Updated: May 6, 2019
Advancing in age also means becoming more vulnerable to a long list of diseases and disabilities. But much like other population groups, the elderly may also enjoy the health benefits of switching to a vegan diet. The topic of aging and veganism is not widely studied but here are some of the ways that senior citizens can be assisted with a balanced diet of vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts.
The most common issue for seniors is mobility, more so for disabled ones. The latest accurate US Census data showed that two-thirds of the population reported having difficulty in walking or climbing. There are several reasons for this, such as declining bone health, because aging signals a loss of minerals and calcium in the bones.
While there is no guarantee that brittle bones will be reversed by a vegan diet, Harvard School of Public Health notes that calcium, which is important for improving bone density, is better sourced from plants instead of dairy. The latter has been associated with other illnesses that can also affect the ability of seniors to move around such as diabetes, heart conditions, and cancer. A diet rich with a variety of beans, dark leafy vegetables, grains, and fruits will help seniors reach their daily calcium requirements and might even improve their mobility.
There are numerous age-related eye health problems that can cause the diminishing or total loss of vision in the elderly such as macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, or diabetic retinopathy. However, BBC News reported that a change in diet can reverse vision impairment that is consistent with aging. Aside from carrots, other types of food to look out for are those that contain three essential chemicals: lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin. These macular pigments can be found naturally in plants such as kiwi, bell peppers, kale, spinach, collard greens, corn, and saffron.
Although little evidence can be found between the relationship of food and hearing, there are several claims that suggest a vegan diet can boost hearing among the elderly. Loss of hearing is another disability that plagues the older generation due to wear and tear of the nerve cells around the ears. Eating more potassium-rich foods such as bananas, melons, and apricots can induce cell interaction in the inner ear as well as protect damage to the cells, nerves, and blood vessels. A similar effect can be experienced with a healthy intake of vitamins C, E, and D which can be found in papaya, red bell peppers, kiwi, and broccoli as well as supplements. Additionally, flax and chia seeds, walnuts, olive and coconut oil, and beans will provide the essential omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation in the ears.
Improves brain health
Another topic that merits a deeper investigation is the relationship of food with brain-related illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, although some evidence of a positive link have been found. Health IQ cited the preliminary findings of a study that examined adults who eat meat and those who don’t. Careful observation led researchers to conclude that those who follow an omnivorous diet are twice as likely to experience the onset of dementia. Living Life With Dignity recognizes that dealing with the condition is equally difficult for the afflicted elderly and those who care for them, which is why finding ways to delay or completely prevent it is a priority.
Seniors and caregivers alike should get informed and consult with a physician before making a decision. The aforementioned benefits still depend on many factors such as the accessibility of plant-based food for the seniors or the intensity of their disability. However, it is never too late for the elderly to take charge of their life by converting to a healthier alternative when it comes to food choices.