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Vegetarian Diet Recommendations for Healthy Ageing

Nutrition plays a pivotal role in the ageing population to fuel their natural ageing process. All over the world, people are living longer, and healthy ageing is a priority for the public health sector. As ageing is the natural trait of human beings, healthy ageing is the disease-free natural ageing process. 

In most cases, ageing brings along deadly and chronic non-communicable diseases, making old age a burden for the elderly. In addition, the financial and social obligations have levied enormous stress on older adults, which are solely responsible for various age-related problems. 

Common Diseases Associated with Ageing

The most common diseases like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases collectively contribute to 70% of global mortality.

There are several factors responsible for the complex process of healthy ageing. The factors responsible for healthy ageing are diets and eating habits, genetic receptiveness, and various environmental and behavioural factors.

The habit of overeating, following unhealthy diets and sedentary behaviour, and cigarette smoking increase the chances of obesity, hypertension, modified lipid metabolism, and diabetes.

Research has revealed that healthy ageing is a multidimensional phenomenon that is not regulated by one single nutrient but by a combination of foods and lifestyles together.

Vegetarian Green Diet and Healthy Ageing

According to research conducted in 2020, over 700 million people worldwide are above the age of 65, which is increasing yearly. In Hong Kong, life expectancy is high, and experts believe that the proportion of the elderly population will reach up to 38% in 2069 from 18% in 2019. 

In the intervening period, there is a lot of focus on the dietary regime. It includes less amount of fruits and whole grains with higher sodium intake.

On the other hand, the emphasis on prudent and occident influenced dietary patterns consists of a fair amount of protein and refined grains. The availability of these high-quality foods for almost everyone hinders following healthy nutritional habits.

The Green Diet

Individuals who live on plant-based foods without any animal meat consume less salt. The rapid acceptance of a “green diet” based on plant-based foods without excessive sodium and non-animal proteins also helps reduce food waste. It is significant in maintaining a green environment which is a prominent factor in healthy ageing. 

Individuals are developing cautious mindsets against excessive and unnecessary purchases of food items. The association of red meat in the diet is often the reason behind colorectal cancer and diabetes. 

The Practice of Green Diet and Its Importance

The practice of a green diet is of paramount importance for healthy ageing. Research conducted by the Centre for Health Protection (2015) revealed that people above 15 consume one processed food daily. Even people keep less than five portions of fruits and vegetables in their daily dietary regime. This dietary pattern reflects that people are more prone to foods containing excess sodium, fat, and calories than nutrients. 

The nuts and seeds provide essential amino acids in our bodies while satisfying our daily protein intake of 10%-15% of our body mass. In addition, fruits and vegetables can be a great source of dietary fibre. Doctors recommend consuming at least 25 grams of dietary fibre daily as an adult or adolescent. 

A green diet emphasises the consumption of leafy vegetables and olive oil to reduce the scope of cardiovascular diseases and arterial stiffness. Vegetables and fruits are also full of antioxidants that help prevent chronic diseases. It is necessary to eliminate the free radicals and reduce cancer risk. Every increased consumption of vegetables can reduce the chances of cancer by 15%, cardiovascular disease by 30%, and mortality by 20%. 

Benefits of Adding Fruits and Vegetables to Our Diet

Fruits and vegetables are good sources of antioxidants that help promote healthy ageing. It prohibits the chances of chronic diseases and takes care of skin ageing too.

