Want to lose weight? Go plant based

New research has found that switching to a vegetarian diet, rather than a low-calorie one, can be twice as effective for losing weight — and keeping it off.

For many people, trying to lose weight means cutting back on calories and eating a restrictive diet that’s as unsatisfying as it is unsustainable. It’s hard not to cave or cheat when depriving yourself of your favourite foods and struggling with nearly constant hunger pains, meaning there’s plenty of opportunity for the weight to come back.

New research has found that switching to a vegetarian diet, rather than a low-calorie one, can be twice as effective for losing weight — and keeping it off. After all, a diet shouldn’t be a short-term weight loss effort, but a long-term lifestyle change.

A recent study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition monitored 74 participants with type 2 diabetes, splitting them up into those who ate conventional low-calorie meals and those who had vegetarian options.

Half were given a typical low-calorie diet, with 50% of energy coming from carbohydrates, less than 30% from fat, and 20% from protein.

The other group ate a vegetarian diet, rich with vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits, nuts, and low-fat yoghurt. 60% of energy came from carbohydrates, while 15% came from protein and 25% from fat.

After six months, the low-calorie group only lost an average of 3.2 kilograms, while the vegetarian group lost 6.2 kilograms.

To further investigate the differences between the diets, the researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to analyse the impact on thigh fat.

Subcutaneous fat (fat found under the skin) reduced in both groups, but those who ate vegetarian food saw reductions in both fat under the surface, and inside of, the muscles.

Reducing both these types of fat has been found to promote insulin resistance and lower glucose metabolism, beneficial for diabetics and anyone wanting to maintain a healthier lifestyle.

The researchers speculate that one of the reasons a plant-based diet has such a powerful effect on weight loss is because it involves more fibre from plant-based foods. It helps people feel full and supports the bacteria in our gut, which have a pivotal role in weight management.

An additional study found that the benefits of a plant-based diet may have a genetic component. As our ancestors began farming 10,000 years ago, their bodies adapted to better metabolise plant foods. These new genes helped regulate cholesterol levels and warded off inflammatory diseases, but going meat-free isn’t just helping your body and your weight: the positive benefits resonate on a much greater scale.

Cutting out meat for just one day a week can save a tennis court-worth of forest and the UN found that the combined climate change emission for animals bred for meat exceeded all forms of transport put together.

At Soulara, we create meals with the optimised amount of vegetables, grains, and nuts to make sure you’re getting nutrition-packed meals that aid you in meeting your weight goals, without the deprivation.

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Published: 15/07/17

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