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Can a Plant-Based Diet Promote Healthy Aging?

Can a Plant-Based Diet Promote Healthy Aging?

Plant-Based Aging

The popularity of plant-based eating is continuing to gain traction for its environmental impact, positive health outcomes, and now, its benefits for aging. Similar to a vegetarian and vegan diet, a plant-based diet limits animal-based proteins and byproducts, while placing a focus on plants. The difference with a plant-based diet is that it doesn’t necessarily mean a person will completely eliminate meat. Rather, they would opt for plant-based foods much more frequently.


Like any diet, a plant-based diet may not agree with everyone. A poorly structured plant-based diet can promote nutrient deficiencies and hormonal imbalances, especially if the wrong person consumes this diet. People who don’t eat a variety of plant-based foods may have a harder time getting enough vitamin B12, protein, iron, or be more at risk for disordered eating patterns. However, there are numerous benefits to consuming a plant-based diet, especially when it comes to aging. 


So the key takeaway is this: plant-based diets promote healthy aging as long as they provide all essential nutrients and minerals for a person’s needs and if they’re suited to benefit from it.


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Anti-Aging Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet 

Researchers have conducted plenty of studies to support the notion that plant-based diets have anti-aging benefits. Also, some notable people who need to eat healthy because their job depends on it, have said going plant-based has helped them tremendously. 

Healthy Aging Benefits of Going Plant-Based

  • Improved telomere activity/lengthening - As we age, the caps at the end of our DNA strands shorten and this process contributes to aging. Telomeres are the enzymes that rebuild those caps, but unfortunately, again, telomere activity decreases with age. However, researchers at the University of California San Francisco discovered that eating a plant-based diet for just three months could increase telomere production significantly. With more telomeres, DNA strands get rebuilt more effectively and aging slows down. 
  • Boosts immune system function - As we age, the immune system weakens. Conversely, a weakened immune system increases your susceptibility to autoimmune disorders and infections that become worse as you age. Plant-based foods usually come chock full of phytochemicals and antioxidants that boost immune function. These compounds rid the body of free radicals and reduce inflammation, reducing the risk of certain illnesses. 
  • Improve digestion/gut flora - Over time, our digestive system changes. You secrete less gastric juices. Your gut can become more permeable (a.k.a leaky gut) allowing more molecules to enter the bloodstream. Your gut flora becomes less diverse as well. All of this leads to poor nutrient absorption and that could herald the beginning of age-related diseases. Plant-based diets populate the gut with healthy microbes that help you absorb nutrients well into old age. Plant-based foods are also rich in fiber, which further feed healthy bacteria and help other substances move through the gut better. 
  • Reduced risk of chronic illness - Many modern maladies that afflict us as we age could be reduced by eating more fiber. Plant-based diets contain an abundance of fiber. It helps lower cholesterol/lower blood pressure, stabilize blood sugar, and reduce inflammation. That means a reduction in heart disease, diabetes, and cancer (namely, colorectal cancer). 
  • Increased energy- If you’re lacking energy, you might not need that extra cup of coffee. A plant-based diet can serve as a more sustainable source of energy. Plant-based foods are easier to digest and supply plenty of energizing nutrients ranging from B vitamins to magnesium. They’re also free of unhealthy fats and additives that can lead to fatigue. This is why many people who eat plant-based foods find that their energy levels rise after adopting the diet. 


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Now there’s one other point to discuss - the issue of genetics. Some people may experience more anti-aging benefits. Cornell University researchers have shown that certain populations are genetically predisposed to experience health benefits from a plant-based diet. 


They found that people who carried variants of the FADS1 gene were more likely to benefit from a plant-based diet. What’s more interesting is that certain populations are more likely to carry these variants such as people who live in East Asia and Africa. Of course, anyone from anywhere could harbor these variants. 


With that said, knowing whether you have these genes can help you decide whether to adopt a plant-based diet or not. Our DNA testing kit cantell you what the best vegetables, fruits, and whole grains are for your genes in order to feel your best! 



Tips for Starting a Plant-Based Diet 

So you’re ready to go plant-based, but you must adopt it the right way so that you don’t set yourself up for nutritional deficiencies that come with a poorly-structured plant-based diet.


  • Consult your doctor- Before completely eating plant-based, it would be helpful to see your doctor first. They’ll check your bloodwork and other levels to see if you’re in good shape to adopt a plant-based diet. Even if you may be slightly deficient in certain nutrients, they may recommend some modifications to your diet or the addition of a supplement. 
  • Ease into it - If you’re used to eating meat, you don’t have to go cold turkey. Gradually reduce your intake of animal products (meat, seafood, dairy, etc.) so that your body acclimatizes to the change. You’ll prevent cravings and energy dips that may accompany a sudden shift. 
  • Substitute, don’t eliminate - Removing animal products can mean starving yourself of protein, iron, vitamin B12, zinc and other essential nutrients. Make sure to cover your bases and add plant-based foods that supply you with the vitamins and minerals you need for good health. 
  • Learn recipes - Eating a plant-based diet can seem restrictive, but getting creative can solve that. There’s a treasure trove of plant-basedrecipesout there to satisfy every taste bud. A Google search, digging through social media, cookbooks, or even YouTube will provide tons of ideas. 
  • Practice mindfulness - Paying attention to how you feel once you change your diet is important. It’s key to knowing whether it works for you or not. Take note of your energy, mood, strength, and weight - you’ll start to know if the diet is worth continuing or not.

Aging Well on a Plant-Based Diet

If you’re thinking about adopting a plant-based diet for your health, wellbeing, and improving your longevity, remember it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach. Find what works for you and what fits into your lifestyle. Although a plant-based diet may “brighten” your skin or help you shed a few pounds, you may not notice those effects right away. What you can look forward to is more stamina, a clearer mind, and better health overall. Feeling better can be the best gift to receive in your golden years. 


Want personalized insights on how to eat right for your body’s needs? Try our GenoPalate testing kit tomake the best diet choices for your health!

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