Can A Vegan Diet Help Manage Obesity?
More and more Americans welcome a plant-based lifestyle, whether it means a full-time or part-time commitment. Recent surveys show that Americans who identify as either vegetarian or vegan now make up 6% to potentially 15% of the population, with three-fifths of households opting for vegetarian meals at least “sometimes.” While a variety of factors could be credited for this – such as the increased availability of plant-based options or a collective shift towards health-consciousness – a significant portion of new vegans have joined the fray to shed excess weight. Is eschewing meat truly a productive strategy for managing obesity?
What is obesity?
Obesity is an excess amount of body fat that is assigned to individuals with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 and above. Some might assume that anything above the indicated “normal” weight range on a BMI chart constitutes obesity, though this is false. There is a vast difference between overweight and obesity, and treatment will depend on where your health status falls under. A person is considered overweight if they have a BMI of 25 to 29.9. That said, BMI can be limiting as it doesn't account for factors like muscle mass, sleep quality, fat concentration, diet quality, or genetics. So, while certain health risks could come with being overweight or obese, a BMI shouldn’t be perceived as a final verdict. Instead, it can start a conversation between you and your doctor about health measures and lifestyle changes, such as whether veganism could be right for you.
Managing obesity with veganism
Meat intake is associated with weight gain; in one study, daily consumption of 250 grams of meat resulted in at least a two-kilogram weight gain over five years. On the other hand, research has found positive links between plant-based foods and weight loss. Various anti-obesity compounds, such as polyphenols, flavonoids, and alkaloids, have been identified in plants. In one clinical review, plant-based diets were associated with an average weight loss of 3.4 kg, and another study found that a low-fat vegan diet resulted in a more significant loss of fat mass and visceral fat. Going vegan can also lower one’s risk of health conditions commonly linked to obesity. Research shows that the omission of red meat and processed meat in a day could reduce stroke risk by 38% and that those who adopted a vegetarian diet could reduce their likelihood of developing diabetes by 53%. The science speaks for itself – now, here are some tips for realistically introducing a plant-based diet into your routine.
How to go vegan
If it’s your first time giving up meat and plant byproducts, there’s no shame in starting small. You can purchase ready-made vegan goodies like patties and pizzas to understand the flavor profile and ingredients used. Previously, we talked about the importance of effective label reading when at the grocery store, which means familiarizing yourself with sneaky non-vegan ingredients like casein, gelatin, or whey. Then, clear your pantry of any meat-based products or condiments, and give yourself a little extra time to cook meals – after all, cooking without meat can be an adjustment at first. Try to choose products from all colors of the rainbow for maximum health benefits, like red tomatoes, orange squash, and green spinach. Opt for whole grains like quinoa and brown rice to improve post-meal satiety. Lastly, don’t be afraid to experiment. From crispy falafel to savory stir-fry to decadent dairy-free cakes, the plant-based roster offers a world of flavors.
Embracing the vegan lifestyle can result in more than a lowered number on your scale. It means being kinder to animals and the planet and enriching your relationship with food as one that doesn’t merely satisfy cravings but also fuels and nurtures the body.