Plant-based diets continue to grow in popularity, all over the world. There are many reasons why people switch to a plant-based diet, including ethical and environmental reasons. However, a growing number of people are avoiding meat for health reasons. Evidence shows that plant-based diets can help support the immune system, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, and may be good for overall health.

While a well-planned plant-based diet can support healthy living in people of all ages, our nutritional needs change with different stages of life, so people over the age of 65 may need more care. when choosing a plant-based diet. They may have special nutritional needs and may need certain nutrients, vitamins and minerals to stay healthy.

Here are some things over 65 may want to consider when switching to a plant-based diet:

1. Eat plenty of protein

Older adults need more protein compared to the general adult population in order to maintain lean body mass, body function and good health. While most adults only need 0.75g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, it is recommended that healthy seniors increase their daily protein intake to 1.0-1.2g per kilogram of body weight. This is even higher for older adults who are malnourished or have a serious illness, as these conditions cause a hypermetabolic condition where the body needs more energy and protein to function.

To ensure adequate protein intake, make sure meals and foods contain plant-based proteins, such as chickpeas, tofu, black-eyed beans, beans, lentils, quinoa, wild rice, nuts and seeds, walnut butter, and soy alternatives to milk and yogurt Eggs and dairy products are also good sources of protein if you include them in your diet.

2. Include calcium and vitamin D.

Calcium and vitamin D both play an important role in maintaining good bone health, which is extremely important in old age as osteoporosis and related fractures are a leading cause of bone related diseases and mortality in it. older adults.

Most adults need 700mg of calcium a day. However, postmenopausal women and men over 55 should have 1200mg of calcium per day. There is a wide range of non-dairy calcium-containing foods for plant-based people, including calcium-fortified soy milk and almond milk, calcium-fortified cereals, pita bread, chapatti and white bread .

For those who include fish in their diet, fish such as white grass, and sardines and poles (with bones) contain good amounts of calcium per serving.

Adults are also recommended to take 10 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D per day. Vitamin D is not only important for bone health, it is also one of the nutrients involved in supporting the immune system and helping it to function properly. Older adults are more susceptible to deficiency as they may have less exposure to sunlight and their skin is less able to synthesize vitamin D.

Mushrooms grown in the sun, fortified cabbages, breakfast cereals and dairy alternatives are all good sources of vitamin D.

Having said that, it is difficult to get vitamin D from the diet alone, so a supplement of 10mcg per day is recommended (especially in winter for those who may not go out often). It is worth noting that some vitamin D supplements are not suitable for vegans, as they can be derived from an animal source, so vitamin D2 and lichen-derived vitamin D3 can be used instead.

3. Get your vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is essential for creating red blood cells, keeping the nervous system healthy and providing energy. Adults need 1.5 micrograms of vitamin B12 per day, similar to young people. But many seniors may be at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency, affecting one in twenty people aged 65 to 74 and one in ten people over 75.

Those who do not eat meat, fish or eggs may not get enough vitamin B12, as it is found in abundance in animal-based food sources. Some plant sources of vitamin B12 include fortified breakfast cereals, yeast extracts (like Marmite), soy yogurt, and non-dairy milk. People may consider taking a vitamin B12 supplement. Taking 2mg or less a day of vitamin B12 in supplements is unlikely to cause any harm. However, they should first consult their registered doctor or dietitian.

4. Eat foods rich in iron

Low iron intake can be an issue for those who do not have a varied diet, especially for men aged 65 and over living in residential care homes and women over 85.

Iron is essential for the creation of red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. It’s also essential for physical performance, wound healing, immune system support, cognitive development and function, and thyroid metabolism. Adults need 8.7mg of iron per day.

Foods that contain vitamin C – such as citrus fruits – can help the body absorb iron better.
Alexandra Anschiz / Shutterstock

Plant sources include whole grains, green leafy vegetables such as spinach, seeds, legumes and dried fruits. Since iron in plant foods is absorbed less efficiently than iron in animal proteins, having foods rich in vitamin C such as citrus fruits, green peppers and broccoli can help absorb iron better.

5. Make each count count

Some people find that their appetite decreases as they age. This can be caused by difficulties with chewing and swallowing, constipation, acute illness, impaired taste, sight and smell. But reduced appetite can contribute to unintentional weight loss and nutritional deficiencies. It is therefore important to find ways to get adequate nutrition at every meal, especially when based on plants, such as:

  • Inclusion of protein in every meal.
  • Eat small meals and snacks in between throughout the day.
  • Include plant-based milk (such as soy, almonds or coconut milk) in your tea, coffee or smoothie.
  • Add olive, vegetable or sunflower oil to your favorite foods.
  • Mix vegetable creams or vegan cheese into mashed potatoes, soups and stews.
  • Add walnut butter to bread, milk-free yogurt and smoothie.

Regardless of your age, switching to a plant-based diet can have many health benefits if you plan properly. Consulting with a registered dietitian before making the change can help you develop the best plant-based diet tailored to your specific needs.