Vegan diet for weight loss:
It is now not news that obesity is a global pandemic and it is associated with the rising risk of various major non-communicable diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart diseases, and cancer.
All this is attributed to the sedentary lifestyle, leading to poor diet choices and body inactivity. In this article, we bring you an increasingly popular lifestyle, veganism. A vegan diet has been praised by scientific research and many people including dieticians for its health benefits and environmental sustainability.
Celebrities and world-class athletes have come out to confess that going vegan has enhanced their game, increased athleticism, and led to significant weight loss amounts.
According to an article published in the Bleacher Report, exploring the increasing trend of basketball players making a turn to plant-based diets, many players claimed that going vegan raised their energy levels and helped them become leaner.
But what is a vegan diet for weight loss?
A vegan diet for weight loss is that which excludes all animal products such as meat, eggs, and dairy, and encourages eating more legumes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, healthy fats (olive oil and avocado), and seed for weight loss
The idea behind this vegan diet for weight loss is to reduce the high-calorie foods that we consume, and replace those foods with high-fiber food choices that are low in calories but yet nutrient-dense foods to keep you fuller longer.
Is the vegan diet healthy?
The vegan diet may be unhealthy in the sense that it eliminates or cuts out some essential food groups from the diet.
Animal products, for example, are good sources of proteins and vitamins more so vitamin B-12 which is only found in animal products. A deficit of essential foods like vitamin B-12 can lead to anemia.
One, therefore, has to make sure that they supplement their diet with foods that can give the body more of these proteins and vitamins to avoid deficiencies.
On the other hand, the vegan is healthy in the sense that when you cut out animal products like red meat and dairy from the diet, it decreases the intake of saturated fats which are the major cause of heart diseases.
Plant-based diets also have fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These have antioxidant properties that fight a variety of diseases.
Does a vegan diet really work for weight loss?
For the question of whether the vegan diet works for weight loss, the answer is yes.
Plant-based diets have a lot of fiber. Fiber makes you fuller longer hence reducing the calorie intake which in turn will reduce your weight.
A lot of research has been carried out to investigate the effect of a vegan diet on weight loss and the results have come out in support of the diet.
According to a systematic review and meta-analysis on the effect of a vegetarian diet on blood lipids published in the journal of the American heart association, it was established that vegan diet lowered cholesterol levels more than the control diets
Another study of the plant-based nutrition program to reduce the body weight and cardiovascular risk which was published in the journal of clinical nutrition looked at a corporate setting. In this study, 291 participants from 10 GEICO corporate offices either followed a low-fat vegan diet or control diet for 18 weeks.
It was established that people who followed the vegan diet lost 4.3 kg on average and had their bad cholesterol levels drop by 8 mg/dl compared to the control group where a drop of 0.1kg and zero drops in cholesterol levels were registered.
How does a vegan diet work for weight loss?
Researchers have linked the vegan diet to lower body mass index (BMI) and reduced risk to chronic diseases like cancer and cardiovascular diseases. But how does this come about?
According to Sonya Angeline, R.D., a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the vegan diet is a food restriction. She continues to say that any diet that cuts back on food reduces calorie intake and encourages weight loss.
The vegan diet cuts out high-fat animal foods like cheese, burgers, and bacon. When you eliminate fatty animal foods, the number of calorie intake is reduced which leads to weight loss.
Last but not least, plant-based diets are high in fiber. Fibre keeps you fuller for longer hours when consumed. This will reduce your appetite and eventually cut on your calorie intake. Reduced calorie intake implies weight loss.
So, what do I eat on the vegan diet?
Just as we discussed above, the vegan diet is intended to reduce the intake of high-calorie foods and replace those foods with high-fiber food choices that are low in calories but yet nutrient-dense foods. These include;
1. Fruits high in fiber
2. vegetables high in fiber
3. whole-grain such as;
- Brown rice
4. protein legumes
- Black beans
5. healthy fats
- Olive oil
6. plant-based protein
- Soy milk
7. leafy greens
- Swiss chard
- Collard greens
What do I not eat on the vegan diet for weight loss?
The vegan diet restricts the foods that are high in calories. Below are some of the foods you should avoid when you are practicing a vegan diet for weight loss.
1. Avoid dairy products like;
- Fresh milk
2. cut back on high-calorie drinks
- Soft drinks
- Fruit smoothies
- Ice tea
3. cut out added oil
4. cut out red meat
All these are high in saturated fat which carries more calories
5. don’t binge on plant-based desserts
These contain a lot of calories with no nutritional value
How long does it take to lose weight on a vegan diet?
Research shows that regardless of the type of diet that you practice, you cannot lose weight unless you limit your calorie intake compared to the calories you expend. Otherwise, it is very possible to gain weight on the vegan diet.
One should therefore not focus on how fast to shed off the extra pounds, but rather a sustainable weight loss. When you stick to a specific diet, watch your calories and regular exercise, you may be in a position to see results in a few months.
What are the advantages of a vegan diet?
Apart from practicing a vegan diet for weight loss, a variety of health benefits come along. These include;
1. It is healthy
Studies have shown that the vegan diet ranks highest for nutritional quality. This is because a plant-based diet has been associated with a decreased risk of many chronic diseases like cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes.
2. Encourages mindful eating
A vegan diet encourages the individual to intentionally focus on eating behavior rather than specific nutritional outcomes. This helps to give a healthier relationship with food. This has been used in many weight-loss interventions.