Here are some instances:

Tomatoes contain antioxidants like beta-carotene, lycopene, potassium, folate, vitamin C, flavonoids, and phenolics. However, if fried or cooked, it loses its nutrients.Green leafy vegetables contain vitamins A, B, and C, phenolic and ascorbic acids. As a result, it maintains healthy skin and prevents cancer. Potato contains ascorbic acids, especially in marble variety of potatoes is rich in ascorbic acids. However, the level decreases due to storage, processing, and cooking. Cruciferous Vegetables: Vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, and Brussel sprouts are rich in polyphenols, flavonoids and glucosinolates. Hydrolysis products of these vegetables contain antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-cancer elements. Chilli and Sweet Pepper contains Vitamin A, C, and E and is also neutral and acidic phenolic acid. Carotenoids are present in the mature stages of pepper, but the level of lutein declines eventually with maturation. Bulb and Root Crops: Leaves and stems of these vegetables, like garlic and radish, are enriched with antioxidants like syringic acids, vanillic acids, ferulic acids, and sinapic acids. Carrots especially contain carotenoids, vitamins C and E, and phenolics. Leguminous Vegetables: These vegetables are filled with phenols, phytate, and Vitamin C. while snow peas contain beta carotene and ascorbic acid along with phenol and Vitamin C. Drumstick: This tree’s mature and tender leaves are potent antioxidants that prevent oxidative damage to biomolecules and our bodies. Citrus Fruits: Most fruits are packed with antioxidants and have many health benefits. Fruits like peach, raspberry, strawberry, cranberry, red grapes, red currants, figs, cherry, pears, guava, orange, mango, apricots, cantaloupe, papaya, watermelon, and tomatoes are rich in various antioxidants. 

According to research, there is a balance between our bodies’ oxidants, antioxidants, and biomolecules. The oxygen-derived free radicals, responsible for the ageing process, cause damage to our tissues and cells.

The antioxidant prevents those free radicals from damaging our tissues and cells. Therefore, our skin remains healthy and supple. Antioxidants are essential to prevent premature ageing. We can consume vegetables and fruits to gain antioxidants and protect our bodies from cell and tissue damage. Hence, in the case of healthy ageing, antioxidants are a must.

The HealthifyMe Note

Many nutritionists highlight the importance of following a diet rich in colourful fruits and vegetables. Such a diet plan can slow down the pace of your ageing and help keep your skin looking young and wrinkle-free. The main anti-ageing foods are walnuts, almonds, cucumbers, avocados, green tea, sesame, berries, aloe vera juice, water, etc. Drinking water and staying hydrated are essential to help bodily functions and provide your body with anti-ageing properties. Drinking 2 to 3 litres of water can keep wrinkled skin at bay.

Several recipes help promote healthy ageing naturally. However, the key to making the ageing process smooth is many things to abide by relating to lifestyle and food habits. Hence, to smooth your ageing process, a few recipes are mentioned to follow and understand their needs in your day-to-day life.

Bajra, Whole Moong, and Green Peas Khichdi

Time: 30-40 mins

Serving: 4 people

Ingredients

Black millet/Bajra (soaking for 4-5 hours): ¼ cup Green peas: ½ cupGreen gram moong daal: ¼ cupChopped tomatoes: 1 cupChopped onions: ½ cup Asofoetida (hing): A pinchOil: 2 tbsp Cumin seeds: 1 tbsp Garlic paste: 1 tbsp Chilli powder: 1 tbsp Ginger paste: ½ tbsp Green chilli paste: ½ tbspTurmeric: ½ tbspSalt as per taste

Method of Preparation

To prepare Bajra whole moong and green peas khichdi, soak Bajra and moong daal separately in plenty of water for 4-5 hours. Drain out the water and keep it aside.Pressure cook the soaked Bajra, dal, and peas with little salt and water.Meanwhile, take a nonstick pan and add 2 tbsp of oil. After heating the oil, add cumin seeds. When the seeds will start spluttering, add a pinch of Hing. Add onion and saute. Add ginger garlic paste, green chilli paste, tomatoes, turmeric powder, and red chilli powder. Saute all the ingredients and mix wellWhen the mixture is cooked and the oil starts separating, add some water and simmer again for 2-3 minutes. Take a potato masher to mash the paste further to gain a smooth consistency. Open the pressure cooker after releasing the steam. Add the cooked Bajra, moong, and green peas mixture. Mix it well with the smooth paste prepared. Add a cup of water to the mixture. Simmer it for 4-5 minutes while stirring it occasionally. Serve hot.

