The big question is… can you lose weight on a vegan diet? The short answer is… absolutely.
However, there’s a big concern that strikes most people when making the transition to a vegan diet… and that concern is related to the lack of a specific vitamin we human beings need in our system to live healthily.
The reason it’s important to tackle this topic is that you SHOULD NOT learn how to lose weight on a vegan diet without first being fully informed about the due preparations you must make to follow this diet without health complications.
The vegan diet, although extremely beneficial to every aspect of your body, it lacks a crucial element called Vitamin B12.
This Vitamin B12 is only made available by bacteria and microorganisms called archaeon. These organisms exist in the soil and the Vitamin B12 they produce accumulates in animal tissue when these consume their green nutrients from the soil.
According to today’s theory, the reason we can’t get Vitamin B12 from plants is that the vegetables we ate in the past were not as heavily washed and treated as the ones today. Because our food had traces of dirt as we consumed it, we managed to introduce Vitamin B12 in our system by eating some of the vegetables in conjunction with these bacteria.
Nowadays that is not the case.
The only ways you can get Vitamin B12 are the following:
- From an animal source (meat, dairy products, etc);
- From products fortified with Vitamin B12;
- Or via a vitamin or protein supplement.
This vitamin is essential for the production of red blood cells; it helps maintain normal brain function and it creates and regulates DNA. As I’m writing this, my body is producing millions and millions of red blood cells every minute. Without Vitamin B12, the cells can’t multiply properly and anemia can occur as a result.
Unfortunately, that is only ONE of the problems that may affect you in the case of Vitamin B12 insufficiency. And too bad for us vegans, the list of potential symptoms is worrying.
The Dangers Behind Vitamin B12 Insufficiency
First off, allow me to apologize.
You are concerned about losing weight firstly and foremost and this might seem like a whole bunch of jargon to take in.
At the same time, I believe it is important that you have all the ingredients in place to effortlessly follow a vegan diet without risking your health.
The consequences of Vitamin B12 insufficiency can be irreversible and potentially cause severe damage, especially to our nervous system and the brain.
Even slightly lower than normal levels can lead to symptoms like depression, confusion, memory problems, and fatigue.
In fact, a study published by Harvard Medical School mentions how a 62-year-old man developed numbness; a “pins and needles” sensation in his hands; he had trouble walking; he experienced severe joint pain; became very pale and started to have difficulty breathing. The cause was a lack of Vitamin B12 in his bloodstream.
For this reason, I also need to emphasize how important it is to run blood tests every 6 months to ensure your body has enough Vitamin B12 to function properly.
The Solution: Vitamin Supplements
Every human being, depending on its age, size, eating habits and medical conditions need a specific amount of Vitamin B12 in his or her system.
According to WebMD, the average recommended amounts, measured in micrograms (mcg), vary by age. Since this is a valid source, I’m going to simply cite the doses they mention:
- Infants up to age 6 months: 0.4 mcg
- Babies age 7-12 months: 0.5 mcg
- Children age 1-3 years: 0.9 mcg
- Kids age 4-8 years: 1.2 mcg
- Children age 9-13 years: 1.8 mcg
- Teens age 14-18: 2.4 mcg (2.6 mcg per day if pregnant and 2.8 mcg per day if breastfeeding)
- Adults: 2.4 mcg (2.6 mcg per day if pregnant and 2.8 mcg per day if breastfeeding)
These are the doses the average person must consume daily to prevent any Vitamin B12 insufficiency symptoms from arising.
The good news is… the average daily dose you are EASY to hit. You can expect to reach your dose by having a stack of Vitamin B12 supplements in your cupboard to support a healthy and balanced vegan diet.
It is important to note, however, that not every supplement is VEGAN. A lot of the supplements available in the market (not only the Vitamin B12) include gelatin as one of the components.
As such, allow me this chance to provide you with the b12 supplements I believe are the best in terms of price and quality.
Natures Bounty Vitamin B-12
- It contains 200 coated tablets.
- It doesn’t contain genetically modified ingredients.
- 100% Vegan.
- Price is very low for the quality and quantity of tablets.
Natrol Vitamin B12
- A high dose allows you to use it less frequently in a month. (Lasts longer)
- Slight strawberry flavor to facilitate swallowing.
- 100% Vegan.
- Price is very low for the quality and dose.
How To Lose Weight On A Vegan Diet: Benefits Simplified (PART 1)
What I’m about to tell you isn’t BRO science and it can be applied to other diets as well.
Yes, a vegan diet has its advantages (peace of mind being one of them), but I believe there is a universal truth that can be applied to every diet: If you eat more calories than the ones you spend, you are bound to gain weight. And vice-versa.
This being said, a study reveals that vegans are among the leanest people in the world. To back up this fact, the Oxford University conducted a study with 40,000 people, and this study shows how vegans tend to have the lowest BMI (Body Mass Index), followed by vegetarians and fish-eaters. Of course, with meat-eaters having the highest BMI of all.
If we look closely into the numbers, you can see that meat-eaters have a BMI of 24,44 kg/m(2) in men, and 23.52 kg/m(2) in women. You’re considered overweight when you’re in the 25 – 29.9 range. This tells us that as a meat-eater, you have higher chances of crossing into that range if careless.
