Veganism has been sweeping the country in recent years. Healthline explains that the vegan diet takes vegetarianism to the extreme, excluding all forms of animal exploitation in food, clothing, and anything they may encounter in their daily lives. Vegetarian diets do carry with them a lot of health benefits that have been deeply explored in science over the last decade. However, its versatility as a diet comes from the fact that vegetarians have options for what they can and cannot eat. Some only include fish in their diet (pescatarians), while others keep milk and eggs (lacto-ovo vegetarians). Vegans avoid all of those additions to the vegetarian diet and keep it strictly to fruit and vegetables. Here, we’ll explore if a vegan diet makes sense for older individuals.
Is a Vegan Diet Really Healthier?
The Journal of Nutrition notes that vegans demonstrated better omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants than both lacto-ovo vegetarians and pescatarians by a small amount, but surpassed non-vegetarian diets by quite a bit. When we look at this evidence, it might seem an easy conclusion to draw. Still, the body of data that separates vegan diets from other forms of vegetarianism is limited. There is also some evidence that vegan diets may lead to severe damage to the human body. The journal BMJ notes that vegan and vegetarian diets may actually bring with them a higher chance of getting a stroke. In older adults, these risks must be taken seriously.
Lack Of Nutrients Another Concern in Older Adults
Older individuals with home health care for seniors typically have a nurse assigned to take care of their vitamins and pills. Vegan diets in older adults may require many more supplements, as these diets tend to lack calcium, vitamin B12, and protein in significant amounts. Younger individuals may be able to deal with the deficiency, but older folks will need supplements to make up the shortfall, lest their bodies start failing. Consuming almonds and dark leafy vegetables can help with the lack of calcium. Protein-rich plant foods such as tofu and legumes can help with the shortfall of animal proteins. Fortified almond or soy milk may help with the lack of vitamin B12.
Consult Your Doctor First
If you’re looking at going vegan, the first thing you should do is have a talk with your doctor about the diet’s viability. Some patients are more at risk for side effects of a vegan diet than others. You should keep track of your plant foods intake and make sure you have a nurse that’s trained in nutrition. They may need to balance out the shortfall in plant food and offer you more supplements to ensure your body functions as expected. In older adults, especially, changing a diet can lead to unforeseen side effects. When you’re transitioning into your new diet, call and check in with your doctor regularly so that you have their support. If something seems strange, make sure and inform the doctor so that they can decide the best course of action.