Plant Based Diet for Seniors
With the new year upon us we often look for ways to improve our health through diet and/or exercise.
Just like every other age group, it is important for seniors to eat a balanced diet. Shouldn’t that include meat, you may ask yourself? While a balanced diet could include meat, it is important to note that it is possible to meet protein and nutrient needs without animal products.
What is a plant based diet?
When you think “plant based” your mind might automatically go to vegetables, but that is not always the case. A plant based diet usually includes a variety of fruit, vegetables and grains as well as the products that come from them. Animal products and by-products such as meat, eggs and dairy are generally avoided.
Why a plant based diet? Here are just a few reasons to make the switch!
Sticking with a plant-based diet can help slow down the aging process by increasing telomerase, an enzyme that rebuilds DNA strands. In as little as 3 months a plant-based diet can significantly help slow or reverse aging.
Diets high in animal products are associated with high incidences of chronic diseases such as elevated cholesterol, heart disease and cancer. Plant-based diets on the other hand help prevent these illnesses and in some cases even help reverse damage.
Plant-based antioxidants remove free radicals from skin, make us look and feel younger and improve our complexion.
Digestion is linked to energy levels and since a plant-based diet is easily digestible those that choose vegetables over meat will likely have more energy throughout the day.
Increased intake of vitamin B6 rich foods such as bananas, sweet potatoes and nuts help increase natural levels of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep. A healthy sleep cycle, while a benefit on it’s own, will also help decrease the risk of elevated blood pressure, diabetes and heart attacks.
How to start?
Start with one meal at a time.
Not ready to go meat-free completely but want to make some healthy changes to your diet? Take one meal per day and make it plant-based and then increase from there if desired.
Keep it interesting!
It is easy to get bored with meals but continuing to try new things is a way to diversify your plate.
Prioritize produce while keeping a balanced plate.
Fill half of your plate with vegetables, a quarter with fruit and a quarter with plant based protein such as nuts, whole grains or beans.
Don’t forget snacks!
Nuts, whole grain crackers and seeds make great between meal snacks to keep you full and well nourished.
Eat more vegetables to stay healthy this year and make 2019 the best one yet!
Written by Kristin Leicht – KSC staff dietitian