People these days can now live for as long as 80 years old, if not longer. Back in the 1950s, the average life expectancy was 67. Thanks to better healthcare and access to healthy food, we’re able to enjoy life much longer.
Wouldn’t it be better, though, if we can do so with the least pain and illness? From cycling tips for beginners to choices of the best foods, here are the best ways to higher-quality health.
Benefits of a plant-based diet for seniors
First, let’s talk about the most ideal diet for seniors: a plant-based diet that ideally completely vegan, that comprises of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Why is this the best diet for seniors? Here are science-backed reasons:
- It lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes
As you grow older, your body begins to break down. It doesn’t function as well as before. It then increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes, which may develop due to improper insulin production (insulin is the hormone that delivers glucose to your cells).
In 2012, a study found out that consuming a plant-based diet can help reduce the odds of chronic diseases. The compounds in plants can positively affect the genes and your biomarkers.
Research by the American Heart Association (AHA) also corroborated this information. Eating mostly fruits and vegetables can:
- Reduce the risk of a cardiovascular event like a heart attack or stroke by 16%
- Drop the odds of premature death by 25% compared to those who don’t follow the diet
- It can prevent cognitive decline
Many studies already show a strong correlation between aging and cognitive decline. As you grow older, you are more likely to suffer memory loss or, worse, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
A Singaporean study in 2019, meanwhile, showed the powerful impact of a plant-based diet in preserving the mind. It may lower the chances of cognitive decline by as much as 33%. This is especially helpful if you start following this meal plan in middle age.
- It can help fight obesity
Old age can slow down your metabolism. It may also encourage you to be more sedentary.
It means you burn fewer calories, and thus, you cannot have the same diet and eat similar foods you enjoyed when you were in your twenties!
Otherwise, you can become overweight or obese. That is one of the leading risk factors for chronic diseases, including certain types of cancer.
Eating a plant-based diet helps because fruits and vegetables have fewer calories than animal-based products.
Nuts and seeds may have more calories, but eating a handful can already make you feel full for a longer period. They prevent you from binging on your next meal. They also have healthy compounds that promote health no matter how much of them you eat.
How can seniors add more plants into their diet?
Transitioning to a plant-based diet may take time, but it’s definitely possible. You can begin by reading these seven tips. Need more? Then check out the list below:
- Keep things simple. You don’t need complicated recipes with expensive ingredients to eat plant-based. A good example is to make a simple salad dressing with a squeeze of a lemon, a tablespoon of olive oil, and some of your favorite herbs and spices.
- Swap. You can still stick to your favourite meals, but this time, swap them with something healthier. Instead of red meat, how about tofu or tempeh? These are packed with protein, essential nutrients, and absorb the flavour of the meal.
- Stick with the basics. A study on the blue zones, or places where people live over a century, showed they have simple staples in their meals. These are beans, fruits, vegetables, and healthy grains.
- Try fermented foods. Fermented foods like miso and kimchi can enrich the flavour and texture of your meal. Even better, they can help promote better digestion.
Note: Be warned. Just because the box says the product is healthy or even vegan, it doesn’t mean it’s great for your health. Many of these contain a lot of added sugar, which your body doesn’t need. Go back to tip #1: keep things simple and eat mostly unprocessed plant foods.
Incorporating gentle physical exercise into our life
With all the tips on how to be healthy, only two make the biggest impact: exercise and diet. Now we’ve covered diet, let’s discuss the other factor.
How can exercise help you achieve better health during your older years? It may:
- Improve your mental health
- Lower the risk of obesity and, thus, chronic diseases
- Take care of your joints and muscles
- Reduce the risk of suffering injuries and fractures from falling
- Enhance your mood, lowering the odds of depression and anxiety
Which type of exercise is best? You have plenty to choose from. If you already have aching joints and tense muscles, you can begin with low-impact exercises. These include yoga and swimming.
The latter can burn tons of calories, and yet it doesn’t add pressure to your musculoskeletal system.
If you want to be more active, you can practice cycling and jogging. There are plenty of cycling tips for beginners, especially for seniors. For example:
- Find a bike that fits your size or height. The saddle shouldn’t be so low.
- Use a fitness watch to keep track of your heart rate, especially when you’re doing cardio.
- Don’t push yourself too hard. Enjoy the ride!
- Cycle with friends. It makes exercise more fun.
- When the body calls for it, rest.
These cycling tips for beginners and ideas on how to eat a plant-based diet can mean one thing: you can spend your sunset years healthy and happy. You may even be in your best shape yet!