If losing weight is one of your goals for 2021, consider a low-fat vegan diet. A new study published February 5th by the US Medical Committee for Responsible Medicine Journal of the American College of Nutrition showed that a low-fat vegan diet was actually more effective for weight loss than the Mediterranean diet, which is usually considered the best diet for weight loss. Are you surprised?
The two diets were compared in a 36-week study. For 16 weeks, half of the participants were randomly assigned to a low-fat vegan diet that ate vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes, while limiting vegetable fats such as oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, and coconut. The other half followed the Mediterranean diet, which is also full of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, but includes olive oil and a moderate amount of fish and chicken. None of the groups had calorie restrictions.
After the 16 weeks, the participants returned to their original diet for four weeks and then followed the opposite diet for an additional 16 weeks.
The study showed that a low-fat vegan diet had better results in terms of weight loss, cholesterol levels, and improved body composition and insulin sensitivity. Participants who followed the Mediterranean Diet did not lose weight, but those who followed a low-fat vegan diet lost an average of 13.2 pounds, including an average of 7.5 pounds of fat.
While many experts consider the Mediterranean diet to be one of the best ways to lose weight, the study author, Neal Barnard, MD, President of the Medical Committee said that including fatty fish, dairy products, and oils in your diet seems like the right reason why none of the participants lost weight.
I reached out to Registered Nutritionist Susan Macfarlane, MScA, for her opinion on this study, and she told POPSUGAR, “In this study, weight loss may be attributed to calorie reduction.” Participants who ate the low-fat vegan diet said that they naturally ate 500 fewer calories, but that their caloric intake did not change during the Mediterranean diet.
Eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes, which are naturally lower in calories than foods that contain fat, allowed participants to reduce their caloric intake without reducing the volume of the foods they ate, Macfarlane said. These types of foods are also high in water and fiber, which increases their feeling of fullness, she added, so that if you eat fewer calories, you will feel full. A low-fat vegan diet means you don’t eat high-calorie processed foods either, Macfarlane said, which are easy to overeat, leading to weight gain.
To add to my personal attitude, I started a low-fat, high-carbohydrate vegan diet in July 2020. I already didn’t eat meat or dairy products, but eggs, oil, avocado, coconut, tons of seeds and nuts, and nut butters. Switching to a low-fat vegan diet offered me so many benefits. As long as I ate enough carbohydrates from starch, didn’t consume sugar or processed foods or flours, I had more energy for my workouts, got leaner, and once I got used to all the fiber I ate from beans and non-starchy vegetables, mine was mine Digestion significantly improved.
It’s important to emphasize that this study is for a low-fat vegan diet, which means that your diet contains 10 to 15 percent fat – not zero fat. Registered nutritionist Whitney English Tabaie, MS, warned that consuming zero fats could backfire as fats provide a feeling of satiety. In a previous interview, she said, “Someone might overeat later to make up for their low-fat meals,” which would lead to weight gain. Registered nutritionist Sarah Rueven, MS, CDN of Rooted Wellness added that not getting enough fat could lead to nutritional deficiencies if not getting enough fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K).
The bottom line is a more complete, plant-based diet is a healthy way to eat as it encourages a person to eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains high in vitamins and fiber. But Tabaie said that “eating a balanced diet with moderate amounts of protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates at every meal” is essential for optimal health. For a general macro breakdown for meals, registered nutritionist Leslie Langevin, MS, author of the anti-inflammatory kitchen cookbook, recommends dividing your plate into half a plate, a quarter plate protein, and a quarter plate carbohydrate plus fat.