Are there benefits to a plant-based diet in your 40s?

This article includes PR samples

By now we can all safely admit that we have tried SOME form of restrictive dieting in our time. I remember an old boss going through the cabbage soup diet trend and just feeling so sorry for her. She must have been starving and farty! I had the benefit of working on Celebrity Fit Club where I worked closely with the team supporting the celebrities and I learned so much about nutrition. However, I was in my early 20s and had a metabolism faster than a speeding train. It’s only now, in my 40s, I’ve discovered that this train needs a frikking service!

These days, I look to maintain a healthy balance with food. I eat mindfully and I enjoy what I eat. That said, I know that at this stage of my life, I will benefit hugely from fuelling my body in the right way. I do enjoy meat but for various reasons I do want to cut back so I was super interested to learn more about the benefits to a plant-based diet.

What is a plant-based diet?

We asked Dr Kirstie Lawton, a registered nutritional therapist at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition and an AfN registered nutritionist to explain a little more. She offered us the following information.

According to the British Dietetic Association, a plant-based diet consists mostly or entirely of plant-based foods. While the term is synonymously used with veganism, a plant-based diet isn’t necessarily vegan and may include those who eat some meat, fish, egg, or dairy. The diet is predominantly made up of fruit and vegetables, grains, pulses and legumes, nuts and seeds. 

What are the benefits to a plant-based diet?

benefits to a plant-based diet

An entirely plant-based diet, if correctly balanced, is rich in a wide range of protein building blocks, phytonutrients (plant-derived nutrients) and a diverse array of fibre, that can support the microbiota and improve gut health. Pulses and legumes are protein-rich and contain a variety of nutrients including B vitamins, iron, folate, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and fibre to support the microbiota.

Nuts and seeds are highly nutritious food sources containing a wide variety of protein building blocks, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, potassium, selenium, magnesium, zinc and copper, and fibre. Fruit and vegetables are rich in a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fibre also. 

There is research supporting the use of a well-considered plant-based diet for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and blood lipid profiles, management of diabetes type 2, weight reduction and prevention of some cancers. However, what is key here is that the diet is from whole food sources that are prepared from scratch, rather than over-reliance on processed plant foods that are high in salt and additives. 

What considerations are there for eating a plant-based diet?

Plant-based eating can be healthy and nutritious, however, there are some key considerations: 

While a number of vegan food sources contain protein, the amount is generally quite low, so it is essential to ensure that you are eating a good source of protein at each meal. A number of these sources also have what we call limiting amino acids, e.g. a protein building block that is essential from the diet is missing. By combining plant-based foods e.g. beans and rice, the meal becomes a source of all essential amino acids. The richest and most complete source of protein is soy, however, this can be highly processed and isn’t suitable for everyone. 

Research indicates that those eating an entirely plant-based diet may be deficient in a number of nutrients including riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), vitamin B12, vitamin D, iodine, zinc, calcium, potassium, and selenium. Sources of all of these nutrients are available through a plant-based diet and some fortification (calcium, vitamin B12). However, someone who is plant-based and concerned that their diet isn’t diverse enough may wish to consider supplementation, which should be done in consultation with a registered nutritional therapist.

Consider supplementation

benefits to a plant-based diet

Further potential deficiencies include the essential fatty acids DHA and EPA, which are derived from fish, and are essential for a number of functions in the body. While these can also be converted from the fatty acids found in seeds, conversation rates are low. Algae is a plant-based source of DHA and EPA and should be considered in supplement form. Finally, choline is essential for a wide range of functions, and is especially important for the growing foetus, so choline supplementation may also be a consideration in those who are eating a plant-based diet and of childbearing age. 

There are more and more plant-based products on the market that are highly processed, and full of inflammatory ingredients which may not be optimal for health. These should be eaten as an occasional food choice, and replaced with homemade recipes from raw or minimally processed ingredients where possible. 

