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The experts weigh the pros and cons
New photos of Kelly Osbourne surfaced today, showing the star lost six stones to lockdown. In the pictures she shines, looks relaxed, healthy and happy. Your credit? Veganism.
You all probably know a vegan. This is someone who makes the active decision to cut all animal products from their diet and sometimes even from their lifestyle. Foods like meat, fish, dairy products and eggs are made and are being replaced by vegetables, grains, nuts and fruits.
While the introduction of a vegan lifestyle in the nineties meant a lot of houmous, pitta, and legumes, it's a common lifestyle choice today, adapted by the likes of Beyonce, Natalie Portman, and Lucy Watson, to name a few.
Research has shown that around 2% of adults in the UK are now vegan: the number of UK vegans quadrupled between 2014 and 2019. Most mainstream supermarkets now have their own plant-based alternatives, and so do fast food chains like Greggs, McDonalds, and Burger King.
So if you want to lose a few pounds, is it still vegan? We asked three nutritionists to share their thoughts on veganism and weight loss. Read on to find out what they think – and if they would recommend you give it a try.
I want to loose weight. Should i go vegan?
, you are at high risk of nutrient deficiencies
Be careful – especially if this is your first time vegan, you can run into nutritional deficiencies very quickly. Your body adapts to your new routine. “Veganism carries the risk of important nutrient deficiencies such as vitamin B12, iodine, omega-3, calcium and iron. It is possible to put all the nutrients on a vegan diet, but it takes a lot of planning, ”shares nutritionist Jenna Hope (@jennahopenutrition).
Nutritionist Clarissa Lenherr (clarissalenherr.com) agrees, adding that the most common nutritional deficiencies in vegans often lead to energy accidents – not ideal if you're trying to lose weight and don't plant the cookie jar by 4pm. “A lack of vitamin D, B12 and iron can lead to fatigue. This, in turn, can lead to increased consumption of high-energy foods to counteract this (think carbohydrates and sugars). “She warns that this will lead to weight gain, not weight loss, in the long run.
Yes – vegan foods are generally healthier
"Veganism can help you lose weight if meals are often more fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes, which are relatively low in calories and can support metabolic health," says nutritionist Lauren Windas (@laurenwindasnutritionist).
The focus here is on the ifs, but if you choose a balanced vegan lifestyle with nutritious foods while maintaining a calorie deficit, you are likely to lose weight. You are also nourishing your body in the process. Win, win.
– don't be fooled: not all vegan foods are healthy
Is all vegan food healthy and does eating only healthy food lead to weight loss? and no. The surge in veganism means the market is flooded with stale vegan meats that are full of ingredients whose names you probably don't know. When it comes to weight loss, while eating healthy is important to maintaining optimal health, if all you want to do is lose a few pounds it really is as simple as how much energy you eat and how much energy you use.
"There is a common misconception that vegan food is healthier. Highly processed soy nuggets, french fries, vegan candy, and vegan junk foods may not contain ingredients derived from animals, but these foods can still be high in sugar, saturated fat, and total calories what doesn't help you lose weight, ”emphasizes Jenna.
Yes, you have fewer options eating out
Under normal circumstances it is a pleasure to have a number of options to choose from when eating. However, when you're trying to lose weight while maintaining a calorie deficit, the 101 options can feel a little overwhelming at times.
t if you decide to go vegan – although many restaurants are now housed, there are still fewer options available than meat eaters, Lauren points out. "When you're vegan, you're not eating meat, fish, dairy, or cheese, so your menu options are far less than normal," she said. "This means that veganism can be useful for weight loss as it limits your eating options to those filled with low-energy fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes."
– it's restrictive
A quick reminder here: a diet or weight loss plan that causes you to restrict yourself is not worth it. The NHS guidelines aimed at helping Britons lose weight safely recommend not losing more than 0.5kg to 1kg per week. This means that women have to maintain a daily calorie intake of 1,400 kcal.
"In a simplistic explanation, weight loss occurs as a result of a calorie deficit, and so individuals should focus on their overall consumption rather than restricting specific food groups," adds Jenna. So instead of cutting out all of the foods you love while chasing a dream weight, why not monitor your intake and eat a little less while still enjoying the flavors that please you?
Yes – vegan foods are generally lower in energy
Leafy vegetables high in water (broccoli, zucchini, beans, spinach, etc.) and fruits (such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and grapes) are all lower in calories than other foods. Logically, if you pack meals full of it, as you did as a vegan, it should logically mean your overall calorie consumption is lower.
“Individuals can lose weight with a vegan whole food diet due to the lower energy content of many plant-based foods and plant-based protein sources. Snacking on the go and general grocery picking can decrease as it's easier to make something of your own at home, ”shares Jenna.
– it is important to find a diet that works for you
But for anyone who loses weight on a vegan diet, there are many who gain weight. “Often the latter stories aren't talked about as much,” says Jenna. Lauren points out that this is because as a vegan you don't have access to lean sources of protein and even vegan sources of protein like tofu, chickpeas, lentils, etc. have higher calories and higher percentages of carbohydrates.
Which does ______________ mean? "When you cut out meat, you have to eliminate lean sources of protein like turkey and chicken," says Lauren. Lean protein is important for building muscle and also for feeling full. If you are not full, you can graze and eat larger portions between meals, which will lead to weight gain.
Ultimately, you need to find a diet that works for you or it won't work. "It's important that you make your own dietary decisions based on your own goals and beliefs, rather than being asked to follow a particular diet or, worse, feeling guilty," adds Jenna.
Yes, you will feel full longer
Depending on your current diet, you can easily lose weight by switching from highly processed to fiber-packed fruits and vegetables. "If you've previously eaten a lot of red meat, animal fats, processed foods with low fiber and plant-based foods, with a balanced vegan diet you are naturally consuming fewer saturated fat and more plant-based foods, which are lower in calories and lower in fat," shares Clarissa With.
She also adds that the vegan diet also tends to have more fiber than the western one, which means you feel fuller and more energetic. "This could result in lower calorie consumption and possibly fewer snacks between meals, which in turn could lead to weight loss."
– eating vegan doesn't necessarily mean you are calorie deficient
While there are clear environmental reasons why you should choose a vegan diet, the correlation between veganism and weight loss is more blurred. Jenna points out that on a very simplified level, losing weight is about calorie intake versus calorie burn, that is, maintaining a calorie deficit. You can eat all beans, soy nuggets, and vegan burgers, but if you're still eating more calories than you burn, you won't lose weight, she warns.
Conclusion: Weight loss is different for everyone and also for every body. For example, if you are motivated to adopt a vegan lifestyle for more reasons than just losing weight, you are aware of the environmental impact that red meat has on methane emissions, and therefore global warming. Maybe it could be helpful to be vegan.
However, a pointless vegan diet for a few months as a means of losing weight may not be the most sensible (or successful) method. "A vegan diet doesn't necessarily lead to weight loss, and I wouldn't recommend it for anyone looking to lose weight," concludes Jenna.
Even Kelly agrees, telling HuffPost, "Once I learn how to exercise and eat right, one of those things is that you just have to commit to one life change instead of dieting."