A large number of individuals who desire to shed pounds have discovered a sustainable and healthy approach by opting for whole plant-based foods. The reason this method is effective for numerous people is because it is not merely a diet; rather, it entails a shift in eating patterns that can be influenced by various significant reasons, making it easier to follow. As we choose nutritious plant-based foods and savor them, we may notice a plethora of positive effects on our physical and mental wellbeing. To achieve optimal health through a vegan diet, follow our top tips and use our grocery list as a starting point.
WHAT IS A VEGAN DIET?
A vegan lifestyle involves consuming foods that do not originate from or involve animals. This encompasses a variety of items such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, tubers, seeds, nuts, salads, and herbs. However, the vegan diet surpasses the mere inclusion of these items. Plants can be prepared in different ways, from simple raw or cooked formats to elaborately layered dishes like lasagna or pizza.
WHAT IS A WHOLE FOOD PLANT-BASED DIET?
The emphasis is on whole grains rather than refined grains, and fresh produce is preferred over processed food. The diet limits sugar and does not include any animal products. Although it may seem restrictive, there is a wide variety of whole foods available, such as pasta, burgers, burritos, and curries. People often begin transitioning to a whole foods plant-based diet by making one small change, such as choosing brown rice or soy milk over cow’s milk and gradually building good habits.
Adopting a vegan diet has numerous benefits. Firstly, it eliminates the need for factory farms and slaughterhouses, sparing billions of animals from undergoing appalling conditions. Also, it is environmentally friendly by requiring less land, which reduces deforestation- one of the leading causes of climate change. The vegan diet also reduces water and air pollution and emits fewer climate-changing emissions compared to animal products. As stated by Oxford University researchers, being vegan is the largest single action an individual can take towards protecting the environment.
Moreover, a vegan diet offers numerous crucial health advantages such as decreased occurrences of heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and certain forms of cancer. It’s quite remarkable, isn’t it?
Just like with any alteration to one’s diet or way of living, it may take some time to adapt, and during the initial weeks, it is necessary to examine labels, search the internet, and make a plan. However, in a relatively brief timeframe, typically within three weeks, new habits will replace the unsatisfactory old ones. Numerous individuals experience rapid positive transformations, such as improved sleep, clearer skin, and better digestion.
CAN BEING VEGAN HELP WITH WEIGHT LOSS?
According to a publication in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, a comparison was made between the commonly regarded optimal Mediterranean diet for weight loss and a diet composed entirely of whole food plant-based products. The study results showed that within the span of 16 weeks:
- Participants lost an average of 6 kilograms (or about 13 pounds) on the vegan diet, compared with no mean change on the Mediterranean diet
- Participants lost 3.4 kg (about 7.5 pounds) more fat mass on the vegan diet
- The vegan diet decreased total and LDL cholesterol levels by 18.7 mg/dL and 15.3 mg/dL, respectively, while there were no significant cholesterol changes on the Mediterranean diet
HOW CAN VEGANS LOSE WEIGHT FASTER?
Our recommendation is to avoid fast weight loss as it can lead to weight gain in the future, and furthermore, relying on weight and BMI alone is not an accurate reflection of our overall health. Thus, our approach focuses on prioritizing our well-being and physical state, as opposed to fixating on numerical values. However, if one desires to shed a few pounds, we have a few suggestions that might prove beneficial.
Understanding the Concept of Calorie Density
If our goal is to achieve long-term weight loss that is healthy, the measure of calorie density can be a helpful guide in making food choices. Vegetables have a lower calorie density than meats, cheese, and oils, which are closer to the higher end of the scale. Jeff Novick, MS, RD suggests that this practical method of nutrition promotes enduring weight control without the feeling of hunger, allows for a greater amount of food with fewer calories, and is simple to comprehend and implement.
This approach is highly effective because a majority of individuals consume food in equal amounts each day, which leads to a feeling of fullness without excess calorie intake.
Cutting Out Added Oil
Any food has a lower calorie density than oil. Hence, incorporating oil into a meal inevitably increases the calorie density, thus suggesting that we explore alternative meal preparation methods. For instance, we could opt for baking instead of roasting potatoes or substituting oil-based salad dressing with lemon juice.
Controlling the Amount of Starch
Starchy foods vary in their nutrition content. Refined carbohydrates lose a significant amount of their nutritional value. To improve our health, we should substitute white flour products (bread, bagels, pretzels, and pasta) with wholegrain versions whenever possible. Wholegrain foods are more satiating, meaning we need smaller portions to feel full.
Focus on Fiber-Rich Foods
Foods that are rich in fiber typically consist of unprocessed carbohydrates. Fiber is known to aid in digestion and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, as well as colon cancer. Additionally, fiber keeps us feeling full for longer periods of time and thus reduces the urge to snack. Various sources of fiber include potato skins, vegetables, pulses, as well as whole grain pasta, breakfast cereals, and bread.
Fiber is a type of complex carbohydrate that is indigestible for us humans, and so the microbes in our gut rely on fiber as a source of sustenance and growth. Unlike other foods which are digested higher up in the digestive system, fiber takes a longer time to reach the gut, which translates to a greater sense of fullness and satiety over a longer period of time.
