One of the great debates of our time in the weight loss community is which diet is the best for weight loss. The truth is that if there was one specific dietary pattern that was the best for everybody then we would have found it by now and most of us would be eating that way. This has been the subject of much research and our conclusions are that most effective weight loss diets are about the same in the long term. So if you’re looking for a way of eating to lose weight then the best advice is to find a weight loss diet that is helpful and effective that you can enjoy and stick to it.
However there are a number of patterns that tend to be consistent in most helpful weight loss plans. One of these is the presence of UN processed plant foods in the diet. It’s no secret that I personally eat 100% plant based diet as a vegan, and one of the things that started me on this journey was the evidence for plant based diets and weight management. Since I first discovered this I have also embrace the environmental and ethical aspects of vegan diets but it was the evidence for the contribution of plants in the diet to weight management that got me interested in it initially.
When it comes to weight loss through diet, plants really are your best friends. There are a number of reasons for that. Firstly, plants have the lowest energy density of any food. Energy density describes the amount of calories per mouthful or pound or kilo of food. Evidence shows that we all tend to eat about the same weight of food per day. That doesn’t mean that everybody eats the same but it means that each individual person it’s the same amount each day. It makes sense that eating three or four pounds of fruits and vegetables is more likely to result in weight loss than eating three to four pounds of chocolate, because the fruits and vegetables will contain fewer calories. This will still be satisfying because you will be eating the weight of food that your body is expecting.
One of the other reasons that plants are so good when it comes to weight loss is that they contain fibre and water. We know that the three factors in food that promote fullness are fibre, water and protein. A plants contain all of these in abundance while animal foods do contain protein but they don’t contain any fibre or water naturally.
We know that two of the other big things that affect our body weight are our microbiome and our epigenetics. Microbiome describes the bacteria that live in our bowels and they can affect our weight to a certain extent. There are different types of bacteria in our bowels. Some helps to gain weight and others help us to lose weight. Eating plant foods helps the ones that support us to lose weight to flourish and discourages the other bacteria. Epigenetics refers to how we can switch some of our genes on and off by the way that we live. There is some evidence that eating plants can switch on some genes related to weight loss and switch off other genes related to weight gain.
We also know that plants in the diet can have beneficial effects on our appetite hormones and how effectively we regulate our food intake.
There are many other reasons besides this. However there are good reasons why plant foods are often considered to be so-called free foods on commercially available diets and why when I advise my own patients to eat as many plant foods as they can in their own diets in order to lose weight they often describe it as a form of magic because they see the weight reducing much more easily than it has previously when they haven’t focused on this.