Research shows that vegetarian diets benefit heart health by lowering blood pressure and improving diabetes management. Vegetarian diets also have nutritional advantages over diets that contain a combination of plant and animal foods.
A recent review of the medical literature on vegetarian diets tried to answer the question of whether vegetarian diets lead to weight loss in overweight and normal-weight individuals. The studies included in the review ranged in duration from four weeks to more than two years. Some of the studies included physical activity and some, but not all, included a specific calorie level.
Interestingly of the 15 studies included in the review, eight did not have weight loss as a specific goal. These eight studies were looking at other health outcomes. Yet the prescribed vegetarian diet resulted in an average weight loss of more than 6.5 pounds (3 kilograms).
In the seven studies that prescribed the vegetarian diet for the purpose of weight loss, the average weight loss was nearly 10 lb (4.5 kg).
Some reasons why vegetarian diets may lead to weight loss include:
- Plants are naturally high in water content.
- Plants are good sources of fiber.
- Plant oils, nuts and seeds are good sources of healthy fats.
- Some plant-based foods are high in protein.
All of these factors can contribute to feelings of fullness and satisfaction following a meal. This may be helpful in controlling overall calorie intake even without a conscious effort to count calories.
Thinking of a trying a vegetarian diet? If you aren’t ready to jump in with both feet, start off by including some dairy, eggs or fish. Look into trustworthy resources to guide your food choices to ensure adequate nutrient intake.