The Vegan Diet: What Older Adults Should Know

Sunrise Senior Living  |  August 7, 2018
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It’s no secret that America is in the midst of an obesity crisis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one third of our country’s population is considered to be obese. Obesity is linked to higher incidences of heart disease, cancer, stroke, acid reflux, and type 2 diabetes.

Middle age used to be the years when people were most likely to become obese; however, younger people are now at risk, too. Experts say this epidemic is a result of the Western diet—one that is high in fat, sugary foods and drinks, red meat, refined grains, and processed meats—combined with a lack of regular physical activity.

It’s also important to note that not only are Americans eating the wrong foods, they are eating far too much of them. Super-sized portions at restaurants and fast food chains have made us accustomed to consuming more food than we need.

One way seniors might avoid becoming a statistic in the obesity epidemic is by adopting a vegan diet. According to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vegans tend to be thinner and have healthier cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure.

When the diet is free from fast food and animal products and is instead rich in fruits and vegetables, people consume more fiber, vitamins, and minerals. This helps promote a healthier heart. A vegan diet might also help to lower your risk for many kinds of cancer including colorectal and prostate cancer, which researchers believe may have links to meat consumption.

Another benefit a vegan diet provides for older adults? Vegan diets typically cost less than diets that contain meat. For a retiree on a fixed income, that can be appealing.

What is a Vegan Diet?                                             

The vegan diet consists only of plant-based foods. Unlike vegetarians, a vegan does not eat eggs, dairy, honey, gelatin, or any animal-sourced foods. Foods commonly found in a vegan diet include the following:

  • Tofu, tempeh, chick peas, lentils, and mushrooms, often used to replace proteins found in meat.
  • Kale, spinach, figs, and black-eyed peas, all good sources of calcium.
  • Almond milk, which is rich in vitamins D and E, calcium, and protein.
  • Yogurt made from coconut or soy instead of dairy.
  • Salads that include a mix of greens, vegetables, and fruits topped with dressing made from olive oil, herbs, hummus, and vinegars.
  • Smoothies created using fruits, kale or spinach, almond milk, flax seed, and plant-based protein powder.
  • Legumes, nuts, and seeds that are a source of healthy fats and protein.
  • Breads and pastas made from brown rice, quinoa, and barley.
  • Oats that are consumed with fruit for breakfast or added to entrees and smoothies.

As is always the case, it’s a good idea to talk with your primary care physician about any lifestyle changes that may impact your overall health and well-being.

If you would like to learn more about health and wellness for older adults, please visit our “Elder Care Resources and Information” page. Whether it is for you or a senior loved one, you’ll find information on eating right, living well with type 2 diabetes, maintaining a healthy blood pressure, and more.