Have you heard that vegan diets, including the vegan diet, are good for older adults, but are you wondering if they are really true? Learn more about the benefits of plant-based diets for seniors, as well as how to meet nutritional needs on a plant-based diet, from registered dietitian Sharon Palmer.
People from all walks of life and ages can experience health benefits in a plant-based diet, including a plant-based diet. This is to blame Position statement from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Older adults in particular may benefit from switching to a plant-based diet, as eating a plant-based diet reduces the risk of many of the diet-related chronic diseases associated with aging. A vegetarian diet in particular is a heart-healthy diet, as well as a diet associated with better gut health. As with all stages of life, good planning is key to a healthy plant-based diet for seniors. There are some nutrients that older adults need to pay special attention to, especially if they are interested in following a vegan diet. I’m answering your most important questions about how vegan diets can benefit older adults, and how to plan them well. learn More on vegetarian diets for older women hereAnd Get Free Botanical Toolkit Learn more about how to plan a healthy vegan diet.
Why do plant-based diets help heart and brain function?
Studies have consistently shown that vegan diets are associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, high blood pressure, stroke, and cancer. This is likely due to the high value of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds found in plant foods, as well as fiber, healthy fats, and nutrients.
Additionally, diets high in red and processed meat have been linked to a higher risk of chronic disease, due to higher intakes of saturated fat, sodium, heme iron, and compounds in processed meat. Minimizing these in the diet is also behind the beneficial effects of vegetarian diets.
Can a vegan diet have a positive effect on the gut microbiome? If so, why could this be such an important benefit?
Yes, vegan diets are high in fiber because fiber is only found in the plant world. When you eat a diet full of whole grains, legumes, soy foods, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, you significantly increase the fiber intake in your diet. Our gut microbiota feeds on fiber, and thus plant-based diets promote greater diversity and greater numbers of healthy gut microbes.
There can be issues with bloating when switching to a vegan diet. What tips should you follow to avoid bloating and other uncomfortable digestive symptoms?
Yes, many people complain of gastrointestinal symptoms when they first transition to vegan eating. Mostly because they increase the fiber significantly, compared to the standard American diet which is very low in fiber. However, research shows that gradual increases in fiber are more easily tolerated — you can get used to increasing fiber gradually over time. So, take your time increasing your fiber intake. Don’t include whole grains, legumes, cruciferous vegetables, nuts and seeds all in one meal, for example. Start more slowly with some unrefined grains and pulses a few times a week. Then build over time as you get used to it. Include plenty of water in your diet. And you can try Germinate grains and legumes to increase digestion. Soak the dried beans and discard the soaking water – then cook them thoroughly to make them more digestible.
What nutrients do seniors need to pay attention to when switching to a vegan diet?
All seniors should supplement with vitamin B12, but it is more important in a vegan diet, so it is absolutely essential to add this supplement to your diet. In addition, you need to make sure that you are getting enough vitamin D, calcium and iron in your vegan diet. It is possible with careful planning. It’s a good idea to Interview with a registered dietitian Be aware of vegetarian nutrition to plan a healthy meal pattern.
How can you make sure your nutritional needs are met when following a vegan diet?
If you include plant protein sources (soy foods, legumes, nuts, seeds, and peanuts), whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and nuts/seeds in each meal it can help you meet your nutritional needs. The exception is vitamin B12, which must be supplemented. Vitamin D and calcium can be obtained in fortified plant-based milk (Vitamin D can come from exposure to sunlight), and calcium can be obtained from cereals, tofu, almonds, and cruciferous vegetables. It is important to have a variety of foods in your diet to increase the nutritional content.
What is your advice for seniors who want to start a vegan diet?
See a registered dietitian Familiar with vegan diets to help you develop a healthy eating plan that meets your nutritional needs. There are benefits for seniors to eating a healthy, well-planned vegan diet, so it’s never too early to start! But it does take some planning, so be prepared.
Learn more about plant-based eating here: