Plant-Based Diets a Good Choice for Weight Loss

Participants who adhered to a plant-based diet lost weight regardless of exercise or calorie consumption. (Photo: Shutterstock).

Diets rich in plants have long been praised for their weight loss attributes, a sentiment now backed by a paper published Thursday in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The researchers reviewed 15 studies that placed participants on a plant-based diet (vegan, vegetarian, raw foods), finding that on average, people lost just over 10 pounds after one month. Those who did not stick to the diets completely (and subsequently became flexitarians), still lost an average of 7.48 pounds.

It's worth noting that these weight-loss numbers came independent of any exercise or caloric limitations, elements the researchers were looking to avoid to better gauge the diet's impact on the body alone. Those participants who were older, heavier, and who included weight loss as a dietary goal seemed to lose the most pounds. The study also found little difference in weight loss between near-vegan diets and strict vegan diets.

In an interview with Harper's Bazaar magazine last August, dietitian Stephanie Middleberg said plant-based foods have such a huge impact on diet because they're both "cleaner" (often containing only one ingredient) and are easier to digest than dairy, meat, and sometimes even fish. "Eating them gets people back to the basics of good solid nutrition, which is to load up on what is seasonal and whole food-based, plus it allows them to be more focused when eating out," she added.

Besides weight loss, a plant-based diet is also good for cardiovascular health and reducing the odds of high blood pressure, cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. According to Susan Levin, one of the researchers for the study, plant-based diets also offer an advantage for people who hate counting calories or worrying about portions.

“This is not about moderation, it’s about healthful choices,” she told the LA Times.