I recently saw that 'Vegan For Weight Loss' was one of the most searched terms on Google relating to veganism so today we're going to be looking at how a plant-based diet is good for weight loss, but before we start, let's touch briefly on why the term
'Vegan For Weight Loss' is slightly misguided.
Veganism is a philosophy that's defined by a set of moral values - essentially, do everything you can to reduce your contribution to animal suffering. This philosophy encompasses all aspects of life, including the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the cosmetics we use. The term vegan refers to this philosophy, so to say you're 'Vegan For Weight Loss' is akin to saying you're Christian for the wine. A more appropriate term (if you're not adopting the whole philosophy) is 'Plant-Based For Weight Loss'.
Okay so let's dive into why a plant-based diet can be considered an excellent way to lose weight.
A whole-food, plant-based diet is one that's that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds and it's undoubtedly one of the healthiest ways to eat. For most of those adopting the diet, it proves a healthy way to lose weight and here's why.
A Whole Food plant-based diet is typically high in fibre. Fibre helps you feel full and satisfied, which helps you eat less overall. The average American diet contains around 14g of fibre per day whereas a Whole Foods Plant Based diet contains around 40g.
Whole plant foods are generally lower in calories than animal foods. That's because plant-based whole foods are high in fibre and water, both of which are low in calories.
A Whole Food plant-based diet is typically low in saturated fat. Saturated fat is a type of fat that can raise cholesterol levels and contribute to weight gain as well as increase your risk of developing heart disease - the world's biggest killer.
A Whole Food plant-based diet is typically high in nutrients. Nutrients such as protein, iron, and calcium to name a few.
As most plant-based whole foods are low in calories, high in water content and high in fibre, those eating a varied whole foods plant-based diet find it hard to overconsume on calories. In contrast, the average American diet is made up largely of highly processed, fatty, sugary and salty foods, and contains over 3,000 calories /day. A varied whole food plant-based diet isn't magic - it's simply a healthy diet that generally limits your ability to overconsume calories, whilst giving you all of the essential nutrients your body needs.
If you're considering eating plant-based for weight loss, or indeed for any other reason, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. As I always say, eat the rainbow. Different coloured plants have different sets of nutrients and minerals so by diversifying your plate, you're ensuring you're getting a diverse range of the essentials.
Make sure you are getting enough protein. Protein is key for maintaining muscle mass when you're trying to lose weight (we want to lose fat not muscle). Good sources of vegan protein include beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, nuts, and seeds. You can read more on High Protein Foods here.
Limit processed foods and sugary drinks. These foods are high in calories and low in nutrients and should only be consumed in moderation, or if possible not at all.
Get regular exercise. Exercise is essential for weight loss and overall health. In fact, not walking for 1 hour a day is considered high risk!
Set yourself some realistic goals. Don't try to lose too much weight too quickly as you'll feel unmotivated to continue if you don't hit this target.
Make gradual changes to your diet. Don't try to change your entire diet overnight. Start by making small changes, such as adding more fruits and vegetables to your meals. Increasing fibre might make you feel uncomfortable at first so make sure you introduce fibre gradually - But do stick with it as the long-term benefits far outweigh the temporary downsides.
Find a support system. Having friends or family members who are also plant-based can help you stay motivated.
A varied, plant-based diet can definitely help you lose weight whilst simultaneously improving your health. The key as always is to focus on eating whole, unprocessed foods, and include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Turn the diet into a lifestyle and you could add years to your life expectancy!
Happy eating :D