it seems that plant based diets can improve many health related issues.
While a plant based diet cannot reverse aging, it can definitely help slowdown the process by improving skin, helping cognitive function, and reducing risk of age related diseases. There are a number of essential nutrients provided in a wholesome plant based diet.
It is important to mention that consuming plant foods is not enough. You must pay close attention to maintaining a balanced diet with appropriate focus on both macro and micronutrients.
Even though you are consuming plant based, junk food is still junk food. Keep consumption of fried and overly processed foods to a minimum, and stick with whole plant foods for a large percentage of total nutrition.
Consult a nutritionist, dietician or your physician to see if a plant based diet is appropriate for you as a senior. Make sure to address concerns about balanced overall nutrition and consuming enough protein and essential nutrients.
If you are thinking of revamping your diet as a senior, consider a plant based diet. It might help you feel better and more energized when you need it most throughout the day!