The vegan diet has never been more popular, but it’s not a new concept. Eating a predominantly plant-based diet and choosing to avoid animal products is a habit that people have followed for centuries. If you ask the vegan diet advocates, you will hear them say that everyone can become a little more vegan to make a real difference to the climate and their health. For example, the simple thought of choosing turnip over tuna supports healthy living whilst helping animals and the environment. Another plus side that people promote is that a vegan diet can aid in weight loss if done correctly and sustainably. However, how much of it is scientifically proven? How much of it is sustainable? How much of it is healthy? These are some of the common questions that surface.
Read on to dive into the best tips and strategies for a vegan diet so you can stop yo-yo dieting, lose weight, and harness the benefits of veganism.
Vegan Diet: An Introduction
Both vegan and vegetarian diets exclude meat and seafood, but vegan diets go a step further. This eating plan gravitates towards a more whole-food, plant-based diet, steering clear of dairy products, eggs, and honey. Beginners can start with a more flexible vegan diet, which allows occasional additions of meat and other animal proteins.
A vegan diet is one of the most effective ways to reduce the consumption of processed foods and manage weight. However, since it also restricts dairy consumption, getting an adequate amount of nutrients like protein and calcium may become challenging. Hence, nutritionists and healthcare experts recommend following a balanced diet that contains foods from all food groups. But, with more research into the vegan eating pattern, people now categorise vegan diets into some flexible categories. So, let us take a look at some.
Here are some variations you can see in vegan diets.
- Whole food vegan diet: It focuses on whole plant foods like fruits, nuts, and whole grains
- Raw food vegan diet: Includes raw fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and plant-based foods cooked under 48 degrees Celsius.
- 80/10/10 Vegan diet (Fruitarian or low-fat plant-based diet): It limits fat-rich foods like nuts and avocados and includes consuming fruits and vegetables.
- Starch solution diet: Based on cooked starches such as rice, potatoes, and corn instead of fruits.
- Thrive diet: A form of a raw plant-based diet, where the food items get cooked at minimum temperature.
- Junk-food vegan diet: Lacks whole-plant-based foods and focuses on vegan cheeses, imitation meats, vegan desserts, and other processed vegan foods.
The HealthifyMe Note
A vegan diet only includes food formulated without ingredients produced by or derived from animals. A whole foods vegan diet is much more filling because of the high fibre content and less calorically dense, helping with weight management. No matter what your current diet consists of, eating more nutritious, balanced whole foods will always be beneficial.
Healthy Vegan Foods to Add to Your Diet
The vegan diet is gaining popularity, and those who want to safeguard the environment while losing weight are following it. First, however, you should know how to correctly plan your meals to get enough nutrients. That is because, besides the countless benefits of this plant-based diet, it can also increase the risk of nutritional deficiencies. Hence it is critical to research and follows a well-balanced and well-portioned diet plan to ensure your overall well-being.
Below are some healthy food sources, rich in nutrients, varied, and tasty, that you can add to the vegan meal plan.
- Fibre-rich foods: Berries, pears, apples, oranges, broccoli, potatoes, carrots, brussels sprouts, and more.
- Leafy greens: Spinach, collard greens, kale, and swiss chard
- Plant-based protein: Tofu, tempeh, soy milk and seitan
- Healthy fats: Avocados, olive oil, nuts, nut butter, and seeds like hemp, flax, and chia
- Whole grains: Brown rice, quinoa, oats, rice, and whole grain bread.
- Beans and legumes: Black beans, lentils, kidney beans, peas, and chickpeas.
Foods to Avoid in a Healthy Vegan Diet
There’s a common unnoticed fact that vegans can fall into a broad range of unhealthy diets, just like any omnivore diet. That boils down to eating more mock meats and vegan cheeses. Hence, there are some ‘vegan’ based foods that you must stay conscious of, for the best of your health, especially regarding weight loss.
Here are some vegan meals/ foods you need to avoid or limit in your weight-loss journey.
- Processed meat alternatives: Read the nutritional label carefully in the processed meat alternatives, even though some are healthy options.
- Vegan desserts: Be it vegan cookies or ice cream, consume them in moderation unless you are sure about the ingredients.
- White bread and pasta: With a plant-based diet, it is easy to overeat starchy foods. Therefore, you must examine the portions on your plate, adding more space for veggies.
- Vegan Snacks: Vegan granola bars and chips are processed snacks you may eat in limit after carefully analysing ingredients, calories, and sugar levels.
Benefits of Vegan Diet in Weight Loss
A vegan diet has beneficial health effects on your body weight and BMI, reducing the risk of potential disorders such as heart diseases, arthritis, blood pressure, and diabetes. Moreover, a study shows that a low-fat vegan diet leads to significant and sustained weight reduction.
Here is how a vegan diet can help you lose weight.
Harness the Power of High-fibre Content
A vegan diet is high in fibre that will improve your bowel movement, keeping you fuller for a long time. The fibre from the diet can improve overall gut bacteria, improve digestive health, and keep you from munching on calorie-dense snacks. In addition, it will assist you in losing weight.
More Natural and Healthier Meals
A vegan diet will meet your daily calorie intake with whole grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes. Eating nutritious foods free of sugar and triglycerides can help you manage your weight loss better.
Lowering Saturated Fat and Leveraging Healthy Fats
Saturated fats are associated with an increased risk of obesity and poor health. Switching to a vegan diet will encourage weight loss by adding healthy fats and omega-3-acids into your diet. These fats can act as the best driving force for ideal weight management while keeping an eye on the portion size.
Low-calorie Yet Sustainably Satiating
Most people are looking for low-calorie foods, aiding in weight loss by satiating the cravings. A vegan diet approves most low-calorie plant-based food items that are super satiating and help tackle cravings.
The HealthifyMe Note
You can maintain a calorie deficit more efficiently on a vegan diet. While many people see an initial weight loss by switching to a vegan diet, it will only stay in the long term when you regularly exercise. If you simply switch to vegan junk food, you most likely won’t see weight loss.
Vegan Diet: Reference Meal Plan Options
As a fresher to the vegan diet, you might wonder how to prepare appropriate meals for a day. While planning your meals, add varied items, including different veggies and protein sources, to meet your nutritional needs and stay healthy. Here are some simple yet delectable meal options you can include in your healthy vegan diet plan.
- Overnight soaked oats with fruit, fortified plant-based milk, and chia seeds
- Whole grain toast with peanut butter and banana
- Vegan pancakes topped with fruit and nuts
- Protein shake and bean salad
- Chia pudding with fruits and nuts
- Bean sprout and spinach salad
- Vegan banana bread
- Fresh vegan sushi with tofu
- Mushroom and tofu salad
- Fruit salad
- Trail mix
- Cauliflower and tahini
Possible Side Effects of a Vegan Diet
A vegan diet is an excellent lifestyle habit if you have the right resources. However, being a slightly restrictive diet, one might miss out on critical nutrients and fall into the trap of several side effects. Below are some potential risks of following the vegan diet without proper guidance.
Risk of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 is crucial for providing energy and synthesising DNA and red blood cells. Foods avoided in the vegan diet are rich in Vitamin b12, leading to a greater risk of deficiency and nerve damage. Since meat, eggs, fish and dairy are some of the richest sources of vitamin B12, you need to replace them with much lesser vegan options.
Consuming heavily processed vegan foods like sweetened soy milk and yoghurt might cause hormone disruptions. Furthermore, it can cause infertility problems due to the strong anti-oestrogen effects.
Several non-vegan foods are rich in iron, such as meat, fish and eggs. Excluding such foods might result in anaemia due to the increased risk of iron deficiency. However, adding spinach, legumes, pumpkin seeds, and broccoli to your daily diet will help you keep your iron level in check.
Tips to Plan a Healthy Vegan Diet
Now that you know about the advantages and downsides of going vegan, you must go through some valuable tips to keep in mind before starting your diet plan.
- Add high-fibre foods such as whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables to your vegan diet to lose weight since it will keep you feeling full for longer.
- Avoid processed foods since they might be high in fats and sugars, resulting in weight gain. Instead, focus on whole and unprocessed food that are low in calories.
- Pay attention to your health needs and limit the portion sizes to avoid overindulging in one sitting and prevent weight gain.
- Exercise accounts for most of the calories you burn. Therefore, you can’t outrun the need for regular exercise. Move more, because even a little daily movement is good for health in general.
A vegan diet comes in different variations, and switching to the diet won’t make you healthier automatically and instantly. Besides planning a vegan diet chart, your determination and consistency are key factors helping you stay on track with your weight loss journey. In a nutshell, adapting to a balanced diet accompanied by a healthy and regular exercise regime will give you benefits far beyond a slimmer waistline, enhancing the quality of your life and health.