By Sara Novak, Planet Green
This is the first year ever that the USDA has embraced a vegetarian diet. In its 2010 dietary pyramid, the USDA gave vegetarianism an outright endorsement saying in addition to improved heart health, a vegetarian diet was associated with lower rates of obesity. Another study in 2009 by Oxford researcher Tim Key found that vegetarians and vegans had body weights 3 percent to 20 percent lower than meat eaters. So why are vegetarians and vegans thinner?
First off, this isn’t true of all vegetarians and vegans. It’s usually those that eat a whole foods diet full of fruits, vegetables, soy, beans, nuts, seeds and free of processed foods, that enjoy the most weight loss. This results because the meat-free whole food choices tend to be less calorie dense. Animal proteins tend to be more calorie dense than plant-based proteins. For example, a 4 oz serving of garbanzo beans has 135 calories and 2 grams of fat while a 4 oz piece of filet has 232 calories and 10 grams of fat. A 4 oz serving of firm tofu has 88 calories and 5 grams of fat and a 4 oz serving of salmon has 237 calories and 29 grams of fat. While there are some less caloric choices like skinless chicken breast or a lean leg of lamb, when you break down the numbers, there tend to be more calories in meat than plant-based protein sources.
Healthy vegetarians and vegans also eat a lot more, you guess it, fruits and vegetables. Eating loads of fiber-filled fruits and veggies tend to fill you up faster with less calories.
Vegans Weigh Even Less
Vegans experience more dramatic weight loss when compared to vegetarians because they don’t eat any animal products like butter, cheese, and eggs. Not having cheese on that veggie sandwich or stinky bleu cheese atop your salad means less calories in the end. There are fewer calorie dense sources of food on a vegan diet and the foods that are fatty are loaded with healthful nutrients, specifically raw nuts, seeds, and avocado.
According to Glamour Magazine:
“I’m seeing more people going vegan because they’ve heard it can help them lose weight,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D., author of The Flexitarian Diet, who estimates that the average weight of a vegan is up to 15 percent less than that of someone who eats meat—which translates to 20 to 25 pounds for the average woman.
Cynthia Sass, R.D., agrees that a vegan diet can lead you to drop pounds. “If by going vegan, you end up eating more veggies, fruit, whole grains, beans and lentils than you were before, then it can be a way to reduce calories without feeling like you are,” says Sass, author of Cinch! Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.
While my reasons for enjoying a plant-based diet weren’t initially cosmetic, from my experience, it is easier to drop weight and keep it off. And in the end, you feel a whole lot better about where your foods are sourced.
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