So what is the Vegan Diet and why should the elderly avoid it?
In a nutshell, a Vegan Diet is a plant-based diet. Vegans are Vegetarians who take it a step further as they exclude several foods from their diet including dairy and eggs. Vegetarians leave the meat out of their diet just as Vegans do, but ultimately the Vegetarian Diet is more relaxed.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF VEGANS AND VEGETARIANS
The very first time the word Vegetarian was used was in 1839. Just for the record, there were also Fruitarians who came to be in 1893. They lived strictly on fruit. It’s hard to understand where they would have gotten their protein from.
It was in 1944, during the second world war when Vegetarians who refused to eat dairy products began calling themselves vegans. There are some other oddball dietary terms that most people have never heard of.
In 1993 people who ate fish but no other meat were called Pescatarian. It comes from the Italian word pesce that means fish.
Another word that has been kicked around is Flexitarian. This group follows a mostly vegetarian diet, but will occasionally eat meat or fish.
It was around that same time that a group who ate mostly meat came into being. They were called Meatatarians, but the word never caught on and is not part of the dictionary.
Now we have the Keto Diet, Paleo Diet, and Atkins Diet that all include eating copious amounts of animal-based food and very little in the way of complex carbohydrates.
WHAT FOODS DO VEGANS AVOID?
As mentioned, Vegans leave meat, eggs, and dairy out of their diet, but there are other foods they leave out as well. Some will actually make you scratch your head.
The Veganism premise is that they will not eat food that comes from exploited animals. They believe that animals are treated cruelly when processed for the market-place.
This is the same reason they will not eat bee products. They feel that the bees are exploited much the same as pigs, cows, and fish. This seems a bit over the top to me. I guess Vegans don’t realize that for decades almond farmers have used bees to pollinate their crops.
Yet, I’m willing to bet that almonds, almond flour, and almond milk are high on the list of foods that some Vegans eat. I guess they are bending the rules a bit to fit their needs or possibly they don’t realize how bees are used to pollinate the almond blooms.
In reality, are the bees not being exploited when they are transported halfway across the county every year so they can pollinate the almonds?
They also avoid eating ingredients and additives that might have ties to animals. This includes Cochineal or Carmine that is often used as a dye to give many foods a red color.
Gelatin is a thickening agent that actually comes from the skin, bones, and connective tissues of pigs and cows.
Isinglass is a gelatin-like substance derived from fish bladders that are often used to make beer or wine.
Omega-3 is very important for our health, but Vegan will not use any that is derived from fish. Instead, they look for Omega-3 that is derived from algae.
Vitamin D3 is important for health as well, but it also comes from fish oil or the lanolin in sheep’s wool. As an alternative, Vegan will choose Vitamin D3 that comes from lichen.
Shellac is a substance that comes from the lac insect and is sometimes used as a wax coating for fresh produce.
FOODS VEGANS AVOID THAT MIGHT SURPRISE YOU
You would think bread products would be okay, but think again. Many bakery products like bagels and bread contain the single amino L-cysteine. It’s a softening agent that comes from poultry feathers.
Caesar dressing is a no-no because it has anchovy paste as one of its main ingredients.
Candy is another food that does not meet the Vegan standards. Jello, marshmallows, gummy bears, and chewing gum all contain gelatin.
They won’t eat french fries that are cooked in animal fat. Personally, I make excellent french fries that are coated with olive oil and baked in the oven.
Deep-fried foods like vegetables or onion rings are out of the question because tempura often contains eggs.
Pesto is forbidden because it contains Parmesan cheese which of course, is a dairy product.
Baked beans are avoided because they often have lard or ham in them.
Refined sugar is not eaten because natural carbon is made from the bones of cattle. As an alternative Vegan will use cane sugar or organic sugar.
Roasted peanuts often have gelatin in them as its used to help salt and spices stick to the peanuts and gelatin comes from animals.
Some produce is coated with wax that is often petroleum or palm-based. Often, however, it will come from shellac or beeswax.
There are several Vegan Snacks that have been formulated just for Vegans.
The bottom line is that Vegans must spend a lot of time reading labels to ensure they do not pollute their bodies with non-vegan choices.
WHERE DO VEGANS GET PROTEIN?
Seitan is made from gluten which is the main protein in wheat. It actually resembles the texture and looks of meat once it is cooked. It’s a good source of iron and selenium.
Lentils have long been a favorite source of protein for Vegetarians and Vegans alike. Lentils have been credited with lessening the risk of heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, and some forms of cancer.
Chick Peas and almost all varieties of beans are great choices as they are all high in protein. Some favorite beans are Kidney, black, and pinto beans. If you eat a lot of these beans they can decrease cholesterol and help control blood sugar levels.
Tofu, Tempeh, and Edamame all come from soybeans which are considered a whole source of protein. All three of these foods contain iron, calcium, and protein.
Spelt and Teff are from the ancient grains’ family and both are high in protein B vitamins, zinc, and selenium. You could also include Amaranth and Quinoa in this family of ancient grains’.
It might surprise you that the common green peas rank highly on the Vegan’s favorite vegetables. They are an excellent source of protein, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and vitamin B.
Spirulina is a blue-green algae that is considered to be a nutritional powerhouse. It contains magnesium, riboflavin, manganese, potassium, and essential fatty acids.
Soy milk is used to replace milk and contains a high amount of protein(7 grams per cup). It’s also great as a source of calcium vitamin D and vitamin B12.
Broccoli, spinach, asparagus, artichokes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and Brussels sprouts are the vegetables with the most protein. As a rule, they contain about 5 grams of protein per cup.
WHY SENIORS MIGHT WANT TO AVOID THE VEGAN DIET
There are several reasons why a Vegan diet might not be a great fit for seniors.
For some seniors, just the act of shopping can be challenging. Some have mobility issues or vision issues.
I believe by having such a restrictive diet shopping for food might become even more challenging for them than it already is.
In order to follow a strict Vegan diet, careful attention has to be given to the ingredients of everything that is purchased in the way of food. Just reading labels might be difficult for some seniors.
It also takes some getting used to when creating Vegan recipes and doing the actual preparation. Most seniors might not want to(or perhaps are not able to)spend the extra time it takes to make sure every meal follows the Vegan principles.
Probably the biggest problem seniors would have with the Vegan diet is ensuring they are getting the proper nutrients. Possibly they won’t always know what supplements to take to make up for the dietary shortfall that comes with a diet that leaves so many foods out.
This could lead to health issues that often occur when there are deficiencies in a diet of any kind.
It seems one of the best diets for seniors could well be the diet embraced by the people living in the Blue Zones of the world. It is a diet that is much more flexible and far easier to follow than many of the more restrictive diets out there.
The Blue Zone diet of choice is much like the Mediterranean Diet which many health officials believe is one of the best diets in the world.
It allows for fruits, vegetables, olive oil, wine, eggs, and small amounts of meat and dairy products. It opens up a lot more possibilities when it comes to preparing meals as there are so many food choices.
How can the people living in the Blue Zones be wrong when many of their citizens live to be 100 or more on a regular basis? Not only do they live longer, but they live longer with quality of life.
I truly believe this is the best diet choice for seniors. The Vegan might be much more appealing and doable for those who are considerably younger, but I don’t think it would be sustainable for seniors.
If the elderly decide to make a drastic change to their diet, they should be sure to talk to their doctor about it first.
Would you like to share your thoughts on this topic? Feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page.