Finally, those with GI issues, such as an imbalance or overgrowth of bacteria, issues with nightshades, a soy allergy, or intolerance to histamine-rich or oxalate-rich foods may struggle with a plant-based diet, and should seek support from a registered nutritional therapist to correct these health concerns.

Plant-based recipe ideas

benefits to a plant-based diet

I was thrilled with Good4U asked me to try their range of plant-based snacks and toppers.

Packed with plant-based protein, the range is ideal for those looking for a natural protein boost, whether it’s to increase energy after a workout or to incorporate as part of a family meal, the delicious topper combinations are here to elevate and nutritionally optimise those bland dishes.

To add nutritional benefit to those more indulgent meals, these tasty toppers can be added to a wide range of dishes including your favourite pizza, curry, or burrito. In fact, the handy pouches can be easily resealed and used whenever a sprinkle of goodness is needed in your dish.

Good4U Super Seeds offer a crunchy and savoury mix of tamari roasted sunflower seeds, pumpkin, and British-grown green peas. At only 144 calories per 25g serving, the seeds contain zinc, known to help the immune system to reduce unwanted bacteria and viruses, ideal for fighting off those colds and flus during the winter months.

If you want to add a bit of spice to your evening meal, why not turn up the heat with Good4U’s Garlic and Chilli Salad Toppers. This spicy mix is only 123 calories per 25g serving, made with sweet red peppers, chilli roasted seeds, smoky chipotle, and a sprinkle of kale, which can be poured on your curry for a nourishing boost or added to your salad to give an extra punchy kick.

To find out more about the range and for recipe inspiration, visit the Good4U website.

benefits to a plant-based diet

I’ve been really enjoying building Buddha bowls for a satisfying lunch. Follow the steps below, picking one suggestion from each. Season to taste and enjoy! Send us your pictures on Instagram!

Grain Base

Grains are naturally high in fibre, helping you feel full and satisfied. Choose from one of the following:

Brown rice

Spelt

Buckwheat

Millet

Quinoa

Bulgar Wheat

Barley

Corn

Giant Cous Cous

Wild Rice

Protein

We need protein in our diet to help our body repair cells and make new ones. Choose from one of the following:

Chickpeas

Lentils

Kidney Beans

Peas

Edamame Beans

Black Beans

Mung Beans

Soy Beans

Navy Beans

Tofu

Colour

benefits to a plant-based diet

There’s nothing more beautiful than eating the rainbow. So add one of the following to invite your eyes to the party:

Broccoli

Kale

Spinich

Carrots

Sweet Potato

Butternut Squash

Red Cabbage

Mangetout

Radish

Beetroot

Dressing

Fats in dressings can actually help you absorb key nutrients. But don’t go crazy! Choose from one of the following:

Olive Oil

Balsamic Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar

Red or white wine vinegar

Lemon Juice

Lime Juice

Honey

Pumpkin Seed Oil

Soy Sauce

Natural Yoghurt

Texture

Who doesn’t love that added crunch. Salads don’t need to be boring. What will you add from the following?

Sunflower Seeds

Pumpkin Seeds

Poppy Seeds

Hemp Seeds

Almonds

Cashews

Hazelnuts

Walnuts

Brazil Buts

Peanuts

I love seeing all the gorgeous colours in the bowl knowing I’m eating mindfully and healthily. The best part is, it tastes amazing. We have introduced meat-free Mondays at home. It’s a start!

Are you plant-based? Are you considering cutting back on meat? Let us know by commenting below.

Eating well to age + 5 scrummy recipes!

Have you made a pact with yourself to eat better this year? If you’re reading this because you’ve already hit the 40 mark – which you most probably have – then you will know that we can’t quite get away with shovelling any old thing into our system and not pay the penalty for it. The bottom line is that at 40, we need to start thinking about eating well to age so we can feel more vibrant and vital for longer. Because that’s the aim of the game now folks isn’t it?

So what’s the schtick here? At 40, eating well to age means we should all be eating plenty of veggies – the more colourful and intense in colour the better, a variety of fruits, wholegrains, the right amount of protein, healthy fats and the like. As our metabolisms slow down, quite simply…we need to be more selective about what we eat if we want to walk the path to improved wellness.

