Many people believe that eating a vegetarian diet will help them to lose weight. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. And while this statement may raise the hackles of most vegetarians, the truth of the matter is that weight loss requires a negative calorie balance. This means that an individual who wishes to lose weight must eat less calories than they burn.
For a healthy adult, with no other underlying medical conditions, who receives a moderate amount of exercise daily, a calorie is a calorie. Research has shown that individuals who follow a typical vegetarian diet will consume approximately 500 fewer calories daily than those individuals who eat meat. And, that individuals who eat a vegetarian diet will actually consume more food than nonvegetarians.
This is because vegetarian foods are bulkier – you can eat more and still consumer less calories. The foods are less calorie dense, have a higher number of vitamins and minerals and generally healthier.
The definition of a vegetarian diet is the consumption of vegetable based products and no meat or meat products. There however does not mean that you completely cut out white flour, sugar or processed foods, all of which are high in dense calories and are related to disease and illness. Even vegetarians can eat the wrong types of food which can lead to weight gain.
For instance, chips, cookies, power bars and candy all qualify as vegetarian foods and yet are high in calories, sugar and processed chemicals.
Research has also shown that individuals who follow a low fat, plant-based diet plan will have a greater degree of success at weight loss and improve their insulin sensitivity than those who follow a diet which includes both meat and vegetables. This research was published in the September issue of The American Journal of Medicine. Other studies show that obesity and individuals who suffer from being overweight are less prevalent in populations which follow a plant-based diet. (1,2,3)
On a worldwide basis researchers have found that vegetarian populations experience lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, peripheral vascular disease and other life-threatening illnesses.
Because the vegetarian diet consists of complex carbohydrates the individuals who eat a vegetarian diet often feel full longer than those who eat simple carbohydrates. By enjoying an unlimited servings of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other healthy foods individuals who eat a vegetarian diet often are able to lose weight without feeling hungry.
However, it is still important to remember that even vegetarians who enjoy pasta, crackers, cookies, chocolate, sweets and large amounts of soda will also suffer from being overweight and obesity. The real benefit from eating a vegetarian diet does not come just from eliminating meat but also from eliminating processed foods, simple sugars and incorporating a greater number of complex carbohydrates into the diet plan.
(1) Aemrican Institute for Cancer Research: The New American Plate
(2) Obesity A Research Journal: Benefits of a Low-Fat Plant-Based Diet
(3)The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Plant-Based Foods and Prevention of Cardiovascular disease