It’s that time of year when many of us are looking at ways to shed a few pounds of excess weight. Unfortunately, as many of us know deep down, and as statistics show, most people tend to give up our new food or exercise regime before the positive benefits show themselves.
According to polling experts Ipsos, as of 18th January 2021, 45% of people globally were trying to lose weight. Their research took place across 30 countries, demonstrating that the desire to lose weight is universal. Interestingly, the main ways that respondents reported trying to lose weight was by cutting down on sugar (62%), calories (41%), and carbohydrates (39%).
This is notable as technically all three are the same; sugar is a carbohydrate and contains large amounts of calories pound for pound. The challenge for anyone trying to eliminate sugar is that it is highly addictive, and as a result, it is all too easy to be drawn back into its consumption.
Thankfully, the science now shows that sustainable weight loss may be achieved by switching to a plant-based whole food diet.
Can a Plant-Based Vegan Diet Really Help Me Lose Weight?
Yes, research now shows a clear and consistent link between those eating a plant-based diet, weight loss, and the avoidance of many related health conditions. According to a systemic review by Toumpanakis et al., Plant-based diets are associated with:
“significant improvement in emotional well-being, physical well-being, depression, quality of life, general health, HbA1c levels, weight, total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, compared with several diabetic associations’ official guidelines and other comparator diets. Plant-based diets can significantly improve psychological health, quality of life, HbA1c levels and weight and therefore the management of diabetes”.
A more recent systemic review by Tran et al., entitled, ‘Effects of Plant-Based Diets on Weight Status: A Systematic Review’ concluded:
“The results in this review propose that a shift to a plant-based diet may have beneficial health effects on body weight and BMI in individuals with overweight, T2DM, cardiovascular risk/disease and rheumatoid arthritis”.
Why do plant-based diets lead to weight loss?
There are many reasons why a person who eats a plant-based diet may be able to lose weight more easily than on a non-plant-based diet. One well-established reason is to do with caloric density.
People who eat a whole food plant-based diet (i.e. one containing unprocessed food that your grandmother would recognise the ingredients of) tend to consume fewer calories while feeling fully satiated. This is because whole foods such as beans, seeds, legumes, fruit and vegetables are less calorically dense (i.e. typically contain fewer calories pound for pound) than processed foods.
Unprocessed natural foods contain much higher levels of indigestible fibre and also water which help us to feel full without containing as many calories. To put this in perspective, while one cup of oil might contain around 2,000 calories, the same measure of brown rice only contains in the region of 130 calories. In short, eating a plant-based diet will help you feel fuller for longer on much fewer calories than a standard diet.
Another reason for losing weight on a plant-based diet is that as you start to eat greater amounts of nutritionally dense foods while cutting down on refined and processed ingredients, you will start to feel more vibrant and energetic, and hence more motivated to exercise. While this is an indirect benefit of a plant-based diet, it is nevertheless a very real one that can have substantial benefits for health and weight.
Weight loss is not necessarily the only goal of a plant-based diet. There are many other benefits of eating foods that are minimally processed, highly nutritious, and high in fibre, including reducing the risk of cancer, heart disease, cholesterol, inflammation, and diabetes. And because it is possible to switch to a plant-based diet gradually and there is a great deal of variety available, you will have a high chance of making the change sustainable in the long term.
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