Many who have transitioned to a plant-based lifestyle find themselves happily, and sometimes even accidentally, losing weight. Where once it was a struggle to lose five pounds and keep it off, some new vegans find those once-stubborn pounds falling off–and staying off. Is it thanks to all of the fiber in plants–or the fact that we’re likely to eat less processed food on a vegan diet?
Partly–but now there’s another element confirming why vegans tend to be thinner without significant struggle: Vegans may burn calories faster.
Dr. Neal Barnard, MD, the founding president of the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and a professor at George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences, recently performed a fascinating study, the results of which indicate that vegan bodies adapt to burn calories more efficiently than their omnivore counterparts.
Dr. Barnard transitioned a group of overweight patients to a completely vegan diet low in added vegetables, and the outcome was extremely positive: “We found that not only did their calorie-burning speed jump up after a meal—but that extra burn was significantly higher than it had been when the study started,” he explains in The 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart.
He theorizes that this phenomenon has to do with the efficiency of insulin. In a healthy system, insulin carries sugar and protein from the bloodstream into the cells, where the mitochondria metabolize fat and calories, turning our food into energy. The faster this process takes place, the faster the metabolism is and the quicker calories are burned.
In individuals with a high-fat, meat-filled diet, however, insulin loses some of its effectiveness. Fat droplets crowd the cell, making it difficult for the insulin to get through, meaning that the metabolic process is delayed. In a sense, it’s too crowded! When the sugar doesn’t reach the cells in time, it’s not used for energy. Rather, it’s stored as fat.
“You could pretty comfortably assume that if you change from a high-fat diet to a low-fat diet full of plant-based whole foods, right away your cells are going to be able to function better,” explains Susan Levin, MS, RD, the director of nutrition education at PCRM.
I’m not sure about you, but I’m ordering the black bean burger tonight!
Need more inspiration to go vegan? A vegan diet does not rely on factory-farmed animals, which spares so many sentient beings from unthinkable cruelty. Moreover, a plant-based diet has roughly half the carbon footprint of a meat-filled diet. Not sure where to get started? Check out our recipes, and you’ll find your way 🙂
Have you lost weight on a vegan diet? We’d love to hear your story.
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