From plant-based burgers to plant-based sausages we keep hearing more and more about the benefits of a plant-based diet and eating this way is becoming increasingly popular amon all age groups. If you’re over 65, you’ll want to consider the following.
As we age, our nutritional requirements also change. It’s a reason that taking supplements when we turn 50 is important as part of our overall health. Here’s what to think about moving to plant based. It’s also important to note that you don’t have to suddenly switch over to pure plant based. Most people have greater success when they take their time.
Ease into more plant-based meals by cutting down on the number of meat meals you have per week. You don’t need meat in three meals a day. The concept of meat with every meal is because of the mass marketing of processed foods over the past 50 years. Slowly cut down the amount of meat meals over several weeks or a few months. See how you feel, but be sure to eat foods with protein as we need more protein when we get older.
Older adults need more protein than younger. So be sure to add in tofu, black-eyed beans, kidney beans, lentils, nuts and seeds, nut based butters and wild rice. You can also get protein from milk alternatives. If you’re leaning more towards vegetarian over vegan, you can include eggs and cheese.
Vitamin D and Calcium
We’ve been hearing the calcium word for a long time and it’s true. It’s hard to get vitamin D from food alone however, so be prepared to take a supplement or milk alternatives with added vitamin D, which may also be fortified with calcium as well. If you’re going the vegan route, you may need a vitamin D supplement made from lichens as most of these supplements are derived from animal sources.
Vitamin B12 is Important!
The role of vitamin B12 is to help make red blood cells which keep the nervous system healthy and provides you with energy. Some plant-based sources of vitamin B12 include fortified breakfast cereals, yeast extracts (like Marmite), soya yoghurts, and non-dairy milks. You may want to check with your doctor first to understand if you are getting enough vitamin B12 and what amount of supplement you may need.
Get the Iron
Iron plays an important role in our overall health. Lentils are a great source of iron and can be put in soups, stews and used in making patties and loaves as well. Iron also helps your immune system, carries oxygen around the body and helps heal wounds. Plant sources include wholegrains, green leafy vegetables like spinach, seeds, pulses and dried fruits. Since iron in plant foods is absorbed less efficientlycompared to iron in animal proteins, having vitamin C-rich foods like citrus fruits, green pepper and broccoli can help iron be better absorbed.
When your appetite changes
As we age, we tend to eat less, so it’s important to make sure you’re getting the nutrition you need. Sometimes this can be a result of difficulties swallowing, the onset of dementia, impaired taste (sometimes as a side effect of some medications) or changes in smell and vision.
So make sure you include protein in each meal, snack between meals, mix in plant creams or vegan cheese into mashed potatoes for example and use nut butters on toast. Add hemp seeds to cereals, stews and salads as well.
Switching to a fully plant-based diet or being vegetarian isn’t too hard. Remember to take your time, in recipes where you might use meat, use tofu instead. Jack fruit is a great substitute for chicken too, from flavour to texture. Experiment with your favourite recipes and try new ones. At many grocery stores across Canada you can access a nutritionist or dietician who can help you out. If you’re concerned about interactions with various medications, consult with your physician and a registered dietitian or nutritionist as well.
A lot of people say they have more energy when they eat less or stop eating meat altogether. In part this is because your digestive system has less work to do and so you feel less tired. Some say they also sleep better and lose weight. But you can still gain weight eating a plant-based diet.
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Author: Alex Hurst is a staff writer for HUM@Nmedia, the parent brand for Silver Magazine based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.