Feast to your heart’s content, cast calories to the wind, lose pounds with plants, and never worry again! Sounds great. But are plants really a panacea or a pipedream? Actually, most studies agree that a plant-based diet is the healthiest way to lose weight—even without calorie-counting. Here’s why:
1. Plants contain less calories
Calories (units of energy) are necessary for our survival. How many we need per day depends on our health, age, sex, size, and activity levels (roughly 2,500 calories a day for men, 2,000 for women). Caloric consumption’s out of control, though, as obesity tops the list of health concerns. Meanwhile, vegetarians were found to consume about 363 fewer calories a day.
2. Plants are low-fat
Fat carries twice as many calories as carbs and protein: One gram of fat has 9 calories vs. carbs and protein at 4. Thankfully, plants are lower in fat. Some plants do contain fats—the good fats like unsaturated oils and omega-3s, not saturated and trans fats linked to high cholesterol and heart disease.
3. Plants don’t contain “empty calories”
Empty calories are found in foods containing no nutrients—foods with solid fats and added sugars like ice cream and sodas. Eating empty calories sets up cravings when the body’s low in a vitamin or mineral; satisfying those signals with even more empty foods creates a vicious cycle of craving and weight gain.
4. Plants balance calories with high nutrition
Many like Fred Detwiler at Plant-Smart Living are discovering that losing weight with plants is really simple.
If the goal of weight loss is to decrease caloric intake and increase nutritional value, then it becomes obvious that a whole-foods, plant-based diet is a simple solution to a problem we are told is complicated.
(See his handy list of fruits and vegetables along with their caloric values.)
Michael Greger, MD, FACLM, a physician and New York Times best-selling author, says U.S. consumers struggle to get enough fiber; vitamins A, C, and E; calcium; magnesium; and potassium. Plants provide all of these without “the harmful stuff” like saturated fat and cholesterol.
5. Plants help burn calories
To control weight you have to consume less energy than you burn (calorie deficit), and more exercise can burn calories faster. Vegetarian Times claims calories also can absorb differently and affect metabolism: “The after-meal calorie burn … as you digest foods can be increased by a low-fat plant-based diet”; greater sensitivity to insulin “pushes nutrients into the cells,” to burn as body heat, not stored as fat. In fact, Greger’s video revealed people on plant-based diets had an 11% higher resting metabolic rate.
6. Plants satisfy hunger
Not every calorie satiates in the same way. Dr. Frank Lipman, an integrative-medicine expert explains: Calories from nutrient-dense foods maintain blood-sugar levels, enable your brain to signal that your stomach’s full, and minimize cravings, while nutrient-poor foods can spike insulin and cause cravings that lead to overeating.
7. Plants help sustain your weight
Losing weight with plants is sustainable long-term, reinforced by how it really works and makes you feel better. Physicians Committee reviewed a 2015 meta-analysis that also found a plant-based diet causes weight loss even without exercise or counting calories.
Ready to plunge into plant-based? Veestro kicked off the new year with a fun new 21-day program—Yes I Can—and you’re invited. Start building healthy habits that will nourish your mind, body, and soul (and manage weight!). You get a 3-week supply of Veestro meals (choose one of three kickstart plans), workouts and motivation from holistic nutrition coach Kristin Wuhrman, access to a private Facebook group, plus other perks. Choose a kickstart plan and you’re in!
Michael Greger MD, FACLM, The Healthiest Diet for Weight Control, NutritionFacts.org
Fred Detwiler, Overeating on a Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet Is Your Weight Loss Secret, Plant-Smart Living
Calorie Lowdown, Vegetarian Times
Dr. Frank Lipman, Why You Don’t Need to Count Calories Ever Again, MBG
A Plant-Based Diet Causes Weight Loss, According to New Mega-Study, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine