While most dietitians and nutritionists will discourage you from adopting any diet aimed solely at losing weight, the truth is that weight loss is still one of the most common reasons why people adopt a new diet, including a vegan one.
Vegan and Plant-based diets can offer amazing health benefits besides their ethical and environmental impact but can they also help you lose weight? and if so, which one of the many types of vegan diets out there is the best for your goals?
To keep you from guessing which one to go with, we’ve decided to review some of the most popular plant-based diets and in the crown the most effective of them all with the title of the best vegan diet for weight loss.
Let’s get started!
Vegan Keto Diet
If you’re looking into trying the vegan keto diet, you probably already know that a ketogenic (keto) diet works by putting the body in ketosis where your body burns ketones for fuel derived from fat, instead of burning carbs.
That’s because a keto diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet. On a keto diet, 50-60% of your total calories should come from fat, 30-35% come from protein, while only 5-10% should come from carbs.
While the standard keto diet is loaded with meat and other animal products and comes with a massive list of adverse effects a vegan keto diet is much different from the standard one.
Although the vegan keto diet might seem difficult at first glance, since it excludes all animal products, there are ways to enjoy this highly effective diet with careful planning and selection of the right products.
The way that this diet works is by limiting your carb intake to 20 to 50 grams per day to help you reach and maintain ketosis so you can burn fat from fuel, instead of from glucose.
Pros and Cons of the Vegan Keto Diet
Now that you have a sense of what the vegan keto diet is, let’s take a look at its main benefits and drawbacks to help you make an informed decision.
- High Antioxidant Diet
The vegan keto diet is a high antioxidant diet that’s based on vegetable consumption. Vegetables are nutrient-dense and high in antioxidants. Antioxidants help the body defend itself against oxidative stress and prevent or delay cell damage, potentially reducing the risk of developing heart disease, cancer, and other health problems.
- Lower risk of high blood sugar and type 2 diabetes
Studies have shown that those following vegan diets have a 75% lower risk of developing high blood pressure and a 78% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- More weight loss
A review of twelve randomized controlled trials involving 1151 participants showed that over 18 weeks, individuals who were following a vegetarian diet lost significantly more weight than those following a non-vegetarian diet. Their weight difference was an average of 5.5 pounds (2.52 kg).
However beneficial a vegan keto diet might be, if not carefully planned, it can have certain drawbacks. Those include:
- Low in important nutrients
Vegan diets lack certain nutrients, including Vitamin B12, omega-3 fats, zinc, vitamin D, vitamin K2, iron, and calcium. This means that if you decide to follow this plan, you’ll need to account for these nutrients and make sure you get an adequate amount of them in your diet such as through supplementation.
- Unpleasant symptoms can be expected
As you transition from a higher-carb diet to a keto diet, you can expect certain unpleasant symptoms to occur, including:
- Dizziness and so on
The easiest way to combat these symptoms is to stay hydrated, get enough sleep, eat foods that are high in fiber, and engage in light physical activity.
While following a vegan keto diet may not be as easy as a standard keto diet, because you can’t rely on animal fat and protein sources, if you’re fully committed to it, you can get extraordinary results without a ton of effort. Here are a few tips on maintaining a vegan keto diet:
- Optimize your Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio. Since the bulk of all Omega-3s comes from fish and other seafood, and vegans get only some omega-3s from plant sources, if you want to get the best possible results when it comes to both weight-loss and your general health and wellbeing, you need to optimize your ration of Omega-6s to Omega-3s. The easiest way to get enough Omega-3s in your diet is to supplement. You also need to ditch high-Omega 6 fat sources like sunflower, corn, cotton seeds and soy and stick to sources which are high in Omega-3s and low in Omega 6s, including coconut oil and olive oil.
- Get enough protein in your diet. To avoid pairing a ton of different carb sources, and stay in ketosis, you should stick to protein sources that are low in carbs. One great solution is to go with pea protein powder (good opportunity to link to the article on pea protein) or a mixture of pea protein and brown rice protein for ultimate results. These protein supplements, especially the pea and brown rice combo are a great source of protein that’s low in carbs, high in fiber, easily digestible and contains all 9 essential amino acids.
- Use keto strips. If you’re serious about giving this diet a try, getting keto strips to measure ketosis will be really helpful in your process. You can use them to determine how fast you’re going in ketosis and see your actual carb load (how much carbs you can handle without going out of ketosis).
Raw Vegan Diet
A raw vegan diet consists of eating foods that have not been heated above a certain temperature, typically around 104- and 118-degrees F.
The concept behind the vegan raw diet is that cooking foods above a certain temperature destroy the enzymes found in those foods, making them less bio-available to the body.
Dr. Joel Fuhrman (MD), author of Eat to Live found that it’s not just the loss of enzymes that makes a big difference, but it’s also the loss of vital minerals and vitamins as well as the production of carcinogens which can occur when cooking on high temperatures that make raw plant-based diets a healthier option in comparison to other diets.
On a raw vegan diet, you can prepare your foods in ways that don’t include heating, cooking or processing them. Instead of that, you can blend, juice, soak, germinate or dehydrate foods, and some raw vegan diets even allow you to warm up your food to a certain temperature as we mentioned above.
Pros and Cons of the Raw Vegan Diet
Now that you have gotten more familiar with the basics of the raw vegan diet, let’s take a look at its main benefits and drawbacks so you can decide if this diet works for you.
- Improving heart health
A raw vegan diet that consists of eating more fruits, vegetables, and nuts and is low on salt, sugar, and processed foods is not only tasty and nutritious but it has a lot of health benefits as well.
One of the main benefits includes decreasing the risk of heath disease and other chronic diseases. As we previously mentioned, vegans have a 75% lower chance of developing high blood pressure and a 78% lower chance of developing type 2 diabetes, which in turn helps decrease the risk of heart disease.
- Improved digestion
Whole foods have a high amount of fiber, both soluble and insoluble, both of which can benefit your digestion.
Soluble fiber is beneficial for your intestines as it helps feed the good bacteria found in them. This helps reduce inflammation in your gut and alleviate IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) symptoms. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, helps by adding bulk to your stool, helping it move quickly through your intestines, and reducing the chance of constipation.
- May lack in important nutrients
As is the case with all vegan diets, if you take the necessary measures to plan it properly and make sure your meals are well-balanced, you can get most of the necessary vitamins and minerals your body needs.
However, there are certain nutrients that are naturally lacking in a raw vegan diet, such as B12, calcium, vitamin D, and so on. To make sure you get enough of these nutrients, you can supplement them, so you can avoid the risk of deficiencies.
- May cause dental erosions
One study found that people following a raw vegan diet have an increased likelihood of suffering from tooth erosion and tooth decay. This is especially true for diets that include high amounts of berries and citrus fruits as their higher levels of acidity can cause erosion of the tooth enamel. Nonetheless, more studies need to be conducted in order to draw a conclusion.
- May cause women to experience irregularities in their menstrual cycle
Due to the fact that the raw vegan diet is typically lower in calories, it may cause women to lose too much weight, causing them to experience irregularities in their cycle.
According to one study, since many raw food dieters exhibited underweight and amenorrhea, about a third of the participants, developed amenorrhea, which means missing one or more periods.
Starch Solution Diet
The Starch Solution diet book was written by Dr. John McDougall, a medical doctor who has been speaking out about the effects of nutrition and weight on chronic illnesses for over 50 years.
The Starch Solution is a starch-based diet, focusing on whole food starches such as potatoes, beans, brown rice, oatmeal, and fruit, while avoiding highly-processed starches which are high in fat, such as cookies, cakes, crackers, french fries, and potato chips.
Starchy foods are a good source of energy and provide an array of nutrients that are essential to a healthy diet. Aside from starch, they also contain fiber, iron, calcium, and B vitamins.
Starch has been a staple in almost all cuisines around the world throughout human history and all large populations of trim, healthy people have gotten the bulk of the calories they consume through starchy foods. Take a look at China, India, and Japan. Their cuisine relies heavily on rice, pasta, cereals, roots, and other starch sources.
Let’s see why this diet works so well for many people and why starch has kept generations and generations of people who rely heavily on it in their diets healthy and in good shape.
Pros and Cons of the Starch Solution Diet
If the Starch Solution diet sounds like something you’d like to try, let’s take a look at its main benefits and drawbacks so you can decide if this diet is suitable for you.
- Good source of nutrients
Starchy foods are a good source of a wide range of nutrients that are a necessary part of a healthy and balanced diet.
Aside from starch, they contain various vitamins and minerals, lots of fiber and are a good source of energy.
Complex carbs are nutritiously-dense powerhouses. Those include beans, legumes, and whole grains.
- Affordable and versatile
The Starch Solution is suitable for everyone as it is quite cheap to follow and very versatile. You can create a ton of different combinations with starchy foods, from soups, salads, pasta, snacks, main dishes, and everything else in between.
- Unlimited portion sizes
While following the Starch Solution diet doesn’t mean you should overindulge, Dr. McDougall himself encourages people to not count calories, nor limit their portion sizes and feel free to go back for seconds if they are still hungry. This makes the Starch Solution diet different from typical weight-loss diets as it doesn’t require you to count calories or limit your portions.
- May be difficult to follow
Since the diet does have certain restrictions in place, one of the main ones being cooking without using oil, it can sometimes be difficult to follow it, especially if you’re used to dining out and ordering in a lot. Most people that follow this regimen tend to stick to preparing their own food.
- Can’t cook with oil
The main challenge people mention when it comes to this diet is preparing dishes without using any oil. While there are solutions for that, including air frying, baking and roasting your foods, sometimes this can make the diet difficult to adhere to.
High Carb Low Fat Vegan Diet (HCLF)
The HCLF vegan diet is a High-Carb Low-Fat diet that is the exact opposite of a keto diet and people love it for that.
Instead of viewing carbs as the absolute worst thing you can eat on a diet, it puts them front and center.
Here’s what the HCLF vegan diet looks like!
The HCLF diet says goodbye to processed foods and added sugar and focuses mainly on whole foods. It completely eliminates any animal products, such as meat, seafood, and dairy as well as all types of oils.
This diet consists of around 75-80% carbs, 10-15% fat, and 10-15% protein.
Pros and Cons of the HCLF vegan diet
To help you make an informed decision on whether or not you’d like to give this diet a try, we’ve compiled a list of some of the main pros and cons associated with the HCLF vegan diet below.
- High on fiber
This diet is loaded with gut-loving fiber, since whole grains are not limited at all, unlike with the keto diet. You can easily reach your daily fiber goals and keep your digestive tract healthy and protected against certain diseases and inflammation.
- Rich in antioxidants
This diet is loaded with fruits and veggies. These provide lots of antioxidants which are hard to come by on diets based heavily on meat and animal products.
- No processed foods
This diet allows only minimally-processed whole foods and eliminates heavily-processed foods like pastries, cookies, and so on.
- Some nutrients may be lacking
Since this diet focused heavily on starch and carbs, certain nutrients which can be found in other food groups can be lacking. Protein-rich foods are limited, which can limit your intake of iron and zinc. Being a vegan diet, it can lead to certain other deficiencies which should be supplemented if you want to have a balanced and healthy diet.
- May cause acne
High-glycemic foods have been proven to cause acne in some people. A study found participants with moderate to severe acne consumed more carbohydrates from their diet compared to participants without acne. The results from this study suggest that there is a visible link between high-glycemic foods and acne when it comes to their severity.
Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet
If you are curious about starting a whole foods plant-based diet and are interested to find out what it entails, you’ve come to the right place.
Let’s take a look at some of the main aspects of this diet and later on compare some of its pros and cons.
The whole foods plant-based diet or WFPB is a diet that’s based on foods that are minimally processed, and it mainly includes fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, and more. What’s great about this diet is that it is not a set of complicated meal plans like many other diets, but it is in turn a healthy lifestyle that you can easily adopt and follow without feeling like your diet is too restricted or demanding.
The main rule of the diet is to eat whole, unrefined, plant-based foods, including but not limited to whole grains, legumes, greens, other veggies, fruits, and seeds.
