If you’re over 50, you’re probably concerned about maintaining your health in the future and are considering vegetarianism. Most Americans consume red meat and processed meat products on a daily basis and end up with heart disease or type 2 diabetes. Vegetarians don’t eat meat or fish but still eat eggs and dairy. Vegans take this a bit further and cut out eggs and dairy. There are excellent health benefits to both options but also some dangers to be aware of, especially if you’re older.
Famous vegetarians over 50 include President Bill Clinton, Paul McCartney, Martina Navratilova and Ian McKellen. Bill Clinton went vegan in 2010, but rumor has it that he still eats a small amount of wild salmon or an omelette each week for its nutritional value.
Both vegetarian and vegan diets have been proven to prevent diseases such as heart ailments, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Vegetarians and vegans also tend to have lower blood pressure and less body fat.
The problem with suddenly going vegetarian or vegan after the age of 50 is that there are certain risks. If your diet isn’t nutritionally balanced or is haphazard, it’s easy to become deficient in protein, calcium, vitamin B12, iron and zinc. Those crucial nutrients are vital for aging bodies because they support healing, boost immunity and prevent dementia.
It’s extremely difficult to consume enough iron from plants alone. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan you may need an iron supplement along with Vitamin C to increase the effectiveness of the iron.
Having enough calcium is also critical for women over 50 who are prone to osteoporosis. A vegan must eat large quantities of fortified tofu, soy milk, green leafy vegetables, and beans in order to maintain adequate calcium intake without supplementation.
Zinc, found in animal protein, protects the immune system. A lack of it puts you at risk for pneumonia, a dangerous killer of the elderly.
Again, there’s nothing wrong with considering vegetarianism after the age of 50 to maintain your health, as long as your diet provides the nutritional requirements your body needs. Be aware, there is as much junk food available at grocery and health food stores for those on a plant based only diet as there is for omnivores.
Have you gone vegetarian or vegan? How is it working for you? Please leave a comment and share your story. We’d love to hear it.