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Courtesy of the National Senior Games Association: Original Source

CLEARWATER, Fla. – While only a fraction of senior athletes follow a vegan diet, there is a trend with more turning to this option. Traditional opinions by coaches and athletes say that you can’t perform as well athletically on a purely plant-based diet, but runner Ellen Jaffe Jones is out to disprove that thought. In fact, her says her own experience has already done that.

“After a 5K I ran in Florida in 2011, I was on the podium holding a trophy and wearing a bright neon yellow shirt with the cover of my book Eat Vegan on $4 a Day on it,” she recalls. “This guy tells me, ‘You can’t run on a vegan diet, and you certainly can’t race on a vegan diet.’ At that point, I had been running for 30 years and answered, ‘Let’s have that conversation.’”

Ellen leads a lot of conversations on the subject. Her early career as a television news investigative and consumer reporter provided the communication skills to become a speaker, author of six books, and host of an active website and social media pages about vegan diet and lifestyle. “There’s a perception that vegans are weak and all they eat is spinach and broccoli with no variety,” she says. “That couldn’t be farther from the truth.”

She began to shy away from meat protein after college when she gained weight while touring as a cast member of Up With People. “I was 150 pounds on a five-foot-three frame – not pretty or comfortable,” she recalls. “I did all the high protein diets – Atkins, South Beach, Zone Diet. After I almost died from a colon blockage when I was 28, I ran to the bookstore and read everything on fiber, and when I focused on fiber over protein the weight came off.”

Ellen’s family history was reason enough to evaluate diet. “I’ve watched my mom and both sisters get breast cancer, and my aunt died from it at an early age,” she says solemnly. “One of my sisters got diabetes and eventually died from heart disease. All my life has been focused on how to avoid this mayhem. We’ve been sold a bill of goods with ad campaigns for meat and dairy that promote misconceptions not based on science. There’s a lot of research now linking dairy to breast cancer, for example.”

Fitness running became a part of her life 40 years ago. In recent years she added track competition, making it to Nationals three times. She reports always being a “middle-of-the-packer” but that her performances have improved over time. She is proud to have secured 1500-meter gold in her Florida Senior Games qualifier, and to be on the women’s 65-69 4×100 winning relay team at The Games in Albuquerque last year. She was also one of only two women of 66 athletes in her age group to run all six track events plus the relay. “I recently placed my 199th 5K or longer race since 2006 just on plants,” she notes. “I’m now running a 27-minute 5K, and I never ran that fast. Many of the women who used to beat me like crazy 15 years ago aren’t even running anymore.”

Ellen adds a big reason she entered athletics was to share that vegans largely do not get arthritis. “Animal protein lodges in the joints,” she says. “Arthritis specialists and organizations are now saying to cut down or eliminate animal protein to cut down on symptoms of osteoarthritis. And that includes dairy.”

Her bottom line is that people should research and make up their own mind about diet. “There’s no money in broccoli. There’s no broccoli association or lobby, and that’s why we haven’t heard the good news about it and its sisters and brothers,” she explains. “When you understand that, you have to be your own investigative reporter to figure out the truth about food.”

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