3. Weight loss
Countless researches have linked the vegan diet to weight loss. When you adopt a lifestyle and cut down on foods that are high in calories and fats, you most certainly shed off some pounds.
4. Reduced food costs
Choosing a vegan diet helps to reduce food costs. This is because some food groups like seafood, meat, and dairy products are cheaper compared to when they are substituted with fruits, legumes, vegetables, and more.
5. Better for the environment
Some individuals choose the vegan diet because they have it; it conserves the environment. When you compare the growth of vegan plants to livestock farming, vegan farming requires fewer resources (land & water).
Secondly, animals produce more greenhouse gases than plants. There is a reduced risk of global warming with vegan farming, unlike livestock.
What are the downsides of a vegan diet?
You will agree with me on this that every good thing comes with a dark side. The downsides of the vegan diet include;
1. Nutrient deficiency
When a vegan diet is not well planned, you may end up missing out on one nutrient, for example, those commonly found in meat, fish, and poultry. This can cause problems like neuron disorders, loss of bone strength, and more.
A commonly missed nutrient for the case of vegans is vitamin B-12 which is only found in animal products. This can, however, be supplemented from fortified foods.
2. Difficult dining out
When shopping, you can always read from product levels. But if you are dining in the restaurant or at a friends’ place, you may not have access to the ingredient list. This makes dining out a big challenge.
3. Limited food choices
The vegan diet is mostly referred to as the restrictive version of the plant-based diet. Then you adopt this diet, expect to eliminate most foods from your weekly menu.
4. Social isolation
Things to do with food choices often come under scrutiny from friends, family, and co-workers. Those who don’t know how to accommodate your diet can exclude you from social gatherings like parties and other food-related functions.
5. Lifestyle changes
The vegan diet does not teach individual lifestyle changes like having quality sleep, quitting smoking, and alcohol. All these have a great impact on weight management.
6. Lack of protein for muscle tissue after workouts
With the restriction of food groups like lean meat, the vegan may not get sufficient protein to build those muscles. According to the dietary guidelines, it is recommended to consume between 10 to 35% of the calories from proteins to build body muscles.
7. The vegan diet can be overly restrictive
Because it’s over-restrictive, some people find it hard to follow. They, therefore, find themselves making mistakes and going back to their old lifestyles. This makes weight loss entirely hard for them.
8. Too high in fats
Health vegan foods such as avocado, nuts, and seeds contain oils, and these oils are high in calories. Consuming these foods in excess may result in weight gain instead.
Digestion and absorption of calcium, zinc, protein, and iron from plant sources may not be easily compared to those from animal sources. Vegans, therefore, need to consume higher amounts compared to what they would consume from animal sources.
Secondly, although fiber helps digestion, high-fiber diets can make constipation worse. It’s therefore important to ask your health provider what is suitable for you.
Can I lose weight by just cutting out meat and dairy products?
With weight loss, it is not a matter of picking on any kind of diet. But rather burning more calories compared to what you take in. This means that one can cut out meat and dairy products but fail to achieve the weight loss goal if they don’t keep their calories in check.
You, therefore, need to eat low-calorie foods, plant-based fiber, in addition to regular exercise for effective weight loss.
Why are you not losing weight on the vegan diet?
Even though the vegan diet is designed to help weight loss, you will come across people who cut out dairy products from their diet and still don’t lose weight but rather gain. What could this be attributed to? Here are some common reasons why people gain weight on a vegan diet.
1. You are taking big portions
Plant-based foods contain nutrients that fuel the activity of cells in your body or promoting tissue regeneration. However, an unlimited supply of these nutrients brings about an overload that may be converted to fats and stored around body organs. This leads to weight gain.
2. Wrong timing
Regardless of the kind of diet you are following, meal timing and preparation is an important aspect of weight loss. Eating a heavy meal earlier in the day makes you full throughout the day, hence reducing the craving for food. This helps with weight loss.
3. Drinking too many calories
A variety of drinks such as smoothies and beverages like green juices, coconut water, chia drinks, and almond milk carry hundreds of extra calories. When these are not used up by the body, they end up as fat stores hence weight gain.
4. Plant-based junk foods
Some people mistakenly take unlimited amounts of plant-based treats. Things like sweet potato chips, plant-based desserts and snacks are high in calories and stripped of nutrients and fiber. Some even contain added sugars. When these are consumed daily and in large amounts, expect extra pounds.
5. Not having enough of proteins
Proteins are very important when it comes to weight loss. This is because they contribute to your muscle mass. The more muscle mass one has, the more calories they burn. Therefore if you happen to have an insufficient supply of proteins from a vegan diet, the body will not burn those calories out of your body. It will instead store the calories as fats.
What is the difference between the vegan diet and the paleo diet?
The vegan diet restricts the consumption of meat and dairy products. However, the paleo diet supports the consumption of these foods but instead limits the consumption of processed foods.
Read our article for more information about the paleo diet.
Regardless of the type of diet that you practice, you cannot lose weight unless you limit your calorie intake compared to the calories you expend. Otherwise, it is very possible to gain weight on the vegan diet.
One should therefore not focus on how fast to shed off the extra pounds, but rather a sustainable weight loss. Therefore, with a vegan diet, always check your calories and exercise regularly.
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