With that said, today we are sharing some of our favourite recipes for eating well to age from the very appropriately named book – Eat Well to Age Well – the inspiring new cookbook by Beverley Jarvis – which is a veritable bible for eating well to age. It’s packed full of delicious whole food recipes, as well as insightful nutritional and invaluable practical guidance to help us all become super agers, without the hard work!

Vegetable medley with chickpeas and almonds – V

Eating well to age
Credit: David-James Selling

This filling vegetable dish is ideal served as a light lunch or supper, needing only the addition of a dressed, mixed-leaf salad to make it into a complete meal. If you don’t eat the whole dish at one sitting, leftovers can be chilled and re-heated the following day. You may prefer to cook the vegetables on the hob while you cook the sauce in the microwave.

SERVES 2

INGREDIENTS:

250 g washed and diced butternut squash

1 celery stick, chopped

1 small red pepper, chopped

1 medium-size courgette, sliced

1 tsp dried mixed herbs

Juice ½ orange

25 g flaked almonds

1x 200 g chickpeas, drained

EQUIPMENT:

You will need a shallow microwaveable dish (about 1 ½ litre in capacity), a citrus juicer, microwaveable dinner plate, chopping board and knife, spoon for stirring and microwaveable dinner plate.

NUTRITIONAL NOTE:

Butternut squash is a good source of dietary fibre and contains 22 g carbohydrate per cupful. One cup also contains 57% of the RDI for vitamin A and 52% of the RDI for vitamin C, as well as vitamins B1, B3, B6 and B9. It also makes a valuable contribution towards the RDI for the minerals calcium, iron, phosphorus and copper. The chickpeas provide 7.4 g fibre, 7.2 g protein and 15.7 g carbohydrate per 100 g.

TO SERVE:                                

Dressed, mixed-leaf salad with chopped apple; wholemeal bread rolls.

1. Put the prepared vegetables into the shallow dish, sprinkle with the herbs and then add the orange juice.

2. Cover the dish loosely with greaseproof paper, wrapping it under the dish to prevent it from blowing off.

3. Microwave on High for 5 minutes.

4. Remove the dish from microwave and carefully stir the vegetables, then recover and return to microwave for a

further 3½ minutes on High.

5. Set aside to stand, covered.

Toast the almonds:                                                                                                                                                                                                 

 1. Arrange them around the outside edge of the dinner plate and then microwave on High for 5 minutes, opening the door and rearranging the nuts once during cooking. They will turn lightly golden.

2. Add the drained chickpeas to the vegetables and return to the microwave for 1 minute on High.

3. Serve the vegetables with their delicious juices, topped with the toasted almonds, accompanied by the bread rolls and salad.

Cod and courgette kebabs with pineapple

Eating well to age
Credit: David-James Selling

These tasty fish kebabs, flavoured with lemon and garlic could be cooked on the BBQ, or under a pre-heated grill. They are as attractive to serve as they are good to eat.

SERVES 2

INGREDIENTS:

250 g cod fillet (or salmon fillet if

preferred), skinned and cubed

6 button mushrooms

½ tbsp olive oil

1 garlic clove, crushed

Juice and finely grated zest of

½ lemon or lime

1 tbsp freshly chopped coriander

1 medium courgette, cut into 6 equal slices

1 small red pepper, cut into 2.5 cm pieces

2 canned pineapple rings in natural

juice, drained well, then cut into chunks

(optional)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

EQUIPMENT:

You will need a chopping board and knife, small mixing bowl, shallow dish, fork, teaspoon, tablespoon, skewers, a pastry brush, citrus juicer, small bowl and fork.

NUTRITIONAL NOTE:

The cod makes a valuable contribution towards your RDI for protein. It can also provide all or more of your RDI for vitamin B12 and is a valuable source of selenium and iodine. The potato mash makes a good contribution to your RDI for carbohydrate with the sweet potatoes adding vitamins A and B6, plus 6.6 g fibre per 100 g. The bell peppers are a good source of antioxidants.