You can also eat nuts, avocado, dried fruit, minimally processed soy products, and other similar foods but only on occasion.
Animal products, refined grains, refined sugar, and sweetened beverages are not allowed.
Pros and Cons of the Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet
If this diet sounds like something you’d like to adopt, check out its main pros and cons below to see if it’s a good fit for you.
- Prevent or reverse heart disease
Changing your diet to a plant-based diet has its benefits right from the start, but adopting a whole foods plant-based diet is even more beneficial to heart health.
Adopting this diet can help people drastically lower cholesterol levels, lower the risk of developing high blood pressure, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Prevent and reverse atherosclerosis
The whole foods plant-based diet can not only prevent or reverse heart disease but can also help to fully or partially open up blocked arteries according to research. While more research needs to be done on whether this diet can reverse the effects of heath disease, switching to a plant-based diet can effectively prevent further damage from occurring which is a good enough reason to make the switch.
- Prevent type 2 diabetes
Following whole-foods plant-based diet which is filled with high-quality plant foods can help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 34%.
- Lose weight
Swapping a meat-heavy diet for a plant-based one that’s based on consumption of whole foods and limits processed foods can help you nourish the body, improve your health in general and help you lose weight in a healthy way. Unlike many crash diets that boast fast results, with the whole foods plant-based diet you can lose weight in a healthy way and be able to keep it off. This diet is really sustainable and can easily become your way of life.
- Can be tough to meet protein requirements
Meeting your daily protein requirements can be challenging if you don’t plan your meals out properly. This is true for any plant-based diets, but particularly for ones that limit processed foods, such as this one, as processed veggie protein products won’t be allowed.
- Lacking in certain nutrients
Following a plant-based diet can make it difficult to get all the necessary nutrients, particularly those commonly found in animal products. That’s why you should consider supplementing iron, calcium, B12, D3, and omega-3s. Some of these essential vitamins and minerals can be found in certain veggie sources, but others, such as B12 must be supplemented.
Vegan Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting can be really beneficial for weight loss and can help improve your overall health and wellness.
Vegan intermittent fasting isn’t exactly a diet per se, but more of a lifestyle choice based on an eating schedule. There are several ways to practice intermittent fasting, one of the most common one being the 16-8 schedule. This means you can eat within an 8-hour window and fast for 16, to allow the body to rest and recover.
Vegan intermittent fasting doesn’t require you to follow a specific diet, meaning you can easily incorporate it into your daily routine. However, to get better results aside from limiting your calory intake by fasting, you should consider implementing healthier food choices. Focus more on whole foods and avoid or reduce your intake of processed foods and foods with added sugars.
As you can see, there are no strict rules when it comes to what you can and cannot eat while fasting, all you need to do is follow your fasting schedule and try to limit your intake of unhealthy, processed foods that are high in saturated fats.
Pros and Cons of Vegan Intermittent Fasting
If you’re interested in trying this method yourself, check out its pros and cons below.
- Control your blood sugar levels
Following a vegan intermittent fasting diet can help you control your blood sugar levels better and reduce your chance of developing type 2 diabetes. By limiting your calory intake, you can effectively decrease your insulin resistance, such as this study suggests.
- Fight inflammation
Help your body fight off infections better and decrease inflammation so you can avoid developing chronic conditions such as heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and even cancer, which have been proven to cause or advance these conditions and many others.
- Lack of essential nutrients
Following a vegan diet that excludes meat, poultry, fish, or other animal protein and animal products can cause you to miss out on certain nutrients specifically found in those food sources.
However, there’s a simple and easy fix for this and that’s supplementation. Iron, Zinc, Calcium, Vitamin B12, and Vitamin D are among the main vitamins and minerals that you might lack when following a vegan fast, which is why you should consider adding them to your diet through supplementation.
To Wrap Things Up
While all diets we reviewed today have their own particular benefits and can provide great results in terms of weight loss and general health, there is a clear winner that stands out of the bunch and that’s the whole food plant-based diet.
This diet is low in fats, it puts the emphasis on fresh, whole ingredients and minimizes processed foods which is why it’s superior for overall health as well as for weight loss.