Following a vegan diet has shown to be good for your health. But how you should adjust based on your age?
This means that people in different age ranges need to think about supplementing their vegan diets with different nutrients – depending on the needs of their bodies at different points in their lives. So, young whippersnappers will feel different benefits to people who are middle aged or older, and they will need to include different vitamins in their diets for optimal health.
Record numbers have pledged to commit to the plant-based diet in 2020.
But how many people know exactly what the vegan diet is doing to their health?
Jenny Carson, BSc, MRES, nutritionist and technical supervisor at Viridian Nutrition explains exactly how the vegan diet impacts different age brackets – and what nutrients vegans of different ages need to make sure they’re getting:
Age 18 – 30
‘Lifestyle and dietary habits during the years 18 to 30 lay the way to elderly health,’ explains Jenny. ‘This period is prime for optimizing nutrition and being especially mindful of bone health, detoxification besides mood and hormone supporting nutrients. ‘Veganism at any age should be nutritionally supported, but this is the age when optimizing your dietary intake really does affect later life. ’18-30-year-olds are those who are likely to burn the candle at both ends, combining a busy work life with socializing, exercise demands while climbing the career ladder. So, while you would need the same nutrients as a vegan of any age, the amount is crucial.
‘The whole B vitamin family and magnesium are essential for stress management and energy production, while endurance exercisers and females will need to be mindful of their iron and calcium intake. ‘However, these nutrients alone are not sufficient, calcium should be taken with sufficient dietary magnesium, Vitamin D and Vitamin K. And so, this synergistic relationship results in the normal remineralization of bone.’ Jenny says that Vitamin B12 can only be found in animal sources, which is a problem for vegans because it’s a crucial vitamin. ‘Subsequently, food supplements containing Vitamin B12 are essential to fill the nutritional gap in the vegan diet,’ she adds. ‘The most common symptom of insufficient B12 intake is fatigue, the lack of energy is a result of Vitamin B12’s role in red blood cell production, which transport oxygen to the body’s cells to produce energy.’
Age 30 – 45
‘Parenting and peri-menopause are some of the biggest impacts of life between 30 and 45 years,’ says Jenny. ‘These involve good sleep practices, relaxation and energy. As before, focus should be on the adequate provision of magnesium, the B-vitamin family, calcium, Vitamin D and K. ‘As age progresses, the ability to digest and utilize food can decrease, and so, a digestive ritual can be useful. ‘Take the time to prepare and think about your meal, this triggers the first phase of digestion. Smelling the food plus bitters really stimulate the release of gastric secretions that optimize how the food is digested. ‘It is essential that B-vitamins are taken with a meal to take advantage of such secretions, in fact some B-vitamins cannot be absorbed if the gastric secretions are absent.’
Age 45 and over
‘This age-group celebrate their new found freedom, less time at work and children that are less dependent allows the development of new hobbies and increased leisure time,’ explains Jenny. Jenny says the main health issues for this group can be around bone, joint and cognitive health.
‘Here the focus should be on adequate levels of omega-3 essential fatty acids, especially in the form of Eicosapentaenoic acid (|EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) plus Choline.
‘These nutrients are essential for brain health, good quality cell production and joint health.’ This age group is also more likely to remain covered up in warmer weather, says Jenny, so taking Vitamin D as a supplement can also become more important. ‘Vitamin D has multiple roles in keeping your body healthy,’ she adds. ‘Among them maintaining bone health, immune function and normal blood calcium levels and aids the body’s absorption of other nutrients. Vitamin D is created by the skin’s exposure to the sun.
Jenny suggests that a multivitamin formulated to fill the nutritional gaps in a vegan or vegetarian diet could make it easier to make sure you’re ticking every box. ‘It could act as an assurance that you are not missing any essential nutrients necessary for health and life enjoyment,’ says Jenny. ‘When looking for food supplements, look for those that include good quality nutrients and do not use non-nutritive substances such as fillers, bulking agents, preservatives, colors, additives or sugar.’
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