TO SERVE:

Serve with the pickled vegetables on page 114 and a mash made from equal quantities of sweet and ordinary white potatoes, such as King Edwards, peeled, then cooked together in a covered large pan of boiling water until completely tender. Drain well, then mash, beating in a little semi-skimmed milk and a seasoning of salt and freshly ground black pepper.

1. Put the cod and mushrooms into a shallow dish.

2. In a mug or small bowl, mix together the olive oil, garlic, lime/lemon zest and juice and the coriander.

3. Whisk with a fork and spoon over the mushrooms and fish. Cover and chill for 30 minutes.

4. Carefully thread the fish and mushrooms onto 2 kebab skewers, alternating with the courgette, red pepper and pineapple pieces, if using.

5. Brush each skewer with some of the remaining marinade mixture and season with a little salt and pepper.

6. Grill on a grill rack, lined with tin foil, for 6-8 minutes, turning occasionally, or until cooked through.

7. Serve immediately, with the pickled vegetables and the mashed potatoes.

COOK’S TIP

If you are using wooden/bamboo skewers, soak these in water for ½ hour before use to stop them burning.

Curried lamb soup with broccoli

Eating well to age
Credit: David-James Selling

Any leftovers can be cooled, then stored in the fridge, for up to 3 days. The soup also freezes well; re-heat until boiling and simmer for 3 minutes before serving. Filling and sustaining, serve the soup as a complete meal, accompanied with some warmed naan or chunky wholemeal bread.

SERVES 4-5

INGREDIENTS:

2 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil

1 large red onion, chopped

2 carrots, diced

3 tbsp tikka curry paste

1 clove garlic, chopped

½ red chilli, de-seeded and chopped

2.5 cm piece fresh ginger,

peeled and grated

1 x 400 g can chopped tomatoes

2 tbsp tomato purée

350 g lamb leg steaks, trimmed and diced

1 rounded tbsp plain flour, seasoned with

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1.2 litre lamb stock

1 x 400 g can cannellini beans,

drained and rinsed

1 head broccoli, florets only

EQUIPMENT:

You will need a chopping board and knife, 2 dinner plates, absorbent kitchen paper, a measuring jug, tablespoon, grater, teaspoon, wooden spoon, slotted spoon, large saucepan with lid and large frying pan.

NUTRITIONAL NOTE:

The protein in the lamb contributes significantly to your RDI. Lamb also contributes vitamins B6 and B12, iron and magnesium. There are fibre and vitamins A and C in the carrot, tomatoes and broccoli and protein, fibre, vitamin B9, and the minerals copper, and iron in the cannellini beans.

TO SERVE:

1. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large saucepan, on a high heat.

2. Add the onion and carrot and stir-fry for about 5 minutes, over a medium heat, until the onion is soft and translucent.

3. Stir in the curry paste with the garlic, chillies and ginger and keep stir-frying for a further minute.

4. Add the tomatoes and tomato purée to the pan; stir well.

5. On the dinner plate, toss the lamb in the seasoned flour.

6. In a large, shallow frying pan, heat the remaining oil.

7. Add the lamb to the hot oil in the frying pan and stir-fry, over a medium-high heat, until golden on all sides.

8. Lift from the pan, using a slotted spoon, and drain on absorbent kitchen paper.

9. Add the lamb stock to the saucepan and bring to the boil.

10. Cover and simmer gently, for 30 minutes.

11. Stir in the drained beans and broccoli.

12. Continue to simmer for 5-7 minutes, covered, until the vegetables are just tender. Return lamb to pan. Stir.

13. Serve, in warmed soup bowls

Avocado and chicken bake

Credit: David-James Selling

Avocados are highly nutritious and simply delicious, quickly baked in the microwave. This easy recipe makes a great light lunch or supper dish. As an alternative to the chicken, try chopped cooked prawns or drained, flaked, canned tuna fish.

