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It’s no secret that diet plays a significant role in a person’s quality of life, but it becomes even more important as we age. Many older adults suffer from diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, fatigue, and a slew of other complications. To alleviate these problems, people inaccurately believe that eating less is the only solution; instead, they should be more focused on eating right. While it is true that older adults shouldn’t be eating the same amount of calories they once ate (Diet.com claims men over fifty should reduce caloric intake by 600 calories/day and women should decrease theirs by 300 calories), nutritional needs remain the same, if not more important than ever before. A great way to get the vitamins and minerals you need, without consciously keeping track, is to adopt a vegetarian diet. For some people, this may be difficult, but even if you can’t go entirely vegetarian, eating primarily vegetarian can do wonders for your health, stamina, and appearance. Also, there have been countless studies linking red meat to cancer.
The best place to find vitamins is in fresh vegetables and fruits. Vitamin E, C, and beta-carotene, which are all antioxidants, become extremely important in the fight against free radicals. Free radicals accumulate with age and without antioxidants to fight them off, they can become damaging to cells and tissue. Citrus, kiwi, various berries, Brussels sprouts, bell peppers, and broccoli are all loaded with Vitamin C. Beta-carotene, which combats macular degeneration, can be found in carrots, squash, leafy greens, peppers, melons, or sweet potatoes. While looking for beta-carotene, make sure to get sweet potatoes rather than yams because sweet potatoes have 164 times more beta-carotene. To add a dose of vitamin E to your diet, try adding spinach, Swiss chard, sunflower seeds, and avocados. While it is possible to absorb vitamins through supplements, natural food sources are the best way for your body to get the nutrients it needs. Specifically, for women, the body’s ability to absorb calcium decreases with age and should be a focus in any woman’s diet. Calcium can be found in soymilk, dairy, fortified orange juice, and leafy green vegetables. If you aren’t lactose intolerant, milk can be a great staple because it contains not only calcium but vitamin D as well. Along with vitamin D supplements, milk can provide the necessary amount of vitamin D for people who choose not to get their vitamin D from the sun. With skin cancer on the rise, I don’t blame you for staying out of the sun. Along with vitamins, protein becomes more important as we age. Protein is essential for the human body to maintain healthy muscle mass, even as physical activity decreases. Vegetarian protein options include nuts, peanut butter, seeds, soy products, legumes, granola, yogurt, cheese, and milk. Beyond the nutritional benefits of a vegetarian diet, there are also practical reasons not to eat meat. Meat is not as sustainably grown as vegetables or fruits. It is more cost-effective and environmentally friendly to abstain from meat. Also, with increased age, our senses of taste and smell weaken, which can cause problems in food preparation and safety. Eating vegetarian eliminates the risks of consuming spoiled or undercooked meat, which can lead to E.coli, salmonella, and trichinosis. Aging should be filled with exploration and more interesting than learning a new collection of deliciously healthy vegetarian recipes!
Max Gottlieb is the content manager of ALTCS and Senior Planning Since 2007 Senior Planning has helped many seniors find care services, apply for state and federal benefits, and plan for long term care.