The prime of life

NUTRISPEAK by Vesanto Melina MS, RD, and Kayla Feenstra

Portrait of Vesanto Melina
I’m convinced to this day that our lifestyle choices make the difference between thriving and dying. – Dr. Ruth Heidrich, vegan since her 1982 breast cancer diagnosis and winner of six Ironman Triathlons.

In our senior years we need fewer calories, but more of certain nutrients like protein, calcium and vitamins D and B6, compared with our needs as younger adults. This simply means we have to get “more bang for our buck.” We have few calories to waste on foods high in sugar and fat that deliver little else. And keeping fit is highly important for the body and brain through regular exercise that improves balance, aerobic activity and strength.

Spend a couple of hours a week cutting up raw veggies or romaine lettuce and napa and red cabbage for a huge salad. These keep well for days in containers with good seals. Centre meals on vegetables; legumes; beans, peas and lentils for abundant protein; and fruit for potassium and vitamin B6. Cook up a pot of brown rice or quinoa and a big lentil or bean soup and marinate some tofu for instant heating. Your fridge might look like a deli counter with prepared foods, ready to arrange on a plate, heat and eat. Cook with ginger, rosemary and turmeric as these have anti-inflammatory effects and protect your DNA. Check out the short video clips at

Potential advantages of vegan and vegetarian diets for seniors

“Populations of vegetarians living in affluent countries appear to enjoy unusually good health, characterized by low rates of cancer, cardiovascular disease and total mortality. These important observations have fuelled much research and have raised three general questions about vegetarians in relation to non-vegetarians: Are these observations the result of better non-dietary lifestyle factors, such as lower prevalence of smoking and higher levels of physical activity? Are they the result of lower intakes of harmful dietary components, in particular meat? Are they the result of higher intakes of beneficial dietary components that tend to replace meat in the diet? Current evidence suggests the answer to all three questions is ‘Yes.’” – Walter C. Willett, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston.

Good reads

Never Too Late to Go Vegan: The Over-50 Guide to Adopting and Thriving on a Plant-Based Diet by Carol Adams, Patti Breitman and Virginia Messina.
Senior Fitness and Lifelong Running by Dr. Ruth Heidrich.
Becoming Vegan: Express Edition by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina.
Cooking Vegetarian by Vesanto Melina and Joseph Forest (recipe below).

Tofu Marinade

Use this to marinate tofu or tempeh; thicken it as a sauce for stir-fries, veggies or brown rice.

1/2 cup fresh or canned tomatoes
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup tamari or soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp. minced, peeled ginger root (or more)
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp. turmeric

Put ingredients in a blender and blend for 15 seconds or until smooth. This marinade will keep for 2-3 weeks, refrigerated.

March 13: Vesanto Melina’s 72nd birthday! She gives a free talk, “Update on Vegetarian, Vegan and Raw Nutrition,” Walnut Grove library, 7PM, Langley.,, 604-882-6782.

Leave a comment