SERVES 1

INGREDIENTS:

50 g cooked chopped chicken thigh

or breast meat

50 g freshly made brown breadcrumbs

1 tbsp Greek-style natural yoghurt

1 tbsp freshly chopped tarragon or parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large ripe avocado, halved

Juice ½ lemon

25 g parmesan cheese, grated

EQUIPMENT:

You will need a 1-litre mixing bowl, tablespoon, teaspoon, citrus juicer, pastry brush, microwaveable avocado dish, 2 microwaveable dinner plates, chopping board and knife, and cheese grater.

NUTRITIONAL NOTE:

Avocados have many nutritional benefits (see page 23). The chicken makes a significant contribution towards your RDI for protein. The breadcrumbs provide carbohydrate and fibre.

TO SERVE:

2 tsp crème fraîche; handful parsley sprigs, chopped.

1. Put the chicken into the mixing bowl with the breadcrumbs and yoghurt then stir in the herbs with a seasoning of salt (keep to a minimum) and pepper.

2. Brush both halves of the avocado with lemon juice and wrap one half to chill in the fridge for use in a salad the following day.

3. Fill the remaining avocado half with the prepared filling.

4. Sprinkle with the grated cheese.

5. Put the filled avocado half in the microwaveable avocado dish, then stand the dish on a dinner plate.

6. Microwave, uncovered, on High for 2½-3 minutes. Serve immediately with the crème fraîche and parsley.

COOK’S TIP

This recipe can easily be doubled. If cooking two avocado halves together, allow about 4 minutes, and space them apart on a dinner plate.

Sweet jacket potatoes with smoked mackerel, horseradish and parsley

Credit: David-James Selling

Sweet potatoes cook quickly in the microwave and can be counted as one of your seven-a-day. I often serve them for a quick lunch, straight from the microwave, with just some crumbled feta cheese and a dressed, mixed salad with a sliced kiwi fruit and some chopped dates added.

SERVES 2

INGREDIENTS:

2 medium-size sweet potatoes,

washed and dried

Spray oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

75 g smoked mackerel fillet, skinned

3 tbsp Greek-style natural yoghurt

2 tsp lemon juice

2 tsp horseradish sauce

1 dsp freshly chopped parsley

EQUIPMENT:

You will need a vegetable knife, microwaveable dinner plate, 1-litre mixing bowl, fork, measuring spoons, chopping board and knife.

NUTRITIONAL NOTE:

A good source of fibre, and providing 6% of your daily requirement for carbohydrate, and 4% of your daily vitamin C  needs, sweet potatoes also provide 10% of the daily requirement for vitamin B6. The mackerel and yoghurt contribute significantly towards your daily protein requirement and the mackerel also provides more than the RDI for vitamin D, significant B3 (niacin) and B12 and the minerals iron, magnesium and selenium. Greek yoghurt contains 121 mg calcium per 100 g.

TO SERVE:

Accompany with a dressed, mixed salad.

1. Score a cross in the top of each potato you wish to cook.

2. Stand the potatoes, spaced apart, on the dinner plate and spray them all over with a little spray oil and season with a little salt and pepper.

3. Microwave them, uncovered, on High for 5-6 minutes for one potato or 8 minutes for two.

4. Set aside for 4 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, prepare the filling: In the mixing bowl, mash together using a fork, the mackerel fillet with the yoghurt,

lemon juice and horseradish sauce. Add the parsley and fork in.

6. Serve the opened jacket potato(es) with the mackerel filling, divided between them, accompanied by the salad.

COOK’S TIP

Baked sweet potatoes are delicious served with a dollop of lightly seasoned Greek yoghurt, with a little finely chopped red onion or a few snipped chives.

Eat Well to Age Well is available to buy at Waterstones and on Amazon. Check out the first chapter of the book here.

The best healthy recipes for ageing

We hope you enjoyed these recipes which are a fantastic way of eating well to age. Have you started eating well to age? Which is your favourite recipe from the above? And if you haven’t why not join our Instagram community where we share all things related to life in your 40s here.

Cover picture credit: Food photo created by senivpetro