Healthy Vegan Weight Loss
It's very easy to lose weight in a healthy way with a vegan diet. The key to success lies in a healthy varied plant-based diet and a daily calorie deficit of about 200 to 300 kcal. In addition, plant-based diets have a low energy density, are rich in complex carbohydrates, fiber, and water, which prolong the feeling of satiety and increase resting energy expenditure 1. Pounds drop off without the need for any special diet plans.
Studies confirm effective weight loss with vegan diet
Several studies have also confirmed easier weight loss with a vegan diet.
According to a study, overweight participants lost more weight with a vegan diet than with a diet containing animal products 2. The participants were divided into five groups: omnivores (n=12), semi-vegetarians (n=13), pesco-vegetarians (n=13), vegetarians (n=13), and vegans (n=12). After six months, overweight individuals who followed a vegan diet lost on average 4.3% more weight than those who consumed mostly plant-based or animal products. The weight loss for vegans was an average of 16.5 pounds. The decrease in body weight of 7.5% was also greater than that of omnivores (3.1%) and vegetarians (3.2 to 6.3%). In addition, a vegan diet was able to reduce the amount of fat and saturated fatty acids in higher quantities than in the other groups. Other benefits, according to the lead author of the study, were improved macronutrient values and a lower body fat percentage (BMI) 3.
Based on the results of a 2007 study comparing weight loss between a vegan diet and a moderately low-fat diet over a two-year period, the results are not surprising 4. In the first year, the vegan participants lost an average of 4.9 kg, and in the second year, 3.1 kg. The participants in the other group lost 1.8 kg in the first year and 0.8 kg in the second.
Another study associates a vegan diet with significant weight loss in overweight postmenopausal women 5. Additionally, according to another study, vegan women have a lower risk of overweight and obesity compared to omnivores 6.
In the large EPIC-Oxford study, which included over 38,000 healthy men and women aged 20 to 97, vegans with the lowest BMI (men: 22.49 and women: 21.98 kg/m2) were highlighted as having a lower BMI compared to other dietary groups (e.g. meat-eaters: men: 24.41 and women: 23.52 kg/m2) 7. Similarly, researchers from another study also reported that vegans had the lowest BMI value at 23.6 kg/m2 8.
In a meta-analysis from July 2015, researchers summarized 12 studies with 1,151 participants regarding vegetarian diets and weight reduction 9. The vegan diet also performed the best for weight loss compared to other vegetarian diets. Over a period of 18 weeks, vegan participants lost an average of 2.52 kg.
Carbohydrates as Fattening Agents?
Carbohydrates are often rightly stigmatized as weight gain culprits. Especially the quickly absorbable simple and double sugars are rapidly converted into body fat when the excess energy is not used up. Too much energy provided through diet can lead to fat deposits. Therefore, foods with complex carbohydrates such as whole grain products and potatoes, which are slowly broken down and released into the body over time, should be preferred. So, for example, those who unconsciously consume too many fruits can also gain weight!
Fiber as a weight loss accelerator
Plant-based sources of carbohydrates, apart from fruit, are usually rich in complex carbohydrates as well as healthy fiber. Fiber is exclusively produced by plants and therefore can only be found in plant-based foods (see fiber-rich foods) and helps increase feelings of satiety. This signals the body to eat less, thus slowing down food intake. In addition, fiber contributes to a healthy gut flora, as it provides the food base for gut bacteria. Moreover, a healthy gut flora is associated with a lower body weight in adolescents due to better metabolism, according to 10.
Proteins for a better feeling of satiety
Proteins, in general, contribute to a better feeling of satiety compared to carbohydrates and fats 11. Studies show that a higher protein intake contributes to maintaining muscle mass in older women who are on a reduced calorie diet 12. Compared to a standard diet, proteins, together with fiber, provide a better body composition.
Healthy fats contribute to weight loss
Fats, like carbohydrates, have a bad reputation. Fats can make you fat - but also slim! With the right food choices, fat metabolism can be stimulated. According to a study, the healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially the multiple unsaturated fatty acids, contribute to a decrease in body weight and a lower body fat percentage 14.
Secondary plant substances help with vegan weight loss
A vegan diet is also rich in secondary plant substances (phytochemicals). According to studies, they also have the potential to support weight loss 15. For example, catechins, which are mainly found in green tea extract, can reduce body fat and body weight 16. Catechins are also found in cocoa, apples, apricots, pears, peaches, sweet and sour cherries, berries, and coconut water.
Vegan weight loss with the right foods
Fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals. The protein requirement can be easily met with legumes, nuts, and grains. Seeds such as chia and flax supply us with essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Vegetables are mostly low in calories and can be ideal as small snacks. Plant-based foods like salads, cucumbers, and tomatoes are satiating due to their high water content and extremely healthy due to the variety of micronutrients and secondary plant substances.
To successfully lose weight, it is particularly recommended to eat salads. They keep you full for a longer period of time without adding too many calories. Cold-pressed olive oil is suitable for vegetable salads. It is rich in healthy fatty acids and also helps absorb the fat-soluble vitamins from the salad ingredients.
Prefer Satiating Foods
Food that satisfies hunger should be at the top of your shopping and eating list. This includes high-fiber foods such as whole grains (whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, oatmeal, rice) and legumes such as beans, chickpeas, and lentils. Satisfying nuts such as walnuts, pecans, and stone fruits such as almonds are also highly recommended due to their healthy minerals. However, conscious consumption of nuts is recommended as they are quite high in calories.
Distribute Food Intake into Five to Seven Smaller Meals
Vegan weight loss not only means choosing the right foods, but also eating the right things at the right times. It is recommended to have a few smaller meals limited to five to seven dishes.
Drinking Supports Vegan Weight Loss
Beverages are an integral part of any diet. During the weight loss process, it is important to drink plenty of fluids. This helps to stimulate metabolism and keep the body healthy. Low-calorie drinks should also be considered when losing weight.
Weight Loss Tips
Further tips to support vegan weight loss:
- Write down healthy foods on a shopping list and only buy what is on it in the supermarket
- Avoid ready-made meals (often full of unwanted ingredients)
- Avoid white flour products and dried fruits
- Limit consumption of sweets (sweets are full of quickly absorbable carbohydrates)
- Replace refined sugar with healthier alternatives such as stevia, xylitol or agave syrup
- Stop eating when the feeling of satiety sets in
Don't forget fitness and eat vitamin C-rich foods
In addition to a healthy diet, regular endurance training should not be neglected to stimulate circulation and accelerate weight loss. Studies have also shown that people with adequate levels of vitamin C burn about 30% more fat during moderate exercise than those with low vitamin C levels 17. In addition to exercise, attention should be paid to a diet rich in vitamin C-containing foods (high vitamin C foods - list), which is not particularly difficult with a vegan diet.
According to our experiences and the mentioned study results, it is much easier to lose weight with a vegan diet. After switching to a vegan diet, the body automatically loses weight.
In addition, an balanced plant-based diet avoids typical diet deficiencies that can have serious consequences. However, vegans also need to consciously pay attention to nutrients. Especially vitamin B12 is often in focus. But many vegan products are now fortified with it (e.g. soy yogurt and plant-based drinks). Plant-based foods with vitamin B12 can be found here.