Veganism for Weight Loss: Does it Really Help?

Dr. Gargi Sharma, Weight Management Expert  |  Updated: September 19, 2019 14:44 IST

Veganism for Weight Loss: Does it Really Help?

I look around me and everyone is either trying to lose weight or wants to. As we approach the festive season, most of us will be trying to get in shape to fit into that favourite outfit. And just when the festive season is over, we want to detoxify and shed off the extra pounds gained when we got carried away.

You must have heard of celebrities like Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez and many more turning vegan. There are more reasons to turn vegan than you think but a lot of celebrities today are chalking up the fitness routines around vegetarianism and veganism. This may have got you wondering if veganism is actually the way to weight loss. Let me get some facts straight.

First things first. Veganism is not really a weight loss diet. It's more of a lifestyle change but the diet is such that you end up losing weight as a positive effect, if followed correctly. It's true that vegans tend to have a lower body mass index than their meat-eating counterparts. This is mainly because a vegan diet focuses a lot on fiber from fruits and vegetables. High fiber food keeps you full and helps in clearing out toxins from the body. Fiber is only found in plants and if your diet is heavy on animal products, it could be the reason you're gaining weight.

Several studies have spoken in favour of fiber for weight loss. A recent research done by Georgia State University shows that a diet missing soluble fiber promotes inflammation in the intestines and poor gut health, leading to weight gain. A group of researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School suggest that the only thing required to lose weight is to add fiber to your diet. Their study concluded that those who followed a fiber-rich diet were able to cut down their daily calorie intake.

A vegan's diet primarily consists of plants, such as vegetables, grains, nuts and fruits, and foods made from plants. It excludes anything that comes from animals like dairy products, eggs and even honey.

One thing that you should be careful about is choosing the correct food options. It is important to be aware of the vegan sources that provide essential nutrients like calcium, iron, protein and Vitamin D and eat food accordingly. Remember, when you turn vegan you aren't really giving up on any essential nutrients but substituting it with other alternatives. Another thing to keep in mind is your diet can help you lose weight when you focus on the calories you eat and how much of them you're burning. You may have given up on meat, but if your diet is only carbs it won't be benefit you.

An important study conducted earlier this year and published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, compared weight loss in vegetarians, non-vegetarians, lacto-ovo vegetarians (those who drink milk and eat eggs) and vegans. It included 1,151 dieters who had to follow a regime for nine to 74 weeks. The results showed that those who followed a vegetarian diet lost about 1.48kg more than those on other diets, while vegans lost 2.52kg more than the non-vegetarian dieters.

The good thing about going vegan is that it promotes overall health. Besides, losing weight which is just one of the consequences, it improves heart health and can help you reduce the risk of some health problems like allergies, stomach troubles and hypertension. When you cut down on meat, you cut down a lot on saturated fats and cholesterol that mostly come from them.

The difference between vegetarianism and veganism lies in the elimination of dairy products and there have been lot of questions regarding how the industry functions in terms of hygiene, contamination and use of growth hormones. A vegan diet gives more attention to the quality of food you eat.

Tips to follow a vegan diet

1.  Opt for whole wheat cereals like oats, barley, brown rice and jowar. Avoid white bread, white rice, pasta etc. One should select carbohydrates carefully as eating foods high in carbs lead to weight gain. Experiment with whole grains as they are rich in healthy complex carbohydrates that your body uses up to produce energy.

2.  Cut back on sugar intake and sugar products like sweets, chocolates and mithais. We're talking about refined sugar here, if you have a sweet tooth opt for healthier forms of sugar like jaggery, stevia or coconut sugar. Overuse of sugar can lead to growth of yeast in the body which can cause weight gain, bloating, flatulence, constipation and diarrhea.

3.  Avoid fruits juices instead have whole foods and fruits. They contain more fiber and keep you energized.

4.  Eat a lot of green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, collard, broccoli and turnips. They are rich in most minerals and nutrients

5.  Includes nuts and seeds like almonds, walnut, flaxseeds and sunflower seeds. Most people think that nuts are high in fat and lead to weight gain. This is highly misunderstood. Nuts and seeds make for a great snack. They are an excellent source of antioxidants, proteins and enzymes and can help boost better heart health.  It's good to soak nuts and eat as it breaks down the phytic acid found in the coating of the nuts which might prevent the absorption of essential minerals.

6.  Include good quality proteins like soy, tofu and pulses. In fact, you should start by looking at the vegan food pyramid to understand the food groups you need to eat and the nutrients that are essential for good health. Opt for the least servings of foods that belong to the top most category.

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7.  One should eat balanced vegan meals else it can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Understand what your body needs and how much of it. Then find vegan alternative for them.

8. A vegan diet lacks Vitamin B12, a nutrient that is derived from animal-based products. Add fortified foods like soy milk and breakfast cereals to your diet to meet your daily requirements. You could also switch to food supplements but make sure you consult a doctor being doing so.

Comments9. Load up on water. When you increase your fiber intake, make sure you drink extra water as fiber is water soluble. It absorbs fluids and turns into a gel-like mass. This helps it to slow down the rate at which food exits the stomach, giving you a feeling of being full for longer.

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