As older people experience different changes in their health, their nutritional requirements also change. They require more nutrient-dense foods to reduce their risk of various illnesses, so eating right should be one of their main priorities. One of the recommended ways to have more nutrients in their body naturally is to opt for a plant-based diet.
Although a plant-based diet is focused on foods that come from plants, you can still consume limited amounts of animal products. It’s not to be confused with a vegan diet, where people abstain from eating any animal products. The focus of a plant-based diet is consuming whole foods and limited processed meats.
As long as you do it correctly, plant-based meals offer significant benefits. It’s important to discuss them with your loved one so you can make necessary adjustments at home. If they’re in a senior living facility, talk with a senior care advisor to discuss healthy meal options. Also, it’s important to consult with a doctor first if it’s appropriate for your loved one to switch to a different diet.
Benefits of a Plant-based Diet
Increases Immunity to Diseases
Plant-based diets reduce the risk of having several health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. The vitamins, antioxidants, and phytochemicals from plants help your body fight off infection and make it function at its best.
You can still get your daily protein from peanuts, beans, tofu, and other leafy vegetables. Plant-based diets also help reverse the progression of some diseases that you may have been vulnerable to throughout your life.
Helps You Sleep Better
Older adults are likely to experience changes in the duration and quality of their sleep. Foods like kale, bananas, and sweet potatoes can promote healthy sleep as they contain tryptophan and vitamin B6 that increase melatonin levels. A healthy sleep cycle can lower your risk of diabetes and high blood pressure.
Improves Mental Health
Plant-based foods are rich in vitamins and antioxidants that protect your brain from free radicals and stress that can impair your mentality. They also increase the production of serotonin that helps you sleep and stabilize your mood. It’s important to maintain a good level of serotonin to avoid anxiety or depression, especially in older adults.
Reduces Arthritis Pain
Processed meats are high in saturated fat that can cause inflammation, which is the main cause of arthritis pain. Incorporate fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your diet as they’re rich in anti-inflammatory properties that reduce joint pain and stiffness.
How to Start a Plant-based Diet?
Start Out Slow
You don’t need to switch to plant-based meals drastically. You can try having one or two veggie dishes daily, then gradually add more meals in the coming days. When craving unhealthy foods, focus on eating fruits or whole grains, then start reducing processed foods in your diet.
Increase your consumption of veggies by adding an extra serving to your plate every day. To make fruits easier to consume, add them to your smoothie or breakfast. Try out new kinds of fruits or veggies by adding one to your weekly menu.
You can also opt for substitutes in your usual diet. For instance, replace white rice with brown rice, choose fruits instead of sweets, and replace meats with substitutes like tofu and mushroom. Nutrients found in meats and dairy can also be found in veggies like asparagus and kale which are rich in protein, and almonds and chia seeds which are good sources of calcium.
Stock Up on Healthy Food
When you stock up on healthier food options, it’ll be easy to explore various healthy snack options in the pantry. Make sure to have essentials like kale chips, tofu, pitta bread, or almond milk to easily whip up a good snack.
You can also have meal preps in bulk so you can easily create your meals without having to search and chop ingredients that can take a while. This way, your pantry will be well-stocked and you can easily transition to a plant-based diet.
Experiment With New Recipes
There’s a wide range of recipes that you can try several times a week so your plant-based meals don’t get boring. You can have a loved one come over to help you with cookbooks or online recipes to make your meals more exciting.
Older adults need more support for their health and well-being as their bodies go through different changes that require more attention. One of the main things that need to be improved is their diet to ensure they get proper nutrition. Consider switching to a plant-based diet with many benefits that can help you live a healthier, longer life.