Can a vegetarian diet help you lose weight?
There’s no question that maintaining a healthy weight is good for you. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of numerous health conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, sleep apnoea, mental illness and cancer. However, if weight loss is on your radar, there is absolutely no need to jump on the next wellness trend or fad diet bandwagon to lose the kilos. If you want to lose weight and keep it off, then it is important to eat a balanced diet by including a wide variety of foods and keeping portion size in mind.
Where does a vegetarian diet fit?
Vegetarian diets may promote weight loss because they focus on nutrient-dense, low-calorie foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and soy. But being vegetarian doesn’t automatically mean consuming fewer calories. After all, many vegetarian and vegan foods pack a high-calorie punch – think fried foods, snack bars, and even cookies and pie. A vegetarian diet, like any other, may help you lose weight, but it can also result in weight gain if you take in more calories than you burn off on a regular basis.
Likewise, a singular goal of dropping kilos might not be the best reason to go meatless—there’s not enough evidence that switching to a vegetarian diet provides a weight-loss advantage over other eating patterns. Avoiding meat doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll consume fewer calories than you burn, which is what needs to happen to lose weight. Some observational studies do show vegetarians generally have lower body weight compared to non-vegetarians, but more conclusive research is needed.
If weight loss is your goal, yes, you can achieve this with a vegetarian diet. But simply avoiding meat is unlikely to help you achieve your results. You will need to ensure you are reducing your Calorie intake as well.
Is a vegetarian diet healthier for me?
While plant-based diets may not be for everyone, there’s little doubt that most of us could benefit from the inclusion of more plant foods in our diet. A vegetarian diet, however, is not guaranteed to be healthy. You can follow a vegetarian diet and still eat lots of foods that aren’t good for you, like refined and high calorie foods such as cakes, cookies and ice cream.
Much of the health advantage of vegetarian eating is that it relies on foods that are naturally high in fibre. Foods like wholegrains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and fruit and veggies are key in vegetarian eating – And are all rich sources of fibre. Fibre is not only great for keeping you regular, but it also feeds your gut bugs. Happy, well-fed gut bugs help to protect you from bowel cancer, help to manage blood glucose levels and may even help in weight management.
Plant foods are not only a great source of fibre, but they contain health-promoting goodies that help to reduce your risk of lifestyle diseases like heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. While meat is a very good source of key nutrients such as iron, zinc, B vitamins and protein, legumes are also a good source of these nutrients. So, you won’t be missing out if you choose these over meat.
Importantly, plant foods also contain compounds called polyphenols, thought to have cancer-preventing properties. This, along with heart-healthy fats found in nuts and seeds means that including more plant based foods in your diet will have a positive impact on your long-term health.
Should I cut out all animal products?
It’s unnecessary to completely exclude animal products from your diet to reap improved health benefits. From a health perspective, focusing on eating an abundance of whole plant-based foods and reducing highly processed and refined foods is the important part. Not whether you include animal products or not.
It also doesn’t mean animal products are unhealthy. Lean meats, poultry, fish and seafood, eggs and diary offer a range of nutrients like protein, iron, B12, omega-3 fatty acids and calcium. As mentioned earlier, one of the reasons plant-based diets can result in better health is because they positively influence our gut microbiota, the bacteria living in our gut. Plant-based eating tends to be higher in fibre and also encourages a greater diversity of plant foods compared to an omnivorous diet. Both of these factors have been found to have beneficial effects on our gut bacteria, which in turn reduces inflammation and hence our risk of developing chronic diseases.
Can I be a part-time vegetarian?
While vegetarians as a whole tend to be healthier than non-vegetarians, this doesn’t mean every vegetarian diet is healthy or will promote weight loss. It also doesn’t necessarily mean this kind of diet is right for you. Making the switch from meat to plant foods for even just a few meals per week is a sure way to increase your fibre intake, and your gut will thank you for it!
How Lite n’ Easy can help!
Try our new Fibre Focus menu preference – it’s recommended for people who want to focus on their gut health and enjoy the benefits of a high fibre diet. Our dietitians have selected the highest fibre breakfast, lunch and dinner option for each day meaning you will get more than 30g of fibre per day on the full meal plans. The Fibre Focus menu preference features a mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian options, so is a great way to increase your intake of plant foods and adopt a “flexitarian” approach. Like protein, fibre helps ‘feel fuller’ so you may find that you are less hungry with the fibre menu preference. Give us a call on 13 15 12 or click here to order now.