Tofu Tacos

Time: 30 mins

Serving: 4 people

Ingredients

Chopped onions: ½ cup Chopped cilantro: ½ cupShredded cabbage: ¼ cupPico de gallo and/or guacamole: ¼ cupChilli powder: 1 tbspExtra virgin oil: 3 tbsp Well-minced garlic: 2 cloves Warmed corn tortillas: 8Rinsed black beans: 1 can Patted-dry block extra-firm tofu cut into ½-inch pieces: 4 cupsSalt: 1 tspGround cumin: 1 tspGround pepper: 1 tspGround cinnamon: 1 tspDried oregano: 1 tspCider vinegar: 2 tsp

Method of Preparation

Take a medium bowl and combine the ingredients, including chilli powder, salt, pepper, cumin, oregano and cinnamon. Add tofu to the mixture in the bowl and toss all of them together to coat. Take a large nonstick skillet and heat two tablespoons of oil at medium heat.Add onion to the skillet and cook until they start to soften for about three minutes. Add onion to the skillet and cook for about one minute.Add tofu and cook them for about ten minutes until they turn brown. Remove from the heat and stir in vinegar and cilantro.Fill each tortilla with about ⅓ cup of tofu filling.Garnish it further using cabbage, pico de gallo, and/or guacamole.  

Spring Veggie Wraps

Time: 1 hour 15 mins

Serving: 4 people

Ingredients

Tahini: ¼ cupOrange juice: ½ cupOrange juice extra: 2 tbspShredded carrot: 1 cupLime juice: 1 tbspMinced fresh ginger: 1 tbspSoy sauce (low-sodium): 1 tbspThinly sliced scallions with their white and light green parts alone: 2 tbsp Black or white sesame seeds: 2 tbspGarlic (Minced well): 1 clove8-inch spinach or whole-wheat tortillas: 4Medium radishes: 6Large leaves butter, Boston or Bibb lettuce: 8Salt to taste Canola or avocado oil: 2 tsp

Method of Preparation

Line a large baking sheet with three layers of paper towels.Arrange tofu in a single layer on the sheet.Cover them with two layers of paper towels and proceed to gently press on the tofu to remove any excess liquid from it. Transfer the tofu to a 9 X 13-inch baking dish.Mix the ingredients, ¼ cup of orange juice, lime juice, ginger, garlic, and soy sauce, in a small bowl. Refrigerate ¼ cup of the mixture to use as a sauce.Add the two tablespoons of orange juice to the mixture outside the bowl.Pour this prepared marinade over the tofu and turn to coat it well. Cover and refrigerate it well for thirty minutes, turning once or twice. Discard any of the unabsorbed marinades.Take a large nonstick skillet and heat one teaspoon of oil at medium-high heat.After reducing the heat to medium, add half the tofu and sprinkle ⅛ teaspoon of salt over it. Cook for five minutesFlip the tofu and cook it for another five minutes until it is brown. Adjust the heat as required to avoid the tofu getting burnt.Repeat the procedure with the remaining oil, tofu and salt.Divide the lettuce, carrots, scallions and radishes among tortillas. Top it with the cooked tofu and drizzle the remaining sauce over it. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and then roll up. 

Benefits

Several benefits are associated with the practice of a “green diet”. 

