As a senior, you may wonder if it’s too late to become a vegetarian. In reality, a meat free diet could be especially beneficial for older adults. A number of studies suggest that eating more plant-based foods can reduce the risk of age-related health conditions and may even help you live longer.
Of course, the details matter. You could call yourself a vegan if you ate French fries for 3 meals a day, but you’d hardly be a healthy one. It’s still important to eat a balanced diet of nutrient dense foods.
Find out what a vegetarian diet can do for you. Eating more plants may help you look and feel younger.
Vegetarian Eating for Seniors
There is ample evidence that vegetarians may be less prone to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and certain cancers. A review by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine found that a plant-based diet lowers the risk of heart attacks by 40% and the risk of type 2 diabetes by 50%.
These strategies can help you “go vegetarian” to strengthen your health:
- Limit processed food. Herbivores and carnivores have at least one thing in common. A nutritious diet must be based on whole foods rather than ultra-processed items high in sugar, salt, and empty calories.
- Emphasize fiber. Most plant foods have the advantage of being high in dietary fiber. They help you to stabilize your blood sugar and lose weight.
- Increase your protein. A high protein diet fills you up too. It also helps preserve bone and muscle mass. Smart choices include beans, nuts, soy, and dairy products.
- Check labels. Some essential nutrients like vitamin B12 are found only in animal-based foods. You may be able to meet your requirements by eating fortified foods like cereal and plant milks or taking supplements. Fortified foods may also help you to get adequate vitamin D and calcium.
- Choose healthy fats. Most experts recommend getting about 30% of your daily calories from fat. Omega 3 fatty acids are especially helpful because they reduce inflammation. Reliable sources include fatty fish, nuts, seeds, and plant oils.
- Make gradual changes. Maybe you want to become a vegetarian or vegan. Maybe you just want to enjoy meatless Mondays. Replacing meat with plant-based foods can be beneficial even on a small scale.
- Remember your purpose. Seniors choose a vegetarian diet for many reasons. You may be motivated by health concerns or protecting the environment.
Other Tips for Healthy Aging
Lifestyle has a major impact on how you age. In addition to eating more plant foods, think about your other daily habits.
Keep these tips in mind:
- Stay active. Physical exercise can help keep your mind and body fit. Find a variety of activities that you enjoy. Take senior yoga classes online. Buy a stationary bicycle that you can ride at home on rainy days.
- Sleep well. Your sleep patterns may change as you age, but you still need about 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Go to bed on a regular schedule and keep your bedroom dark and quiet.
- Manage stress. Find relaxation practices that work for you. Listen to instrumental music or take a warm bath. Meditate each day or practice deep breathing.
- Connect with others. The CDC considers loneliness and social isolation as serious public health risks for older adults. You may be able to prevent dementia and other conditions by cultivating close relationships.
- Talk with your doctor. Your health care team can help you understand how your diet and other lifestyle choices affect your health. Be proactive about staying informed and asking questions.
Hold onto your health and wellbeing as you grow older. Enjoy a diet low in calories and rich in nutrients from a variety of plant-based foods.