How You Can Adapt Your Vegan Diet As You Get Older

In recent years, the benefits of veganism have been extensively researched and promoted. Not only has veganism been shown to improve skin health, but it can also aid in maintaining optimal cardiovascular health. A vegan diet has also been linked to a 35 percent reduction in prostate cancer, and for older consumers, a 50 percent reduction in developing type 2 diabetes. As a result, it comes as no surprise that the vegan food market will grow by 9.6 percent between 2019  and 2025, according to Grand View Research. However, as you get older and your body ages, so do your dietary needs. For vegan consumers, this often means tweaking your diet to fulfill new health changes, such as a B12 and calcium deficiency.

Meet Your Calcium Needs With Green, Leafy Vegetables And Soy Alternatives

According to the Institute of Medicine’s Dietary Reference for Calcium and Vitamin D, women over 51 years and men aged 70 and older have a calcium intake requirement of 1200 mg. As the body ages, your calcium requirements can change for several reasons, including a decline in calorie (and therefore calcium) intake. Poor calcium intake can heighten your risk of osteoporosis - a bone density condition that affects almost 44 million Americans aged 50 and older. Calcium also plays a crucial role in protecting the enamel of your teeth and helping you fight the oral issues most often seen in seniors, such as tooth decay and gingivitis.  

To ensure you get enough calcium on a vegan diet, aim for calcium-rich leafy vegetables like kale and spinach. For a dairy substitute, almond milk and soy/coconut yogurts are all rich in calcium. One cup of cooked kale can contain up to 177 mg of calcium, while six ounces of soy yogurt contain as much as 300 mg of calcium. Many almond milk brands also include calcium and Vitamin D supplements in their beverages, which can help you meet your 1,200 mg calcium intake target. 

Amp Up Your B12 Intake With Fortified Grains And Supplements

B12 is one of the most common nutrients that you may find yourself lacking as you get older. For those following a vegan diet, this can be doubly difficult. With some of the richest sources of B12 being meat, poultry and dairy products, vegans can find it tough to get enough B12 in their daily diet. B12 is responsible for maintaining your body’s blood cells and DNA. A lack of Vitamins B6 and B12 has also been linked to depression and poor mental health. 

Since the body cannot produce B12, your only source is either through your diet or supplements. According to the National Institute of Health, the recommended B12 intake for an adult is 2.4 mg daily. To satisfy this requirement, vegans can turn to cereal and grains that have been fortified with additional minerals including B13 and folate. Many vegan meat products are also fortified with B12 while a 4-gram serving of yeast extracts includes 2.0 mg of B12. If you are still finding it difficult to reach the requirement, consider including an age-appropriate multivitamin in your diet. Most multivitamins include up to 6 mg of B12 vitamins.

Satisfy Your Potassium And Magnesium Needs With Fresh, Whole Fruits And Vegetables

While both potassium and magnesium play a crucial role in maintaining bone strength, magnesium also promotes optimal heart and immune health. Research has shown that as you get older, your potassium intake requirement rises. For instance, those aged 19-50 years require 3,400 mg of potassium for men and 2,600 mg for women. Women who are pregnant or lactating also have higher potassium intake requirements of 2,900 mg and 2,800 mg respectively.

Fruits like bananas, prunes and oranges contain as much as 358 mg of potassium. For magnesium, unprocessed foods like fresh whole fruits and vegetables are a great start. Legumes and nuts like almonds, cashews and black eye peas are all magnesium-rich sources and make great snack additions to your vegan diet.

Finally, fiber plays an increasingly important role in maintaining your digestive health, so opt for whole grains and pulses in your vegan diet. As a bonus, the inclusion of green leafy vegetables like kale not only supports your bone health but also provides you with with plenty of fiber. As always, there may be the odd case where a vegan diet may not be suitable for you due to prior medical conditions. Therefore, it is recommended that you speak to your doctor before becoming fully vegan.