Senior Health: Better to Eat Meat Or Plant Food? (Healthy Aging Learning Series) Health Coaching Session, October, 2017
What to eat is an essential question for human survival and we are facing it at each meal every day. It’s very easy to come across conflicting information, especially in the health science regards meat-based diets in comparison to plant-based diets.
You are never too old to enjoy the benefits of improved nutrition and fitness. With nutrient-rich foods, fitness, and social activities, you are entering a new dimension of life. In fact, as you are getting older, food and activity choices become even more important to your body.
More Nutrients, Fewer Calories
As adults age, they need fewer total calories, but more nutrients, especially protein, B-vitamins and calcium. In terms of nutrition, quality is more important than quantity. All personal food choices, for every food group, need to be power-packed with more nutrients per calorie. For both optimal physical and mental health, older adults truly need to make every calorie count.
The golden years are definitely not the time for extreme diets or drastic weight loss. The goal should be to eat better while eating less. Fad diets frequently eliminate entire food groups, which can lead to serious nutrient gaps. Rapid weight loss often leads to a loss of lean body mass, exactly the opposite of what older people need for good health.
Aim for a stable weight as you get older and keep the BMI with normal range. The right balance of foods and activities could help lose more fat, while maintaining strong muscles and bones.
The meat-based diets in comparison to plant-based diets, the main point to remember here is that protein isn’t the same. Human in all ages need protein to build strong mussels and healthy bodies. The key difference between animal and vegetable protein is in their amino acid profiles and the rate at which our bodies can absorb amino acids and put them to use. Because animal protein is more similar to protein found in the human body, it is used up more rapidly than those found in plants.
Malnutrition is seen in varying degrees in the elderly, along with varying vitamin deficiencies. Malnutrition is due to under nutrition, nutrient deficiencies or imbalances. Mild malnutrition symptoms may include loss of appetite, general malaise or lack of overall interest and wellness.
Common nutrient deficiencies of dietary origin include inadequate intake of vitamin A, B, C, D, E, folic acid and niacin. Malnutrition may also be the result of some socioeconomic risk factors.
The USDA food patterns suggest that people 50 or older choose healthy foods every day from the following:
Fruits — 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 cups [What is the same as 1/2 cup of cut-up fruit? A 2-inch peach or 1/4 cup of dried fruit]
Vegetables — 2 to 3-1/2 cups [What is the same as a cup of cut-up vegetables? Two cups of uncooked leafy vegetable]
Grains — 5 to 10 ounces [What is the same as an ounce of grains? A small muffin, a slice of bread, a cup of flaked, ready-to-eat cereal, or ½ cup of cooked rice or pasta]
Protein foods — 5 to 7 ounces [What is the same as an ounce of meat, fish, or poultry? One egg, ¼ cup of cooked beans or tofu, ½ ounce of nuts or seeds, or 1 tablespoon of peanut butter]
Dairy foods — 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk [What is the same as 1 cup of milk? One cup of yogurt or 1-1/2 to 2 ounces of cheese. One cup of cottage cheese is the same as ½ cup of milk.]
Oils — 5 to 8 teaspoons [What is the same as oil added during cooking? Foods like olives, nuts, and avocado have a lot of oil in them.]
Solid fats and added sugars (SoFAS) — keep the amount of SoFAS small [Note: when eat too much SoFAS, there will be not enough calories for the nutritious foods to take-in.]
Ensuring adequate nutrition and proper intake of vitamins and minerals will help keep our aging population feeling more vital and ultimately healthier, with a proactive preventive approach rather than intervention.
Personal Food Choice
Food choice is a personal decision. To be honest, we are not only eating for what we “should” because it’s good for us, but also eat for our taste satisfaction and pleasure. A good balance between healthy eating and pleasure eating is the key for sustained health benefit and happiness. If you love meat, you have a rich source of protein and no limitations of all food groups. Keep in mind for portion control and avoid high fat. If you only eat plant food, you have a lot of plant protein options. Remember to keep up with essential nutrients and limit high sugar/carbs.
The take home messages
There is no right or wrong answer for eating meat or plant food only.
The protein is different, from animal or plant food source, to meet human nutritional needs.
As adults age, they need fewer total calories, but more nutrients, and to focus on nutritional quality not quantity. Their goal should be to eat better while eating less.
Food choice is a personal decision. A good balance between healthy eating and pleasure eating is the key for sustained health benefit and happiness.
Ensure adequate nutrition intake. Enjoy your food and rewards for healthy eating.
Disclaimer: This information is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not medical advice. Consult your healthcare professional for personal conditions.
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