Weight Loss Diet for Vegetariansmahesh kandakatla
Vegetarianism has become increasingly popular in recent years. This diet is associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases and may aid weight loss. However, you may find it difficult to lose weight on a vegetarian diet — especially if you’re eating too many refined carbs or highly processed foods. This article explains how to lose weight on a vegetarian diet.
What is a vegetarian diet?
Vegetarian diets exclude meat, fish, and poultry. Some people may follow this diet for religious or ethical reasons, while others are drawn to its possible health benefits. The main types of vegetarian diets are:
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: allows eggs and dairy but excludes meat, fish, and poultry
- Lacto-vegetarian: allows dairy but excludes eggs, meat, fish, and poultry
- Ovo-vegetarian: allows eggs but excludes dairy, meat, fish, and poultry
- Vegan: excludes all animal products, including honey, dairy, and eggs
Other plant-based eating patterns include the flexitarian (which includes some animal foods but is mostly vegetarian) and pescatarian (which includes fish but not meat) diets. Vegetarian diets typically focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. These foods are rich in fiber, micronutrients, and beneficial plant compounds, and tend to be lower in calories, fat, and protein than animal foods. Since this diet emphasizes nutrient-rich foods, it’s linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
What’re more, studies show that following a vegetarian diet can be an effective way to lose weight. However, the benefits of vegetarianism largely depend on the types of foods you eat and your overall dietary habits. Overeating or choosing too many highly processed foods will provide fewer benefits than a diet based on unrefined, whole plant foods — and may have several downsides. A vegetarian diet excludes meat, fish, and poultry and mostly focuses on plant foods. It has been linked to weight loss and a reduced risk of chronic diseases, but these benefits depend on which foods you eat.
1. A Vegetarian Diet Is Low in Calories
Consuming fewer calories is the first strategic step toward weight loss. Vegetables, fruits, and whole grains are naturally low in calories. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition confirmed that people who were on a vegetarian diet consumed fewer calories than those on diets with high-protein meat.
However, merely reducing caloric intake is not sufficient for long-term weight loss. In fact, consuming a high number of veggies and fruits without restriction may even hamper weight loss.
2. Vegetarian Diet Is Low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol
A vegetarian diet helps lower bad cholesterol and saturated fat intake, which ultimately leads to quicker weight loss. A vegetarian diet is loaded with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, plant-based proteins, and healthy fats. Since a major part of the energy comes from these sources, a vegetarian diet is low in unhealthy fats like saturated fats and cholesterol. As a result, people on a vegetarian diet have a lower BMI.
3. Vegetarian Diet Keeps You Full
A vegetarian diet is rich in dietary fiber, which helps keep hunger pangs away. Dietary fiber forms a gel-like layer in the stomach and slows down digestion and absorption of the food. This, in turn, keeps you full for a long duration.
Dietary fiber also draws water from the body to the intestine, which helps soften and add bulk to the stool. The result of this action improves bowel movement and prevents constipation.
Plant-based proteins like lentils, pulses, beans, legumes, and soy products in a vegetarian diet also help in controlling appetite. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that people on a soy protein diet can have the same control over appetite as people on a meat diet.
4. A Vegetarian Diet Improves Digestion
Good digestion is key to weight loss. Digestion is supported by the good gut bacteria in the stomach that help break down dietary fiber and produce short-chain fatty acids. The short-chain fatty acids, in turn, help in regulating appetite and glucose levels.
Consuming vegetables, fruits, and whole grains improves beneficial bacteria like Ruminococcus, E. rectale, and Roseburia, and reduces pathogens like Clostridium and Enterococcus species.
5. A Vegetarian Diet Helps Regulate Blood Glucose
A vegetarian diet helps control blood sugar levels, improves insulin sensitivity, and aids weight loss. As a result, going vegetarian may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
The high dietary fiber, vitamin, and mineral content, and low saturated fat content of vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and fruits help in better regulation of blood glucose levels
Barriers to losing weight on a vegetarian diet
While vegetarianism may seem like an effective way to shed excess weight, several factors may prevent this from happening.
Eating large portions and not enough protein
Eating more calories than you need can result in weight gain. Even if you’re filling up on nutritious foods on a vegetarian diet, you may be helping yourself to larger portions than necessary. This is especially common if you skimp on protein intake. Protein can increase fullness by decreasing levels of ghrelin, a hormone that regulates hunger, which may, in turn, lower your overall calorie intake and boost weight loss. If you don’t eat enough protein, you might eat more food to feel full — hindering your weight loss efforts. While your protein needs can be met easily on a vegetarian diet, you may encounter difficulties at first as you eliminate meat from your diet.
