A Low-Fat, Plant-Based Diet Can Fire Up Your Metabolism, New Study Finds
There’s a new study linking a vegan or plant-based diet to speeding up your metabolism, which ultimately makes it easier to lose weight, but the key is to keep your fat intake low.
The study, published in JAMA Network Open, is adding to the evidence that going plant-based can help you burn fat faster, and lose weight naturally: In a 16-week randomized clinical trial of 3,115 participants, researchers found that following a low-fat, plant-based diet reduced body weight. This occurred on a metabolic level “by reducing energy intake and increasing postprandial [the period after a meal] metabolism, which was associated with reductions in hepatocellular and intramyocellular fat and increased insulin sensitivity.”
Low-Fat, Plant-Based Diet Shown to Boost Metabolism
Though exercise, of course, is important for your overall health and cardiovascular system, no additional exercise programs were implemented in the trial (participants were simply asked to maintain their customary exercise habits). Alcoholic beverages were limited to one per day for women and two per day for men.
Simply put, the study indicated that adhering to a plant-based diet with an emphasis on low-fat foods can bring on weight loss due to two factors: Both through an overall reduced calorie intake, and also an increased metabolism after we eat our meals. “One great thing about a plant-based diet [in general] is that plant protein also tends to provide fiber, which helps to keep you fuller for longer. This can help with weight control,” says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, a plant-based and owner of Plant-Based Eats in Stamford, CT.
Plant-Based Diet Could Lower Insulin Resistance
Beyond the increased fiber typically found in plant-based of plant-forward diets, Gorin also found this study promising in regards to its findings on insulin, a hormone your pancreas secretes to keep your blood sugar in check: “The study also found a decrease in insulin resistance, which is exciting,” Gorin comments. Insulin resistance occurs when your body doesn't respond well to insulin. As a result, individuals become unable to effectively use the glucose in their body for energy. “This leads to an increase in blood sugar levels over time, as well as a heightened risk for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and other problems,” explains Gorin.
Although the study findings are encouraging, Gorin also points out that there are caveats such as the low-calorie nature of the diet in the study (which isn’t typically sustainable in the long-term), the number of participants, and the limited time-frame.
In 2017, a study published in Nutrients also shed light on the power of a plant-forward diet in this case, a vegetarian diet, helping weight loss. “[This study found that] following a vegetarian diet may be helpful for weight loss—and may also help lower both your risk of type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease,” notes Gorin.
Even without fully adopting a fully vegan diet, you can still ramp up your metabolism and help usher in weight loss. Gorin says anyone can make a conscious effort “to eat certain plant-based foods that may help with satiation and thus weight loss.” Two of her top go-to's to rev up weight loss? Pistachios and chickpeas.
Pistachios and Chickpeas Can Keep You Full Longer
“These nuts are a great option for plant protein, with a quarter-cup providing six grams of plant-based protein,” says Gorin. “They’re one of the highest-protein snack nuts out there. You also get other nutrients — such as fiber and better-for-you mono- and polyunsaturated fats—and this trio of nutrients helps to keep you satiated for longer, which may lead to reduced snacking!” If possible, buy them in their shells as the effort it takes to open each individual nut will help give you a visual cue of how much you’re eating and slow down mindless eating.
“I love cooking with no-salt-added canned chickpeas because they provide protein and fiber to help keep you fuller for longer,” offers Gorin. “They're great in a salad or roasted as a snack–and you can even add them to dessert, such as a vegan cookie dough.” (Check out Gorin’s recipe for chickpea chocolate chip plant-based cookie dough here.)
Looking for more vegan weight-loss foods? We’ve got you covered. Check out the six best breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and desserts to eat for weight loss — all according to nutritionists — and all completely delicious. I mean, we’re not going to argue with dark chocolate avocado mousse with mixed berry coulis...See you in the kitchen!