7 Reasons Why Baby Boomers Should Adopt a Vegan Diet
As we age, the risk of certain diseases increases. According to the CDC, about 80% of older adults suffer from one chronic condition and 50% have at least two. Many of these conditions are affected also by diet. Improving your diet may help prevent several of these diseases from occurring, or at least delay their onset.
November is World Vegan Month, a great time to give veganism a try. Eating fewer animal products and consuming a greater amount of plant foods can improve your health in a number of ways, including reducing cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, regulating blood sugar and increasing certain nutrients known to promote brain health.
World Vegan month was first celebrated in November 1944. Vegan Society founder Donald Watson created the term “vegan” to describe vegetarians who not only do not consume meat from animals, but also avoid other animal products such as eggs, dairy, and honey.
While only a small number of people describe themselves as being vegan full-time, The Vegan Society reports that there are an increased number of people who have pledged give veganism a try for at least one week during November. Worldwide, there is an increase of 39% of people who have committed to adopting the vegan diet this month.
Why should you consider a vegan diet, at least part of the time? There are several health benefits to consider:
1. A US study found that those who regularly consumed red meat and processed meat died prematurely more frequently than those who focused on more plant-based diets. Michael Roizen MD, author of The Real Age Diet: Make Yourself Younger with What You Eat, says “People who consume saturated, four-legged fat have a shorter life span and more disability at the end of their lives. Animal products clog your arteries, zap your energy and slow down your immune system. Meat eaters also experience accelerated cognitive and sexual dysfunction at a younger age.”
2. Whole grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes contain no cholesterol, are low in fat (especially saturated fat) and are high in fiber – all part of the recommended diet by the American Heart Association to prevent heart disease. Cardiovascular disease kills 1 million Americans annually and is the leading cause of death in the United States.
3. Eating animal fats and proteins may also raise a person’s risk of developing cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and other illnesses and conditions. One way that the vegan diet accomplishes reduced disease risk is by combating obesity. Those who follow a vegetarian diet are more likely to lose weight and keep the weight off.
4. Have a condition that runs in your family? An article published in the October 2012 issue of Food Technology suggests that plant-based diets may minimize people’s genetic predisposition to some chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
5. Men with early stage prostate cancer who make intensive changes in diet and lifestyle may halt disease progression, according to a study published in the Journal of Urology.
6. You don’t need milk to reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis. We do need to increase our intake of calcium, but there are plenty of vegetarian sources, including dry beans, tofu, soymilk, and dark green vegetables. Remember that your healthy bones also need phosphorus, magnesium and vitamin D!
7. A vegan diet may help ease the symptoms of menopause. Plant-based foods are rich in phytoestrogens, chemicals that mimic the behavior of estrogen. Soy is by far the most abundant natural source of phytoestrogens, but these compounds also can be found in hundreds of other foods such as apples, beets, cherries, dates, garlic, olives, plums, raspberries, squash and yams. In addition, because menopause is also associated with weight gain and a slowed metabolism, a low-fat, high-fiber vegetarian diet can help ward off extra pounds.
Do you need to be a full-time vegan to reap these health benefits? No! The best way to make any changes to your diet is to do so gradually. Start off with scheduling at least one meatless meal per day. Work your way up to a full day of vegan foods, such as by “celebrating” Meatless Monday. Overall, increase the amount of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes you consume over the course of a day and cut back on meats, eggs and dairy foods.