Eating too many refined carbs
Foods that are high in refined carbs, such as bread, pizza, and pasta, can be easy to overeat on a vegetarian diet. They’re widely available and may sometimes be the only vegetarian options at restaurants or gatherings. Foods rich in refined carbs tend to lack fiber and do not curb hunger as much as whole-grain, complex carbs. As a result, they can load you down with excess calories. What’s more, some studies suggest that refined carbs trigger the release of extra insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. This may also contribute to weight gain In fact, one study including around 500,000 adults detected a strong association between higher insulin levels after carb intake and greater body mass index (BMI)
Overdoing calorie-rich foods
When transitioning to a vegetarian diet, you might substantially increase your intake of high-fat plant foods. Vegetarian meals often incorporate nuts, seeds, nut butters, avocados, or coconut. While these foods are incredibly nutritious and filling, they also provide 9 calories per gram — compared with 4 calories per gram of proteins and carbs. For example, 2 tablespoons (32 grams) of peanut butter packs a whopping 191 calories, 148 of which come from fat. What’s more, many people eat more than the recommended serving size of nut butters and other healthy fats.
Focusing on highly processed vegetarian foods
If you’re relying on too many processed foods as part of a vegetarian diet, you may have a hard time losing weight. Countless products are technically vegetarian but still harbour unnecessary additives and other unhealthy ingredients. Examples include veggie burgers, meat substitutes, freezer meals, baked goods, packaged desserts, and vegan cheese.
These foods are often packed not only with sodium, highly processed compounds, chemical preservatives, and colouring agents but also calories and added sugars. As a result, they may contribute to weight gain when eaten in excess. In fact, a review linked the intake of ultra-processed foods to an increased risk of obesity, as well as higher LDL (bad) cholesterol and blood pressure levels
Several strategies can help promote weight loss on a vegetarian diet, including:
Filling half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables.
Choosing high-fiber veggies, such as broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, leafy greens, and mushrooms, can help you stay full and decrease calorie intake.
Incorporating protein at every meal and snack.
High-protein vegetarian foods include beans, nuts, seeds, lentils, eggs, dairy products, and soy foods (such as tempeh, tofu, and edamame).
Opting for complex carbs.
These fullness-boosting foods include whole grains, starchy vegetables, fruits, and legumes.
Watching your portions of high-calorie foods.
Pair nuts, seeds, and healthy fats with lower-calorie foods so that you don’t overeat.
Eating mostly whole foods.
Unprocessed foods, such as whole fruits and vegetables, do not have any unnecessary ingredients.
Limiting highly processed foods.
Avoid meat alternatives, frozen meals, and other ultra-processed foods, as they likely host unhealthy additives, extra salt, and added sugar.
A balanced vegetarian diet that emphasizes whole plant foods and limits refined carbs and highly processed products may help you lose weight. Still, don’t forget about other important contributors to weight loss, such as proper sleep, hydration, and exercise.
To bolster weight loss, choose a vegetarian diet that’s rich in whole, minimally processed plant foods. Depending on your specific regimen, you may also incorporate dairy or eggs. Vegetarian foods that may aid weight loss include:
- Non-starchy vegetables: broccoli, bell pepper, cauliflower, zucchini, mushrooms, tomatoes, eggplant, carrots, celery, and cucumber
- Starchy vegetables: peas, potatoes, corn, and winter squash
- Fruits: berries, oranges, apples, bananas, grapes, citrus, kiwi, and mango
- Whole grains: quinoa, brown rice, farro, millet, barley, and bulgur wheat
- Beans and legumes: lentils, black beans, pinto beans, and kidney beans
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and nut butters
- Lean proteins: beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, nut butters, eggs, Greek yogurt, milk, and soy products like tofu, tempeh, and edamame
- Healthy fats: avocado, olive oil, coconut, nuts, seeds, nut butters, and cheese
- Water and other healthy beverages: naturally flavored seltzer, fruit-infused water, and plain coffee or tea
Foods to avoid on a vegetarian diet for weight loss
While most plant foods are naturally healthy, highly processed vegetarian foods tend to be less so. You should limit or avoid the following foods if you’re following a vegetarian diet for weight loss:
- Highly processed vegetarian foods: veggie burgers, meat replacements, freezer meals, frozen desserts, and imitation dairy products
- Refined carbs: white bread, white pasta, bagels, and crackers
- Sugary foods and beverages: candy, cookies, pastries, table sugar, sodas, fruit juices, energy drinks and sweet tea
In addition, try to avoid extra-large portions of any food — especially those high in sugar and calories.
A vegetarian diet that focuses on nutritious plant foods may help you lose weight. However, it’s important to eat enough protein while curbing your portion sizes and intake of calorie-rich foods, refined carbs, and highly processed items. Keep in mind that not all vegetarian foods are healthy.
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