Although there are many reasons for choosing a Vegan or Vegetarian diet, many people first consider a plant-based diet in the pursuit of weight loss. Vegan and vegetarian diets typically contain higher quantities of fresh, whole food relative to the standard American diet, which is high in processed fare and fast food.
While a vegan diet doesnt guarantee weight loss (it is, after all, still possible to choose processed items and/or inadvertently consume too many calories), a vegan lifestyle is typically one that is more encouraging of healthy living, which may tip the scales in your favor in regards to weight loss and maintenance. By reducing and tracking our caloric intake and pursuing a plant-based diet, the large majority of us are capable of losing weight and reducing our risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, hypertension, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and cancer.
Considering a vegan diet? The following attributes of vegan diets are largely responsible for the success of so many plant-based eaters.
1. Vegan diets are full of filling, low calorie vegetables.
Aside from water (Calories: Zero), vegetables are the lowest calorie items available for our consumption. By increasing vegetables our intake in the absence of other items (animal products), we effectively eliminate calories from our diet while staying full, thanks to fiber and food volume: For example, 12 Dorito Nacho Cheese tortilla chips? 150 calories. To arrive at that same 150 calories, youd need to consume 5 cups of broccoli.
2. Vegan diets help regulate the digestive process, stabilizing blood sugar.
Thanks to increased fiber intake, vegan diets have the ability to stabilize blood sugar. Fiber reduces the speed by which sugar enters the bloodstream, minimizing blood sugar surges that can leave you feeling cranky or fatigued. However, beware of high-carbohydrate options: many new plant-based eaters consume too much fruit or grain, which can negatively impact blood sugar. Always pair carbohydrate with a protein source to minimize this effect: for example, an apple with almond butter or rice with tofu.
3. Vegan diets limit restaurant fare.
Dining out becomes more difficult as a vegan, reducing the likelihood that youll eat outside of the home as often as you have in the past: this is a good thing. Studies show that the average restaurant entree contains 1500+ calories.
4. Vegan diets introduce new food items.
Without a prompt to change our eating patterns, many of us stay stuck in the same old food ruts: same meals, same snacks, day in and day out for years. We never consume any new items or venture outside of our comfort zone of known and loved foods, which can limit our nutrient intake and reduce our overall nutritional status.
Upon undertaking a vegan diet, many people become more flexible and experimental in trying and including new foods in their repertoire in the absence of animal products, suddenly vegetables, fruits, and plant foods become something to be explored rather than relegated to a side dish.
This culinary exploration can feel, at times, frustrating, but is ultimately enthralling: what can you make next- what combination havent you tried? The adventurous process of getting your hands dirty in the kitchen increases enjoyment in the preparation and consumption of home-based meals, which typically have a lower calorie content than restaurant menus. Be sure to watch your portion sizes on nuts and oils in particular, which, while indeed very healthy and essential components of vegan diets, are very high in calories and fat.
5. Vegan diets help moderate calories.
The majority of Vegan diets contain a larger volume of food for a lesser number of calories than a non-vegan diet, thanks to their increased use of low-calorie vegetables, produce, soy products, and beans. This increased volume and lower caloric cost helps you stay fuller for longer on fewer calories, initiating potential weight loss. However, many new vegans fall into the trappings of processed vegan items (vegan cookies, vegan macaroni and cheese, etc) or over-consume carbohydrate, both of which can skew caloric intake and prevent weight loss, and often promote weight gain.
This mistake is easily avoided by monitoring and recording caloric intake in a food journal. Studies have shown that dieters who keep food journals typically lose double the weight compared to dieters who do not keep a journal, tracking daily caloric intake and serving sizes. Furthermore, a food journal is a great way to make sure youre consuming a balanced array of nutrients as you begin a new lifestyle such as veganism or vegetarianism.
Regardless of your reasons for pursuing a plant-based diet, eschewing processed fare and unhealthy fats found in a standard western diet is beneficial for your heart and disease risk. However, if you want to improve your nutritional status and lose weight, ask yourself the following question: was this item available in the Garden of Eden? Adam and Eve did not have access to a deep fryer.
So although French fries are indeed vegan, theyre not the best choice for a vegan diet. Chickpeas and oven-crisped vegetables and herbed vinaigrette, on the other hand? Well, that sounds like a recipe for success to me.