If you’re aiming to shed some pounds, consuming plant-based foods that are high in fiber can aid in maintaining stamina and creating a longer-lasting feeling of fullness. The fantastic part is that fiber is primarily present in plants, which make up a substantial portion of a vegan diet.
To effectively reduce weight, it is advisable to prioritize low-energy plant-based foods that are high in fiber, such as vegetables, fruits, pulses, beans, and whole grains. Nonetheless, it is essential to also consume nuts in moderate quantities as they are packed with beneficial fats that play a critical role in brain function, hormone production, and joint health, among other functions.
A study conducted in 2015 discovered that consuming 30g of fiber on a daily basis could result in notable weight loss, even without any additional dietary modifications.
Fiber not only aids weight loss, but it also benefits the heart, gastrointestinal health, and digestion. Despite this, the majority of people do not consume enough fiber. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise women to consume a minimum of 25g of fiber daily, while men should aim for approximately 36g.
Avoiding Caloric Beverages
Beverages like sodas, beers, wines, and fruit juices are high in calories and lack nutritious value. However, you can opt for water infused with cucumber, lemon or lime slices, or fresh mint, which could be just as delicious and rejuvenating.
Eat Enough Protein
Protein is a crucial macronutrient responsible for growth, repair, and maintaining our overall health. It has the added benefit of boosting metabolism and promoting satiety, thereby reducing the likelihood of indulging in unhealthy snacking or succumbing to sugar cravings, which makes it useful in weight management.
A daily intake of 0.75g of protein per kilogram of body weight is recommended for the majority of adults. This can be achieved by consuming two servings of meat, fish, nuts or tofu each day. A serving size of protein equivalent to the size of one’s palm can be used as a general reference.
Jenna Hope, a nutritionist, elucidates the beneficial effects of protein on satiety, or the sensation of fullness. According to her, protein helps in prolonging the feeling of fullness in comparison to carbohydrates and fats. Moreover, the digestion process of protein requires more energy, resulting in lesser calorie absorption.
Hope says that you don’t have to consume meat to acquire protein.
According to her, plant-based protein can be obtained from nuts, seeds, tofu, soy products, beans, and pulses. There are numerous excellent sources of plant-based protein available in the diet. Even if you dislike eating protein, you can consume it in the form of a vegan shake. Hope also suggests that vegan protein powders are a convenient means of increasing dietary protein, but they are not required for obtaining sufficient protein. Furthermore, they should not be used to substitute wholefood sources of plant-based protein.
Avoid Processed Vegan Food
Many people mistakenly believe that just because a food is labeled as vegan, it is inherently healthy. Nevertheless, this is untrue and vegan foods can contain high levels of saturated fat and sugar. Therefore, if your goal is to stay healthy and control your weight, following a diet centered around plants and wholefoods is a better option.
Those who switch to a vegan diet from an omnivorous one should be mindful of the possible increase in nutrient deficiencies that may result from the exclusion of animal products. Although it is feasible to consume most required nutrients, one must pay closer attention to their source, as she notes. Additionally, there are numerous supplements that cater exclusively to vegans and vegetarians.
Check Food Labels
Like all weight loss programs, food labels can be helpful in determining how much you consume. But the healthiest choices are often unlabeled foods, which are usually less processed.
Weight loss is a personalized process that necessitates various strategies to be integrated, such as diet, exercise, stress management, and sleep. Focus on consuming foods with less than 5g of sugar per 100g, less than 1.5g of saturated fat per 100g, and more than 6g of fiber per 100g when examining dietary components and food labels.
Individuals who adhere to a vegan eating plan may be deficient in essential nutrients critical for optimal health, such as vitamin B12, calcium, and vitamin D. It is vital to have a diverse diet or use supplements if deemed necessary.
READ MORE: Becoming A healthy Vegetarian
Skip Refined Sugar
Weight gain is largely influenced by sugar due to its high-calorie content and low nutrient value. Manufacturers tend to conceal sugar in the ingredients list, disguising it under various names. ‘Ose’ at the end of an ingredient indicates the presence of sugar, namely glucose, dextrose, fructose, sucrose, maltose, lactose, and galactose. It is advisable to avoid consumption of unfamiliar or difficult-to-pronounce ingredients when aiming to shed pounds.
Sugar causes blood sugar levels to increase and decrease rapidly, resulting in cravings for sugar and the constant need for it to keep our energy levels up. Eliminating sugar from our diets is typically not a sustainable solution in the long run and can lead to a relapse into old, unhealthy habits. Instead, it’s better to limit our sugar intake and focus on foods that are high in fiber and sweetness, such as whole fruits. Furthermore, we can try pairing sugar-rich foods with fiber sources to slow down the rate at which sugar enters our bloodstream.
Achieving weight loss goals is discovering a suitable diet that is sustainable.
While a vegan diet can contribute to environmental sustainability, it is important to note that weight loss is not guaranteed. Additionally, if you already consume a low amount of fiber, it is necessary to gradually and slowly increase your fiber intake to prevent experiencing gastrointestinal discomfort.