Jess Walter is a freelance writer and mother. She loves the freedom that comes with freelance life and the additional time it means she gets to spend with her family and pets.
Senior Vegans: Opting for a Meat-Free Life in Later Years
By Jess Walter
As an increasingly aging population, we're becoming ever aware of the need to improve our diets and lifestyles to keep us as healthy as possible for as long as possible. Many people might wonder whether a vegan lifestyle might suit them as they age, especially if they have concerns about their health or long-term illness. Here are the benefits of going vegan and the ways in which we can get the essential nutrients we need.
Why do it?
There is serious evidence to suggest that going vegan is the right way forward for everyone. Research reported by Oxford Martin School suggests that adopting a plant based lifestyle could mean that by 2050 "food-related greenhouse gas emissions could be cut by 29 per cent." Not only that, "changes in diets could produce savings of $700 to $1,000 billion (US) per year on healthcare, unpaid informal care, and lost working days. The value that society places on the reduced risk of dying could even be as high as 9 to 13% of global GDP, or $20 to $30 trillion (US)." That much money is food for thought, indeed.
Fresh, healthy flavors
A vegan diet will most definitely encourage us to cook from scratch and introduce new flavors and foods into our eating plan, things we may not have considered before. It's not difficult to find good quality, inexpensive fresh fruits and vegetables in markets, and it will also encourage us to eat more seasonally and locally too.
Vitamins and minerals
There's absolutely no reason why a vegan cannot get all the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals one requires from a diet that excludes any animal products. The one exception is vitamin B12 that is not supplied on a vegan diet. Vegans are advised to take a vitamin B12 supplement or consume foods fortified with vitamin B12. Some worry about getting enough calcium and iron. Calcium is particularly important as we age, to prevent osteoporosis. Good sources of calcium on a vegan diet are dark, leafy green vegetables such as kale, cabbage, and broccoli and other foods like blackstrap molasses, an excellent natural sweetener. For good sources of plant-based iron, vegans can turn to legumes, nuts and seeds, and whole grains such as lentils, lima beans, tofu, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, pine nuts, pistachios, and cashews.
Getting enough protein
Another concern people have as they turn to a vegan diet is how to get enough protein. It's really relatively easy to do. As we age and our muscle mass decreases, we still need to keep an eye on our protein levels, making sure we eat the right amount and from good quality sources. A vegan diet rich in legumes, nuts, seeds and soy will make sure we have all the protein we require. Remember, snacks like a handful of almonds, combined with an apple will keep our blood sugar steady and help us feel full longer.
Good for your digestion
OK, it's something that a lot of us don't like to talk about, but as we age everything tends to slow down somewhat, including our digestion. A vegan diet is naturally higher in fiber and, therefore, can help with any motility issues we might suffer from as we age. According to The Vegan Society, "[this will] decrease the risk of colorectal cancer. Vegans also tend to eat seven or more pieces of fruit and vegetables per day, meaning we have a 33% reduced risk of premature death compared with people who eat less than one portion."
We can pass our new-found knowledge to others
With age comes wisdom and as we learn, we can pass our knowledge to other family members and friends who might be considering a vegan lifestyle but aren't sure where to start. Once they see how healthy and vital you feel on an eating plan that cuts out animal products, they may want to follow suit and join you too! Be a super senior who is savvy about animal welfare and help the next generation to follow in your footsteps. It's never too late.
Go gentle into that good (Vegan) night
Maybe you want to go vegan, but still feel a little scared about it. You could opt to ease yourself into the lifestyle gradually and gently, so that by the end, you don't miss animal products at all.
There are four levels of non-meat eater.
Further recommended reading and sources:
- A Flexitarian is a semi-vegetarian. This type of eater only reduces meat intake; animal products aren't eliminated entirely. This might be an ideal starting point. Try cutting out animal products for one or two days a week.
- A Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian is a non-meat eater who will eat eggs and milk products. This may be the second step to attempt -- cut out meat, but still eat dairy and eggs.
- A Lacto-Vegetarian is a non meat eater who will not eat any eggs, but still allows for the consumption of dairy products such as milk and cheese.
- A Vegan eliminates all animal products including meat, chicken, fish, eggs, and dairy. Many vegans will also stop buying and wearing products made from animals, such as leather.
Click here for past Words from Other Birds Articles