Veganism is rapidly on the rise having seen a 600 percent increase in the last three years, and seniors are jumping on the vegan bandwagon to better their Golden Years. Last year, 11 percent of the U.S. population identified as vegan and, of those, three percent were 65 years or older. Seniors are now recognizing that a vegan diet can improve health and prevent or fight certain diseases.
The Vegan Effect On Senior Health Risks
Since vegans consume no animal proteins, eggs or dairy products, there are many health benefits to these omissions that actually improve a senior’s well-being. As the elderly’s more sedentary lifestyle can create obesity, vegans tend to be naturally thinner and have healthier cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Lower blood pressure also means a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Cancer is obviously a major concern that grows as we age. Veganism can help protect against cancer by what participants do and do not consume. Eliminating red and processed meat consumption has been shown to decrease the risk of esophageal, liver and colorectal cancers by as much as 60 percent. Even eliminating eggs shows a lower risk of pancreatic cancer.
At the same time, vegan staples such as legumes, fruits and vegetables, and tomatoes are protective against many cancers. Most fruits and veggies, in fact, are rich in fiber, folic acid and antioxidants which can produce lower incidences of stroke. However, it’s important to ensure that seniors who follow vegan diets still get the right amounts of protein, calcium and calories.
Getting The Nutritional Balance Right
As we age, our bodies require additional vitamins and proteins. Eliminating all animal products can increase protein deficiencies. On the contrary, many plant-based edibles such as nuts, legumes and soy-based foods can replace and provide healthier protein sources.
One elderly-specific challenge is the degradation of bone health, or osteoporosis, that many seniors – especially women – experience. Calcium has long been the protector of fragile bones. However, eliminating dairy in the vegan diet does not mean eliminating calcium. Green leafy vegetables, tofu, oats and fortified orange juice are equally high in calcium.
Finding Vegan Options In Senior Homes
When a senior makes the move into an assisted-living facility, there’s a fear the elder will lose access to the vegan lifestyle. During initial interviews, ask the senior living coordinator about the possibility of vegan options at their establishment. As veganism grows among seniors, more facilities will accommodate special dietary requests.
Additionally, there are many online searches specific to finding homes that readily offer vegan menus. If a chosen facility cannot manage daily vegan prep, there are many vegan food services that will deliver to your new home. While a vegan delivery service adds an extra expense, Medicaid benefits will pay for various senior services to help allocate those savings toward your vegan regimen.
Veganism is a growing dietary lifestyle choice for seniors worldwide. Today’s older sect recognizes the benefits of eliminating animal and dairy which can increase many senior health risks. Embracing a healthy, balanced vegan diet, however, can help turn the Golden Years into Platinum Years and beyond.