What you need to know before giving up cheese.
Thanks to the low-calorie, nutrient-dense nature of plant-based foods, you'll up your fiber and nutrient intake. But will a vegan diet do your waistline a solid, too?
Science says yes. A 2016 study published in the Journal of General Medicine found that people who follow a vegan diet see better results than dieters on other weight-loss plans, losing an average of five pounds more in the short-term.
Of course, there's more to shedding pounds than breaking up with animal-based products.
Here's how to decide if going vegan is your ticket to a slimmer future.
Check out this smoothie swap that can make you feel way fuller for longer:
Ditching animal-based eats means eliminating cholesterol and many sources of saturated fat from your repertoire, which in itself can help promote a healthy body weight and body mass index (BMI), says New Jersey-based registered dietitian Alyssa Cohen.
Plus, relying on nutrient-dense whole foods automatically slashes your calorie intake—and not just because it involves ghosting the processed stuff.
Plant-based foods contain a much higher concentration of vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients than animal-based foods, but most of their weight comes from water, so you can enjoy a higher volume of grub without over-drafting your calories.
"Since you can only fit so much food in your gut at any meal, filling up on plant-based foods to satisfaction nearly always means consuming fewer calories than you would filling up on animal-based foods," says Tom Hritz, Ph.D., R.D., clinical nutrition manager at Magee-Womens Hospital of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Vegan foods are also very high in fiber, which can slow down the digestive process, helping you to feel fuller and go longer between meals without being hungry, he adds. And more fiber helps to promote bowel regularity, helping you beat the bloat.
Plus, the fact that eating more fruits and veggies keeps your blood sugar stable—ultimately nixing junk food cravings before they start—is just icing on the cake (which you won't be tempted to eat).
While a vegan diet can promote weight loss, it may also result in weight gain if you're not careful. "It's important not to wrap a health halo around any particular diet because there are still foods that may fit that diet that aren't the most desirable choices," says Cohen.
After all, french fries fried in a vegetable-based oil are technically vegan, as are potato chips, and many other calorie-laden snack foods.
Anyone beginning a vegan diet should consider working with a dietitian to ensure they're scoring adequate nutrition.
"Some animal-based foods are high in important nutrients we all need. And when you avoid them it can be challenging (though, not impossible) to get them from plant-based foods," says Hritz.
Getting enough protein on a plant-based diet, which is key for maintaining lean muscle mass and revving your metabolism, can be especially tricky.
You may also fall short on vitamin B12, iron, calcium, and vitamin D, all of which are found in animal products, and deficiencies like these may cause excess weight to stick around.
Actually, a 2015 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that, compared to normal-weight individuals, obese adults had 5 to 12 percent lower levels of vitamins A, C, D, E, calcium, and magnesium.
"Sometimes, vegan diet beginners may be drawn toward eating more carbs and starchy vegetables in order to feel full, especially if their diet isn't adequate in good sources of protein," says Nina Eng, R.D., chief clinical dietitian at Plainview Hospital in New York.
Excessive intake of both can lead to weight gain and problems with blood sugar control, which can trigger mad junk food cravings.
But just because it's challenging to score certain key nutrients through a vegan diet doesn't mean you're weight-loss goals are doomed, says Cohen.
Like with any weight-loss strategy, planning is paramount to success.
Straight-up, shifting your focus to plant-based nutrition and protein to lose weight isn't a bad thing.
But you don't have to go to extremes to reap the weight-loss benefits of a plant-packed diet. Simply incorporate more plant food sources into your day.
"It's also becoming popular to choose one or two days per week to go vegetarian or vegan, which is a great way to add variety to your routine," says Cohen.
And that can help you shed pounds to boot. If you do decide that going vegan is for you, consider gradually making the transition to avoid the derailments that can come from quitting your ice cream addiction cold turkey.