14 Things You Need to Know About the Vegan Weight Loss Diet
Want to lose weight quickly and safely? Vegan weight loss might be the answer you've been seeking.
Why vegan weight loss?
Counting 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
If 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
Most 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
If 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
It'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
The 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
Many 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
A 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
Vegan 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."
Watch out for carbs
Just because a foodstuff is vegan, it doesn't necessarily mean it's healthy. For example, fries are technically vegan if they're cooked in vegetable oil, but a large daily portion isn't going to help your weight loss goal!
Many snacks also carry the vegan tag, but they're but high in saturated fats and salt. Again, too many of these and your waistline will tell the tale. And that's also true of starchy vegetables like sweetcorn. So go easy on the portion sizes if you want to reduce your weight. Give some of these 15 creative vegan eggplant recipes a try.
Keep an eye on sugar
A sweet tooth or addiction to desserts is the downfall of many a would-be dieter. Many sugars are vegan (although not honey of course), but it only takes a little sugar to pile on the pounds. Try and retrain your taste buds to enjoy the natural sweetness of fresh or dried fruits instead. "We can get our sweets from our grapes, apples, apricots and plums," said Dr. Khan. Or try some of these tasty vegan treats.
Be wary of processed foods
Nowadays, it's easy to find food on the supermarket shelves that's labeled "vegan," but these dishes often contain high levels of fats, sugar and salt. Dr. Kahn advocates avoiding processed food where possible.
"There's a lot of processed food that carries the vegan label," he cautioned. "Doing that for weight loss, no matter how tasty it is, should not be encouraged." Here are the four most harmful ingredients in processed food.
Instead, he recommends a diet that's "whole food, plant-based, with single ingredients—fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains."
Make sure you get the right nutrients
Managing a vegan diet also means being careful to get the right balance of nutrients. It's easy to become deficient in vitamin B12, iron, calcium, and vitamin D, all of which are found more readily in animal products.
Dr. Kahn advises that "it's probably best to supplement with a few selected vitamins."
"Most of us could probably add Vitamin D, and maybe omega-3 from algae," he continued. "There are some nice plant-based multivitamins that have everything in one supplement, so that makes it easy." Check out this guide to getting the right nutrients on a vegan diet.
Ready to switch to vegan weight loss?
Dr. Khan has good advice for anyone wanting to switch to a vegan diet:
"I would say give yourself three weeks—you don't have to do it perfectly in the beginning, " he advises. "For example, if you're doing eggs and bacon in the morning—most people find a big bowl of steaming oatmeal with berries and walnuts very filling."
Using substitutes for your favorite foods can help lessen the jolt of switching. "If you like a big chili, it's very easy to make a bean chili," says Dr. Kahn. "If you like tacos, it's very easy to make bean tacos. If you like lasagna, it's very easy to buy a plant-milk based cheese." And here are 18 vegan appetizers everyone can enjoy.
And don't forget upping the fresh and whole fruits and vegetables. So at least one meal a day, for the person starting, should be the good old tried-and-tested large, large salad."