Why vegan weight loss?
Evgeny Atamanenko/ShutterstockCounting the calories can only take people so far. One woman cut out late-night snacking, and it made a big difference in her weight. But with over two-thirds of adults in America overweight or obese, a vegan weight loss diet could help address the myriad of health conditions which costs the country around $147 billion annually.
The vegan weight loss approach is not for the fainthearted—managing to eat well while sticking to vegan principles takes time and determination, but the health benefits definitely make it worth the effort.
So what do you need to know about adopting a vegan weight loss diet?
It's backed by science
Africa Studio/ShutterstockIf you're going to tackle vegan weight loss, you'll want advice from experts. One such expert is Joel Kahn MD, clinical professor of medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine and founder of the Kahn Center for Cardiac Longevity. He has been a vegan for four decades and he cites a long-term study: "There's a large body of science from the Adventist Health Study at Loma Linda. Nearly a 100,000 people have been tracked since 1958. There's a very high percentage of vegetarians and vegans, and otherwise very healthy lifestyles, because of the tenets of the Seventh Day Adventist Church." Those on a vegan diet had consistently had a lower BMI than those on a vegetarian or omnivorous diet.
And a Harvard study in 2015 found that "those on vegan diets lost more weight than either general calorie-controlled diet or vegetarian diet."
Plant-based foods are lower in calories
mythja/ShutterstockMost of the weight in plant-based foods comes from water, so you can eat more. You feel fuller for longer which is an important factor when you're trying to lose stick to a diet. "You can take 400 calories and use it as olive oil—it's going to be about a tablespoon," says Dr. Kahn. "And take 400 calories of chicken wings, it's going to be a small little cupful—that's not going to fill your stomach. But if you eat a giant salad, it's going to be 400 calories full of fiber and nutrients and vitamins, and it will be adequate to fill your stomach." Check out these 23 vegan comfort food recipes for more meal ideas.
Filling up on salads, whole fruits, vegetables, beans and pulses, are a great way to stave off the hunger pangs which have you reaching for the cookie jar.
Plant-based foods have lower levels of saturated fat
Foxys Forest Manufacture/ShutterstockIf you're eating too much meat, especially processed meat like burgers or bacon, you're taking in too many saturated fats, which can clog up your arteries and send you cholesterol levels rocketing. Overdoing the fast and dairy products, like hard cheese and butter, can do the same.
Following a well-balanced vegan diet weight-loss plan will reduce your intake of saturated fats and replace it with unsaturated fats. For example, a small portion of nuts eaten as a snack or sprinkled on salads is a great healthy choice.
Vegan foods contain fewer chemicals and antibiotics
Panya Anakotmankong/ShutterstockIt's been well-documented that nasties like insecticides can enter the food chain, some of them possibly carcinogenic. Heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are generally more concentrated in animal products. And farm animals destined for our tables have frequently been treated with antibiotics to keep them healthy; however, those drugs can build up in our bodies to cause resistance to antibiotics, with potentially fatal consequences.
"We do live in a world, sadly, with a lot of exposure to chemicals, pesticides, and antibiotics," said Dr. Kahn. "You can run but you can't hide. However, in general, plant-based food sources are less likely to expose people to these." If you need more convincing, here are 11 convincing reasons why going vegan isn't crazy.
Vegan foods are rich in nutrients
Kerdkanno/ShutterstockThe key foods in a vegan diet are packed with nutrients, vitamins and minerals, in comparison with other foods.
Raw nuts contain unsaturated fats and heart-healthy omega-3s. Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, pistachios, walnuts), are full of antioxidants. And the same holds good for seeds like flaxseeds, sunflower, and pumpkins seeds. But don't overdo it! They're also high in calories, so munching too frequently or in large portions could blow the lid on your quest to drop the pounds.
Many vegan foods are high in fiber
mythja/ShutterstockMany people don't eat anything near the recommended 38g for men and 25g for women. Eating too little fiber can cause constipation, hemorrhoids, and digestive problems. There's also evidence to show that getting enough fiber can protect against colorectal cancer.
Many of the foods in a vegan diet are high in fiber, including beans and pulses, vegetables and legumes, and whole fruits. These will help you succeed in your weight loss journey and you'll also be getting a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals to boot.
Keep blood sugar levels stable
BlueBoeing/ShutterstockA diet that's rich in fiber and low in sugars helps avoid the "sugar spike" that occurs when you eat sweet foods. That spike is then followed by a dip in your blood sugar, leading to fatigue and tiredness. Feeling full of energy is half the battle when you're trying to lose weight—it helps motivation and also makes you feel more like exercising, which also helps to shift the pounds.
And for those with diabetes, maintaining a steady blood sugar level is crucial—indeed there's some evidence to indicate that type 2 diabetes can be reversed by following a plant-based diet.
Eliminate or reduce risk of health problems
VILevi/ShutterstockVegan diets have been shown to eliminate or reduce the risk of many health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, digestive issues and even some cancers. A vegan weight loss meal plan will not only help you fight the flab, but could also improve your overall health as well. Check out all the amazing things that happen to your body when you go vegan.
It's a sustainable way to eat healthily
Losing weight and keeping it off demands a change in lifestyle rather than a quick fix, as Dr. Kahn points out:
"We know there's lot of different ways to lose weight ten days before a wedding," he said. "Whether you adopt an Atkins diet, whether you fast, whether you sugar-bust your diet—there are all kinds of different names and variations.
"But the likelihood that they're going to lead to long-term weight loss, according to the literature, is very low and they lead to yo-yo diets."