Are vegetarians thinner?
It’s well-documented that vegetarians are healthier
than the general population. People who do not eat meat, fowl, or fish have a
lower risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol, less incidence of type 2
diabetes, lower rate of hypertension, and lower overall cancer rates.
Now research shows vegetarians are skinnier, too.
Weight loss benefits of vegetarianism
According to the article “Vegetarian Diets and Weight
Status” published in the Nutrition Journal by Susan E. Berkow, PhD, certified
nutrition specialist, and Neal
Barnard, MD, vegetarians weigh “significantly” less than non-vegetarians.
After surveying 40 studies on the relationship between a vegetarian diet and
body mass, the authors determined that female vegetarians weigh between 6% and
17% less then their non-vegetarian counterparts and male vegetarians weigh
between 8% and 17% less. People who follow a vegan diet (not eating any animal
products including milk and eggs) are the slimmest of all.
- Because of the way the body metabolizes different types of food into energy,
a plant-based diet can actually boost calorie burning by up to 16% for three
hours after eating a meal.
- Vegetarians tend to consume less fat, especially saturated fat, which
mainly comes from animal products.
- Vegetarians consume more fiber, which is found in fruits, vegetables, whole
grains, and legumes, but not in animal products.
Dr. Barnard calls fiber the “Clark Kent” of nutrition -- boring on the
outside but possessing extraordinary powers. Fiber holds water and fills a
person up with zero added calories. He contends that the average person will
lose weight on a low-fat, plant-based diet with “no exercise, portion control,
or calorie counting.”
Dr. Berkow, who is also an adjunct professor of nutrition at George Mason
University, suspects that vegetarians may lead more health-conscious lifestyles
in general, which could contribute to their relative leanness.
Dr. Berkow points out that replacing meat with a pile of white pasta or bread
is not a healthy way to go. She recommends a balanced (and slimming) vegetarian
diet consisting mainly of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and the
judicious use of nuts and beneficial fats such as olive oil and canola oil. Eat
eggs in moderation and choose low-fat milk products.
Beware of the many highly processed products on the market that are touted as
vegetarian and vegan. They can be loaded with sugar, corn syrup, salt, and
trans-fats. It’s always prudent to read the back of food labels no matter how
“natural” or “healthy” a product proclaims itself to be.
Getting started on a vegetarian diet
If you are eating a variety of whole foods, getting enough protein shouldn’t be a problem. However, you should consider a B-12
supplement since the vitamin is only found in animal products.
You can test the waters of a vegetarian diet by taking the plunge by giving up animal
products completely for three weeks and seeing if you like the results. So, what
have you got to lose other than a few pounds?