Beyoncé, Zac Efron, Serena Williams—these are just a few of many celebrities you’ll find touting how a vegan diet transformed their health and helped them shed pounds. Can you be-like-Beyoncé and lose weight from a vegan diet, too?
Possibly. Following a vegan diet means you cut out all animal products including meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. As a result, vegans rely entirely on plant-based foods including fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, and grains. This means there’s a good chance you’re swapping out high-calorie foods like red meat or cheese for nutrient dense fiber rich whole foods, which may naturally lead to weight loss. A 2016 meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials found individuals assigned to a vegan diet had the highest rate of weight loss compared to non-vegetarian diet groups.
Here’s the catch: There are still plenty of high-calorie not-so-healthy vegan foods that will probably hinder your weight loss efforts if you load up on them. A diet of bagels, Oreos, and french fries may be vegan, but it’s not the path to greater health or to shedding pounds. Plus, many vegan alternatives to meats or sweets are still sneakily high in calories, saturated fat, refined carbs, and sugars. They also often contain unhealthy fillers and additives. Vegan or not, eating a diet that is as high in whole real foods as possible always wins.
A vegan diet can also be lacking in certain essential nutrients if you’re not responsible. Vitamin B12 is almost solely found in animal products, so vegans should consider taking a vitamin B12 supplement and incorporating fortified foods into their diet. Other harder-to-find nutrients in plant-based foods include calcium, iron, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. Avoiding all animal products can be pretty restrictive for some, so you’ll also want to make sure you’re not cutting too many calories or falling into a cycle of yo-yo dieting.
The good news: A vegan diet can boost your health and lead to weight loss when done correctly. If you’re interested in trying a vegan diet to slim down, just be sure to follow a few guidelines:
You can thank fiber rich veggies for much of the vegan diet’s weight loss benefits. Vegetables are low in calories and high in nutrients and filling fiber, so piling your plate with these nutrient dense foods will keep hunger at bay while providing disease-fighting compounds. Don’t worry, there’s no need to eat salads on repeat. Check out these hearty, delicious plant-based meals for some inspiration.
Watch your portions
Weight loss is not as simple as calories in, calories out, but you’ll still need to watch your portions if slimming down is your goal. Even nutritious plant-based foods like nuts and avocados can lead to weight gain if consumed in excess. Use this hunger hack while you enjoy that black bean burger and sweet potatoes fries.
Eat your protein
If you’re hoping to build some muscle too, then you’ll want to make sure you’re not missing out on this important macronutrient. Plus, protein will help keep you satisfied for longer so you’re not always running to the kitchen or tempted by vegan sweets. Try plant-based proteins like legumes, whole grains, tofu, tempeh, or protein powder. In a rush? Grab one of these vegan protein bars.
Skip vegan treats and processed foods
Just because it’s vegan, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. The extensive vegan options now lining grocery store aisles make plant-based diets easier to follow, but many are still overly processed and far from their natural whole food state that is associated with the vegan diet’s health benefits. Keep it simple and the long ingredient lists to a minimum. If you do need a sweet treat, try these vegan ones instead.
The Bottom Line
Simply switching to a vegan diet won’t automatically improve your health or make the weight melt off. That being said, it’s likely you’ll notice weight loss if following a plant-based diet means eating more nutritious whole foods and less high calorie animal products and refined carbohydrates. You’ll still need to follow some healthy eating habits if slimming down is the goal, so a vegan diet isn’t your only answer to weight loss.