If you’re trying to lose weight, you may want to try vegan eating.
Before you turn up your nose at the thought of giving up meat, hear us out.
A new study published in Obesity Reviews looked at weight loss over a 19-week average for people who were overweight or had type 2 diabetes. Researchers compared vegan diets with a Mediterranean diet, portion-controlled diets, different diabetes diets and standard eating habits with no dietary changes. The people who ate a vegan diet lost 9 more pounds, on average, than people on the other diets, and a whopping 16 more pounds than people who didn’t change their eating at all.
Weight loss, vegan style
First, a quick definition: “A person who is vegan doesn’t eat any animals or any product that comes from animals, including chicken, fish, beef, pork, milk, eggs and cheese,” says Tracye McQuirter, M.P.H., a nutritionist and author of Ageless Vegan. A whole foods vegan diet is healthiest and consists of ingredients that are as close to their natural state as possible, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts, she adds.
Vegan diets can help people lose weight because whole plant foods are usually low in calories and fat. They’re also packed with fiber, which helps you stay fuller for longer. Plus, whole plant foods provide the vitamins, minerals, water, healthy fats and other nutrients your body needs, so you feel satiated faster, McQuirter says.
The people who ate a vegan diet lost 9 more pounds, on average, than people on the other diets, and a whopping 16 more pounds than people who didn’t change their eating at all.
In January 2021, Renea Linsom, 37, of Sanford, North Carolina, agreed to try a vegan diet for 30 days with her husband. She’s been hooked since. “Although I sometimes didn’t do what I was supposed to do, I lost 30 pounds in a little less than a year,” she says. “My clothes are getting super baggy, like MC Hammer pants.”
Christine Michel Carter, 36, of Baltimore, switched to vegan from pescatarian. “I felt like meat was weighing me down, so I wanted to do a cleanse and take things as naturally as I could,” she says. She dropped 50 pounds in a year. A bonus: She says her skin looked better and her hair and nails grew like crazy.
Research shows that plant-based eating can reduce risk of some cancers (including breast cancer), heart disease, stroke and diabetes, and it can lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
She dropped 50 pounds in a year. A bonus: She says her skin looked better and her hair and nails grew like crazy.
McQuirter’s nonprofit organization, 10 Million Black Vegan Women, wants more Black women to reap those benefits. “Our goal is to help 1 million black women go vegan each year for the next 10 years so we can change the health paradigm of Black women now and for generations to come,” she says. If you're interested in doing likewise, check in with your health care provider.
Some tips for vegan beginners:
• Find your tribe. Start your vegan journey with a community — a relative, a friend or an online group. “It makes it more fun, shortens your learning curve and gives you support and accountability,” says McQuirter. She’s been vegan for 35 years and started with her mom and sister.
• Season generously. Experiment with herbs and spices. Carter did, and she says, “I was shocked that being vegan didn’t mean I had to sacrifice flavor.”
• Don’t overdo it. Even with vegan foods, you can gain weight if you aren’t watching your portions or you’re eating too many calories or unhealthy vegan foods. For instance, some potato chips are vegan.
• Be careful with “bridge” foods. So-called bridge foods are those products like vegan meat, vegan cheese and vegan ice cream. Although they may help you get into veganism since they look and taste like the meat and dairy products you’re used to, they’re processed foods, says McQuirter. Whole plant-based foods are a healthier option.
• Double the protein. Family not loving vegan eating? Prepare one meal and two protein options. For example, McQuirter says, make a stir-fry using vegan ingredients and provide vegan protein (like tempeh or nuts) for yourself and a regular meat protein for the fam.
• Keep snacks on deck. Linsom says she keeps healthy vegan snacks in her car so she doesn’t make bad on-the-go decisions. A couple of good choices: nuts and dried fruit.