What is Veganism?
Originally grounded in the ethical treatment of animals, veganism has since become a popular diet option for those seeking to lose weight through a healthier diet and other lasting lifestyle changes. Unlike vegetarians who keep eggs and dairy products as a part of their diets, vegans do not. Adopting a vegan diet means restricting meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products from the diet and instead eating foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, plant-based milks, meat alternatives and other non dairy products. While veganism can seem restrictive, it has continued to be recognized as a viable solution for achieving weight loss and alleviating other health concerns. Upon further research it has been shown that adopting a vegan lifestyle has helped address various health concerns in many individuals who were able to find relief by changing to a vegan diet. Although veganism has its roots in animal safety and environmentalism, many are beginning to recognize veganism as a way to break barriers in many aspects of health.
Veganism and Weight Loss
According to a new report from U.S. News & World Report, the vegan diet ranked 17th for overall health, and ranked second for most effective diets for weight loss and blood sugar balance. In addition to being recognized in these two categories, veganism has also been shown to lower risk of diseases such as metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, and heart disease according to Turner-McGrievy, Alexander et al, and Hyunju Kim et al. In other conducted studies related to veganism and weight loss, results have shown that after a year of research, when comparing loss of pounds or inches in overweight women following a vegan diet versus overweight women adhering to low-fat diets from the National Cholesterol Education Program, those utilizing a vegan program lost an average of 10.8 pounds while the low-fat NCEP group averaged a loss of only 3.9 pounds.
As research continued, a study of over 50 overweight adults was conducted and each participant was randomly chosen to participate in one of five diet groups: vegan, vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian, semi-vegetarian or omnivorous. While all participants experienced a fluctuation in their weight, the vegan group demonstrated the most significant weight loss. In addition to having the most weight lost, vegan participants also showed a higher decrease in their fat and saturated fat content as compared to the pesco-vegetarian, semi-vegetarian, and omnivorous groups. Understanding such studies sheds light on just how effective adopting a vegan diet can be in achieving weight loss and overall better health.
Beware of Vegan Junk Foods
Even though a vegan diet has been associated with increased health and weight loss, it is important to remain mindful of what vegan foods are being consumed. Assuming food to be healthy simply because it is plant-based is an inaccurate assumption because not all plant-based foods are healthy. Many food companies often use the term plant-based on numerous highly processed food items that are dense in caloric value and low in nutrients as stated by Sharon Palmer RDN, a Los Angeles based Plant-Powered Dietitian. In a similar regard, Jeff Novick, MS, RD says that foods that are lower in calorie density such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are also higher in nutrient density. Keeping this in mind, we can understand that even if a processed food item is vegan, that does not mean that it also meets the health requirements to deem it a health food item. Understanding this concept Garth Davis, MD, advises vegans to stick to natural, unprocessed foods as they are full of water and fiber which stimulates a full feeling for longer without compromising caloric intake or nutritional value.
Potential Health Concerns with Veganism
Although veganism has been shown to have many health benefits, there have been some concerns regarding vegans not consuming enough protein. This concept has led to further concerns linked to certain deficiencies developing from the lacking presence of animal products in the vegan diet. Vitamin B-12, an essential nutrient, is a vitamin that is naturally found only in animal products. Developing a deficiency in B-12 may result in conditions such as anemia which may leave some skeptical when considering a vegan diet. Though vegans may miss out on nutrients found only in animal products, they can avoid such deficiencies by supplementing their diet with vitamins, vitamin-fortified cereals, and fortified soy products.
In spite of these and other possible setbacks, an individual can choose to adopt a vegan diet to lose weight and maintain a healthy active lifestyle. Remembering to focus on nutrient-dense foods instead of foods full of empty calories, the vegan diet can prove to be a healthy, sustainable way of life. Even with such minor concerns regarding certain vitamin deficiencies, the many individual health and environmental benefits that come as a result of adopting a vegan diet may be enough to make this a diet worth the slight risk.