We all know that plant-based foods are delicious, help combat climate change, and spare animals immense suffering.
But did you know that eating vegan foods can also help you lose weight?
New research from New Zealand has found that a diet of plant-based whole foods can shrink your waistline, reverse type 2 diabetes, and lower cholesterol levels. Participants in the study lost an average of 11.5 kilograms after one year – despite being told to eat as much as they wanted.
Bread, pasta, and potatoes were all encouraged during the study.
The research, published in Nutrition & Diabetes, recorded the largest weight loss of any randomised control trial where participants had no restriction on calories and didn’t have to exercise.
The study included 65 patients who were obese or overweight and had heart disease or diabetes. Participants were split randomly into two groups: 33 participants ate a plant-based diet, while 32 others formed a control group.
In addition to being plant-based, the prescribed diet was low in fat, as approximately only 7 to 15 per cent of total energy came from fat. The diet included unlimited amounts of whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits. Participants were advised to eat until they were full and not to count calories. They also took a daily B12 supplement.
Participants received a “traffic-light” diet chart that outlined which foods to consume, limit, or avoid. They attended twice-weekly meetings, which included nutritional education sessions and cooking classes. Then it was up to them to stick to the eating plan at home.
Gisborne, New Zealand, GP and lead author Dr Nicholas Wright says, “The whole food plant-based approach shows very promising weight loss results that appear to be sustained over time. People don’t have to worry about going hungry and can still lose weight”.
The participants were able to stick to the diet – in large part because the unlimited quantities of food meant they never felt hungry. After 12 months, they had not only lost weight and lowered their cholesterol but also decreased their waistlines by an average of 9 centimetres and their medication usage by an average of 29 per cent.
Two of four patients with diabetes reduced their dosage or reliance on diabetes medications, including one who no longer required insulin.
And for those wondering how to eat a healthy plant-based diet on a budget, the good news is that participants reported that they didn’t change the amount they spent on food and enjoyed food just as much as before.
Wright says a plant-based diet is great for health and also reduces the impact on the environment by using less land and water. He added, “I think there should be more focus within the health system on interventions which focus on diet and lifestyle, because these tend to cost less, and have less side effects, all the while having effects which are sometimes much better than can be offered through medications and surgery”.
During the study, prominent environmentalists James Cameron and Suzy Amis Cameron gave their support to participants via a special video message.
Keen to find out more? The website for the research and a download link can be found at www.thebroadstudy.com.
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