It can be difficult to come up with the best answer for the question, what is the best diet for seniors? How does one decide between all the diet choices that have been promoted over recent years?
Every diet from the Paleo, Keto, Vegan, or Mediterranean seems to have followers who claim their diet choice is the best.
THE PALEO DIET
Is this the best diet for seniors? This diet is actually based on the main food choices of the Paleolithic Era. Believe it or not, this diet dates back as far as 2.5 million years ago.
Typically, the Paleo diet consists of lean meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, and nuts and seeds. These were all foods that could be obtained by hunting and gathering.
The foods that are not included in the Paleo diet are the ones that came into existence when farming made an appearance about 10,000 years ago.
Foods that are not included in the Paleo diet(sometimes called the Stone Age Diet or Caveman Diet) are dairy products, legumes, and grains. The reasoning is, that when dairy products and grains were introduced to the human diet, it caused several problems.
The change in diet from the Paleolithic Age seemed to outpace the human body’s ability to adapt according to proponents of the Paleo Diet. Some blame the shift to dairy and wheat products the main cause of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. These are medical issues that have reached epidemic proportions in many parts of the world.
This is a diet people might adopt in order to lose weight as there are many schools of thought that blame complex carbohydrates for the ills of the world. The answer it seems is to simply eliminate them from your diet completely.
The problem with eliminating grains, dairy products, and legumes from one’s diet is people will miss out on the fiber, vitamins, protein, calcium, and other nutrients that these foods provide. These foods are considered healthy and affordable as opposed to meat and nuts that are the cornerstone of the Paleo Diet.
So is this diet good for seniors? Probably not and here are a few reasons why not.
The carbohydrate intake is too low. Grains help our bodies control blood sugar and lower cholesterol. This, in turn, helps our bodies fight the risk of chronic disease. It’s important for seniors to exercise and as glycogen is created from the complex carbohydrates we eat, omitting them from the diet could result in a lack of energy.
- Restricting dairy products can lead to a lack of calcium and Vitamin D. These are very important for bone health.
- The Paleo diet includes a lot of saturated fats and these fats could lead to a higher risk of kidney disease, heart disease, and cancer.
- Consuming the amount of fat this diet calls for can increase bad cholesterol and the risk of bowel cancer. If one was to follow the American Heart Association recommendation, the average adult should consume about 13 grams of saturated fats per day.
- On the Paleo Diet, the average amount of saturated fat per day can be as high as 50 grams.
People who lived a million years ago might have existed on this diet, but over time the human genetic makeup has changed and this diet could do more harm than good and doesn’t seem like a great choice for seniors.
THE KETO DIET
Often the Keto and Paleo diets are lumped together, but they are very different as they serve different purposes.
Yes, they are both devoid of complex carbohydrates but that’s where the similarity appears to end. The Keto Diet is more for disease management and not so much for weight loss.
The whole idea is to get into a state of Ketosis. This is a process of burning stored fat for energy as opposed to glycogen derived from complex carbohydrates.
Those who are on this diet are required to eat about three calories of fat for every calorie of protein or carbohydrate. It’s a very difficult diet to stick with simply because of the huge amounts of fat that need to be consumed on a daily basis. Many people who try this diet find it very hard to stick with.
After all, one can only eat so much butter, bacon, shortening, avocados, and cream and quickly give up on the diet. Ultimately, our bodies require carbohydrates to survive and rather than choose the Paleo or Keto Diet, seniors would be better served to choose a more balanced diet.
THE VEGAN DIET
The Vegan Diet has been increasing in popularity in recent years, however, there are several things people should know before diving in headfirst. Even though there are movie stars and world-class athletes who have embraced the Vegan Diet, it’s important to know all the facts to ensure that it’s a diet that will meet your particular needs.
It’s unfortunate, but vitamin B12 is very important but only occurs naturally in animal food sources. For those on the Vegan diet, it’s important to study up on B12 fortified foods. Failing that, a B12 vitamin supplement is an option.
There has to be protein in your diet somewhere, and without meat from animal sources, it’s important to search out Vegan foods high in protein. Some examples are natural soy, beans, and lentils.
- Some people new to the Vegan Diet believe it’s open season on junk food like white bread, chips, and a plethora of processed, packaged foods. It’s important to choose foods with a high nutritional value and avoid the junk.
- Eating too much of that soy-based fake meat is not a great idea. In some health circles, it’s considered worse than actual meat from animals. The best soy products are miso, tempeh, and soy milk.
- It’s necessary to read labels of the food you purchase. Some products contain whey which comes from milk and milk is not part of the Vegan Diet.
- The Vegan Diet will take some work to implement. It’s best not to dive in headfirst. Don’t throw out non-vegan food that you have already purchased and make a wholesale change to the Vegan Diet all at once. Start by adding some produce items and slowly eliminate meat products.
- Do your research. There are plenty of sites on the internet that will help you choose recipes that fit into the Vegan lifestyle.
So it this the best diet for seniors? It seems like a good diet and far better for you than the Paleo or Keto Diets, but I think for some seniors it will be hard to follow. Many seniors suffer from cognitive issues or memory loss and trying to remember what you can and can’t eat can be challenging.
A diet that has a proven track record among the seniors of the world is probably the best bet.
THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET
When a writer for the New York Times teamed up with National Geographic and visited the five locations in the world where people seemed to live very long and happy lives he discovered they all seemed to have several things in common.
They all lived healthy lifestyles that included plenty of exercises and fresh air. The diet they favor is the Mediterranean Diet and it is credited in a large part for increasing the longevity of the people living in what the National Geographic writer called the Blue Zones.
Many lived to be one hundred years old and enjoyed an excellent quality of life in their golden years.
There are just a few foods they completely eliminate from their diets. Soft drinks, white bread, and cow’s milk are avoided. Goat’s milk is favored over cow’s milk. There are also several foods that are eaten sparingly. These include meat, fish, and eggs.
Unlike the Vegan Diet, the Mediterannean Diet allows much more leeway when it comes to food choices. Meat, fish, and eggs are not part of the Vegan Diet.
The key foods are fresh vegetables, fruit, and especially beans, which are often called a superfood. Beans seem to be the cornerstone of every longevity diet in the world. Olive oil is the favored oil with many of the seniors in the Blue Zones consuming up to 6 teaspoons a day.
Tea and coffee are consumed in copious amounts in the Blue Zones. Also, wine drinkers can rejoice. Red wine is a favorite of those choosing the Mediterranean Diet and up to three small glasses a day appears to be very healthy.
A must-read for those interested in learning more are books titled Blue Zones, Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who Live the Longest and Thrive, Find Happiness the Blue Zones Way.
The Mediterranean Diet seems to be the best for seniors for many reasons. It’s a sensible diet and leaves plenty of options.
The Keto, Paleo, and Vegan Diets are quite strict and for many seniors, it would probably be difficult diets to stick with.
In a yearly survey of the top twenty diets chosen by magazine writers from around the world, the Mediterranean Diet was in the top spot.
The Keto Diet was dead last in the twentieth spot. The reason for it being in that position was the consensus that it was simply unsustainable. People who try it just can’t carry on eating the amount of fat required in order to reach a state of Ketosis.
This is not to say that the Keto, Paleo, and Vegan Diets are not excellent choices for some people, but when it comes to the question, what is the best diet for seniors the Mediterranean Diet seems to be the best choice.
Would you like to share your thoughts on this topic? Feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page.