It reduces sodium intake. It reduces calorie intake.It reduces unnecessary fat intake through unhealthy foods.Due to low sodium intake decreases the risk of hypertension and high blood pressure. As it doesn’t include processed meats, it reduces the intake of saturated and unsaturated fat and fatty acids. It prevents our body from being glucose intolerant and insulin insensitive. It decreases the fasting glucose level. The dietary intake of phylloquinone from leafy vegetables lowers the chances of type II diabetes. The increased intake of phylloquinone can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The green diet is rich in dietary fibre and nuts, full of unsaturated fatty acids and free from trans fats that cause coronary heart diseases. Whole foods and sprouts are part of a green diet, and it’s good for hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. Leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, sprouts, and low-fat dairy products are suitable for healthy ageing. Fruits and vegetables can also be a great source of dietary fibre, lowering blood cholesterol levels and stabilising blood sugar. It also improves bowel function to control constipation. The antioxidants in vegetables and fruits are a great source of antioxidants that cancel out free radicals and other reactive oxygen or nitrogen molecules in the body to prevent our bodies from becoming susceptible to chronic diseases while ageing. Vegetables contain anti-carcinogenic micronutrients like selenium, plant sterols, glucosinolates, indoles, protease inhibitors, and phenols. 

Conclusion

Obtaining healthy ageing is a process of keeping the body fit and feeding our body with easily digestible, nutritious foods. Old age or ageing is not a disease. It is a biological process obtained by every human being. The way it can be made seamless, painless, and disease-free is our goal.

A healthy diet, especially the green diet, is suitable for people of every age if they are not allergic to any of the ingredients mentioned. The ageing process might be complex but attaining healthy ageing is not that hard. It is a process through which the eating habits, lifestyle, and perceptions of our life change and reach an optimum state.

Not only food habits but also little freehand exercises are good for health. Staying active in old age will help you stay healthy. However, being active does not necessarily mean indulging in strenuous activities. Hence, everybody can make their life healthy through a few changes in their outlook and habits.  

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

Q. What is the healthiest option for dinner?

A.There is no particular dish to point out as the healthiest. Every food contains a variety of nutrients. Therefore, on a dinner plate, one can add salads, a quarter of vegetables, half carbohydrates, and a quarter of protein. Then it can be the healthiest option for dinner.

Q. What meals can I eat without meat?

A. You can obtain plenty of vegetarian dishes as a substitute for meat. Processed meats can be unhealthy as they have a high amount of sodium. Hence, soybean, eggs, and paneer can be good options. 

Q. What should a vegetarian not eat?

A. A vegetarian person usually avoids animal-based proteins like meat and fish, stock or fats derived from an animal. While some vegetarians do not avoid poultry or dairy products, others refrain from having them. 

Q. Do vegetarians live longer?

A. Research discovers that vegetarian men and women live longer than non-vegetarians. It happens because non-vegetarians are susceptible to bacteria, cholesterol and much more. Hence vegetarian men live ten years more than non-vegetarians.  

Q. Is rice healthy to eat?

A.Yes, of course. Brown rice is for gaining nutrition as it is rich in fibre, magnesium, manganese, selenium, and vitamin B. Rice is a good source of carbohydrates which gives us energy. 

Q. What should I eat in the evening?

A. Older adults looking for healthy ageing can have warm milk, almonds, and air-popped popcorn. Hence, we can choose anything low in fat, unhealthy, and according to our hunger. 

Q. How can I eat healthy without meat?

A. Vegetarians have numerous options to choose from. Instead of meat, we can go for soybean, paneer and raw jackfruits as a substitute. There are several food options that you can go for, which are tasty and healthy compared to their non-vegetarian counterparts. 

Q. Are eggs vegetarian?

A. Some consider eggs vegetarian, while others believe they are non-vegetarian. Generally, since egg has no animal flesh, they are considered to be vegetarian. Many vegetarians do not mind consuming eggs, while some others strictly avoid eggs.  

Q. What can I make for dinner when I have nothing?

A. We can still make interesting things out of nothing. For example, if we have carrots and beetroots, we can put them into a juicer with a pinch of ginger and a few drops of lemon to enjoy healthy juice. If we have cucumber, tomatoes, and onions, we can chop them and add a pinch of rock salt to have a nutritious filling salad. 

Q. Is a vegetarian diet the healthiest?

A. A vegetarian diet includes plant-based foods. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and dietary fibre. Hence, rather than non-vegetarian food, vegetarian food is healthy and the vegetarian “green diet” is the most beneficial option.

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