Successful Weight Management with Plants

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Research suggests that dropping meat from your eating pattern may be useful when it comes to successfully managing your weight. In a 2003 comparison study of over 37,000 Britons of all ages, researchers discovered that the BMIs of men following a vegan diet were lower compared to those who included meat in their diet (22.4 VS 24.4). The same was seen in women in a 2009 study of members of a Seventh Day Adventist church. In this case, the BMIs were a full 5 points lower (23.6 VS 28.8). A vegan diet is 100% plant-based and animal free, meaning that it contains no meat, fish, poultry, eggs, or dairy.

Some may explain that the difference is not surprising as vegans may make lifestyle choices such as not smoking, drinking less alcohol, or including more exercise than people who do not follow that eating pattern. However, a new meta-analysis shows that no matter the lifestyle choices, being vegan may make the difference in weight. This research compared 12 different studies with over 1,000 adults. It found that, after a year, those on a vegan diet lost 4.4 more pounds than those who followed other diets. Jim Mann, a nutrition professor in New Zealand, believes that dietary fiber is likely the reason for this connection. Insoluble fiber from the skins of plants provides bulk, which is filling. Soluble fiber from oats and beans have a low glycemic index and are digested more slowly, helping you feel fuller for longer. Plus, following a vegetarian diet has been linked with a reduction in risk for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

If you’re not ready to be completely vegan, here are a few less-daunting plant-based swaps to try:

  • In chili, double the beans and delete the meat
  • Use almond or peanut butter on toast in place of butter
  • Add a slice or two of avocado to your sandwich instead of cheese
  • Add nuts to your salad in place of croutons
  • Eat steel-cut oats for breakfast in place of eggs
  • Have hummus in a sandwich wrap instead of lunch meat

Finally, if you’re concerned about getting enough iron in your diet, try lentils. Lentils contain 20% of the daily value for iron. Adding peppers or tomatoes, which are high in vitamin C, could further boost iron absorption. Try them in soup or as a cold salad!

What do you think? Will you be making any plant-based swaps?

By Lisa Andrews, MED, RD, LD


  1. Serena Tonstad, Terry Butler, Ru Yan, and Gary E. Fraser, Type of Vegetarian Diet, Body Weight, and Prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2009:
  2. Ru-Yi HuangChuan-Chin HuangFrank B. HuJorge E. Chavarro, Vegetarian Diets and Weight Reduction: a Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.  Journal of General Internal Medicine. 2016:31, 1109-116.
  3. Mann J, et al. Carbohydrates: is the advice to eat less justified for diabetes and cardiovascular health? Curr Opin Lipidol. 2007.

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