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Not only is a vegan diet beneficial for our nutrition and health, but weight loss and maintenance of a healthy target weight go hand-in hand with the diet as well. It is a common refrain amongst people who struggle with their weight,??I eat well, I watch my calories, my diet is low in fat and carbs and I exercise regularly. What more can I do?” While this is true for a significant percentage of the US population, this struggle?is particularly true for menopausal women. I will describe below how a vegan diet aids in weight loss with some particular attention paid to menopausal women.
On the “Nutrition and Health” Resources page of my website you can read about??Dr Neal Bernard of the?Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. He was the principal researcher of a study funded by the National Institutes of Health. He followed a group of 64 post-menopausal women who struggled with achieving and maintaining a desired weight. They followed a vegan diet with no extracted oils such as olive and canola. Over the fourteen-week study, each participant lost about a pound a week. Two years later the average participant was still losing weight. Dr Barnard suggests the following factors are at play to contribute to this weight loss.
I?ll start by discussing calories. 1) Fat contains more than twice as many calories per gram than carbohydrates and protein contain. Animal products such as fish, chicken and beef are high in fat-even those that appear not to be fatty. So vegan diets are relatively low in calories due to the elimination of calorie dense animal products.
2) Fiber helps us to feel full faster and therefore eat less. Plants contain dietary fibers. Animal foods do not. Fiber fills the stomach quickly (by holding water). Therefore the sensation of fullness occurs much more quickly when consuming plant foods than animal foods. As a result, those following a vegan diet, are satisfied more quickly and consume on average as much as 400 fewer calories every day than people consuming the Standard American Diet.
3) Plant-based foods boost our metabolism after each meal. Increased metabolic rate equates to more calories burned! For this third point, let?s consider the relationship between menopause and weight gain.
Estrogen levels start to drop around menopause and may lower the body?s metabolic rate. Nanette Santoro, MD, professor of ob-gyn at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York explains that:
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicated that vegans have been shown to have a slightly higher metabolism during rest than people who consume the Standard American Diet.
It turns out that for the first three hours after eating, the calories from a plant-based meal are burned faster than would be from a non-plant based meal. This relatively small increase in metabolic rate translates into a large number of calories burned over the course of a day. The boost to the metabolism that a plant based diet provides, otherwise known as the ?thermic effect? may explain why vegans (including vegan women who have reached menopause) often find it easier to lose weight and maintain a healthy target weight over the long term than those who follow the Standard American Diet.
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