Vegan Diet for Weight Loss

Last updated December 21st 2016

While some convincing evidence suggests vegan diets can be effective for weight loss, whether or not results are achieved depends heavily on the individual.

Following a vegan diet is primarily done for ethical reasons, but many people might try a vegan diet in order to bring about weight loss in the body. Veganism places a strong emphasis on eating healthy natural foods such as vegetables and fruits, so in this sense it may help people to cut out unhealthy fatty foods and snacks that prevent healthy weight loss.

A number of clinical trials have been carried out in order to determine the effect of a vegan diet on weight loss, with many observing positive results suggesting veganism can be conducive to weight loss. However, just how much weight is lost, or if any is lost at all, depends heavily on the individual as there is no guarantee that eating only vegan foods automatically brings about weight loss.

What is a vegan diet?

A vegan diet consists of eating foods that do not come from animals, ruling out the consumption of commonplace foods such as dairy, meat and fish. Vegan diets can comprise a wide array of foods but tend mainly to include fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy alternatives such as soya. There are a few different reasons why one would follow a vegan diet as opposed to a regular diet.

Perhaps one of the more popular motivations is to be a vegan for ethical reasons as no animals are slaughtered or harmed in the process of one acquiring their sustenance. For this reason, vegan diets also do not include foods such as eggs which, although an animal has not been slaughtered, still involve a degree of suffering on the part of the animal.

Many choose to follow a vegan diet for its health benefits as it places an emphasis on the consumption of natural foods such as vegetables. This tends to make a vegan diet far lower in saturated fat as meat, eggs and fish are cut out completely, something that many believe constitutes a healthier diet. As well as this, vegan diets are often higher in other important areas such as folic acid, vitamin C and iron, but due to the lack of animal products they can be deficient in many areas too including vitamin B12, vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids.

One of the main difficulties many who have attempted to become vegan experience is the lack of foods that they are accustomed to enjoying, or the difficulty in being able to correctly purchase and select all of the right foods due to the restrictions of the diet. Despite the initial difficult of purchasing and cooking vegan meals, many people can find they soon become accustomed to the process.

Why is weight loss important?

Weight loss is important only if you are at a level of weight considered unhealthy as it can significantly reduce your risk of suffering from a wide array of health problems and may also help to raise your overall quality of life. As well as the actual process of losing weight, dieting healthily is also an important part of maintaining a healthy weight by not putting on too much weight.

There are many different health problems and conditions you can suffer from if at an unhealthy level of weight, either in the short term or slowly as a long-term condition gradually develops such as type II diabetes. One of the main long-term consequences of obesity is heart disease as the body’s arteries can become too clogged up with fat, placing pressure on the cardiovascular system. Too much body weight can also place a lot of strain upon your musculoskeletal system as your muscles and joints are required to haul around a lot more weight.

From a simple psychological perspective, being at a healthy weight and having the willpower to stick to it can also do wonders for your standard of life. In addition to this, in terms of self-image many people can feel more comfortable and confident with themselves if at a level of weight they want to be at.

Can a vegan diet help with weight loss?

Because the term ‘vegan diet’ comprises a wide array of different food groups, whether or not following a vegan diet brings about weight loss depends strongly upon what foods you are eating regularly. There are still many foods considered vegan, such as foods high in sugar, which can actually be detrimental to weight loss, so sticking to a diet high in this type of food is unlikely to be conducive to weight loss. However, if following a diet plan that contains a lot of the healthier vegan foods out there including vegetables, fruits and grains, then there is credible evidence available to suggest that this can be conducive to weight loss.

There have been a number of different studies carried out in order to ascertain whether vegan diets are able to help with weight loss, many of which have observed positive results suggesting veganism can be very helpful. One study which aimed to look at the various potential health effects of a vegan diet including weight loss and weight maintenance observed that a vegan diet does appear to help combat obesity in addition to a number of other important areas of your health including reducing the risk of type II diabetes and cardiovascular problems.

Another study was carried out in order to determine the effect a number of different diets had on weight loss. Over the course of this study, all participants were required to follow one of a number of diets including a vegan diet, vegetarian diet or omnivorous diet over a period of 6 months whilst a range of measurements were taken including body weight, body fat and saturated fat intake levels. The final results of this study found that the participants within the vegan diet group exhibited higher levels of weight loss compared to all of the other groups, suggesting that a vegan diet may be the most powerful way to bring about weight loss. One of the potential reasons why this was the case is that the vegan group were found to have lowered their fat and saturated fat intake by a significant degree.

A separate trial carried out looked at the difference between a vegan diet and a low-fat diet, looking at whether there were any observable differences in weight loss. During this study, 64 overweight participants were required to either follow a vegan diet or a low-fat diet over a period of 14 weeks. The final results of the study found that those in the vegan group lost a significantly higher amount of weight.

Are there any side-effects to a vegan diet?

Although vegan diets are believed to lead to a number of important health benefits within the body, there is still the potential for some side-effects to come about when adhering to a vegan diet over time. This is due to the fact that certain nutrients and vitamins can be lacking in vegan diets due to the lack of animal products, increasing the likelihood of problems arising due to deficiencies in certain nutrients. In addition to this, vegan foods tend to contain fewer calories compared to animal based products. While this is something that can prove beneficial when it comes to weight loss, it can also lead to side-effects such as fatigue and general tiredness which can be problematic for someone trying to lead a busy life.

Vegan diets are lacking in many nutrients including vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, zinc and omega 3 fatty acids, making it difficult to acquire sufficient levels of these nutrients. One of the main ways to get around this is to plan your diet in detail to ensure that you are getting the correct levels of all of these nutrients. Alternatively, many people choose to take supplements in order to make up the deficit as it can be a lot more convenient.

The effects of lacking in certain nutrients can lead to an array of different problems for vegans. Some of the side-effects that can eventually come about from following a vegan diet include bad skin, low energy levels, poor quality of sleep, reduced cognitive performance and increased likelihood of falling ill. However, all of these problems are not completely unavoidable if the right steps are taken to prevent nutrient deficiencies.

Conclusion

On the whole, a lot of evidence points to vegan diets being very effective at helping to bring about weight loss. This may be the case for a number of different reasons including the lower daily calorie intake of most vegan diets combined with the reduced levels of fat and saturated fat intake. However, it does seem clear that simply following any vegan diet is not enough as there are still unhealthy vegan foods out there that won’t help you lose weight. It is also important to carefully plan your vegan diet due to the fact that nutrient deficiencies can arise with a poorly planned vegan diet.

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