The Hidden Benefits Of A Vegan Diet
In my years of being vegan, I must admit… I’ve never seen an overweight vegan. (If you’re out there please show yourself. The requirement? A vegan of 2 years or more)
Anyway, the vegan diet is known for helping people lose weight but it also provides an array of health benefits. For instance, a vegan diet may offer you protection against type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.
Here are 5 benefits of following a plant-based/vegan diet.
1 – A Vegan Diet Is Rich In Specific Nutrients
When you eliminate meat and dairy products, you are inevitably going to rely heavily on different ingredients to feed yourself. For a whole-foods vegan diet, we’re looking at ingredients like grains, veggies, fruits, seeds, nuts, and beans.
This means you’re going to have a distinct intake of macro and micronutrients that will make up your diet. In other words, you’ll be eating foods with more fiber, antioxidants, and beneficial plant compounds. The vegan diet is also richer in magnesium, potassium, folate and vitamins A, C, and E.
Having said this — akin to every other diet, you can still fall short on essential nutrients if you plan your diet poorly. You must find a way to balance your diet, and ensure you’re ALSO including essential fatty acids, vitamin B12 (via supplements, for instance), iron, calcium, iodine or zinc.
The idea of a vegan diet lies on the nutrient-rich whole plants and fortified foods, and not on eating avocados and toasts on every meal.
2 – Protection Against Certain Types Of Cancer
Looking back at the Cowspiracy documentary back in 2014… a strong case was built by linking the consumption of meat to cancer. In fact, the documentary was so shocking (and believable) that It instantly changed my views of the world and how I would live my life.
Today, what was brought up in Cowspiracy doesn’t seem so far fetched after all.
Avoiding animal products may help reduce the risk of prostate, breast and colon cancers. In fact, that may be because vegans don’t eat smoked or processed meats and meats cooked at really high temperatures, which are believed to trigger certain types of cancer and other diseases. (Bladder cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, and cardiovascular diseases)
And even though there is an observational study showing that the consumption of milk may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, there is also evidence that the consumption of cow’s milk is associated with higher mortality (in both men & women) and higher fracture incidence in women.
Many people wonder why vegans are healthier, leaner and have lower chances of getting cancer… but I truly believe the truth lies in the food we eat.
3 – Tied To Lower Risk Of Heart Disease
And again, this is what most vegans eat (or should eat). Essentially, a vegan diet reduces the risk factors that contribute to heart disease.
Studies report that vegan diets are very effective for the reduction of blood sugar, LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol levels than the diets they are compared to. These are all risk factors that lead to strokes or other heart diseases. This study suggests that reducing these symptoms may reduce the risk of heart disease by as much as 46% (Source).
On the other hand, high saturated fat levels in red meat have long been known to contribute to heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States, a country where the average person ate 222.2 pounds of red meat in 2018.
4 – Lower Blood Sugar Levels And Improved Kidney Function
Regardless of your goal for following a vegan diet, the health benefits are undeniable across the entire board.
You’re not only right about choosing a vegan diet as a moral obligation to protect our planet and its species, but you’re also given the health benefits for doing so. And further proof of that is these studies (1, 2, 3, 4) that suggest that if diabetes exchange red meat for a plant-based protein, it may reduce their risk of poor kidney function.
5 – A Vegan Diet Can Reduce Pain From Arthritis
My mom was diagnosed with arthritis two years ago.
With each passing day, she felt her joint pain grow worse and beyond what she initially thought was ‘supportable’. Extra note: She works in a restaurant.
As you can imagine, carrying plates in a fast-paced environment when you’re a 59-year-old woman with arthritis isn’t exactly a breeze. And although she must avoid carrying any weights, there is something else she was told to avoid entirely.
Unable to handle her joint pain, she finally decided to visit a doctor.
That’s when she met the Italian Orthopedist that would tell her to stay away from animal-based products.
This doctor was a vegan himself. What he suggested was that my mom each morning would need to introduce plenty of vegetables and other plant-based ingredients into her diet, and mix it all up in the blender each morning and literally create a super probiotic shake.
He also told her to stay away from sugars, salt and explore the veggie kingdom to the fullest without relying on processed ingredients. Conclusion: Her pain decreased over time.
However, it’s not easy to change your habits when you live with a non-vegan adolescent and an overweight husband who loves meat. And she feels it… each time she does the opposite of what she was told and eats animal products, her pain gets worse. The act of sitting down and getting up becomes more unbearable each day.
Two studies that investigated the effects of a probiotic-rich, raw food vegan diet on symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis… concluded that people who began following a vegan diet experienced a greater improvement in symptoms such as joint pain, swelling, and morning stiffness than the ones who kept an omnivorous diet. (As you can verify here and here)
How To Lose Weight On A Vegan Diet: The Right Way To Do It. (PART 2)
If you read what I wrote thus far, you’re a champ.
You already know how beneficial a vegan diet can be for your health and you also learned about the arrangements you need to make to combat nutrient deficiencies.
In the following paragraphs, I’m going to guide through what a vegan diet is — ensuring you’re aware of everything you need to know to follow a vegan diet the right way.
What Exactly Is The Vegan Diet?
The vegan diet was born out of environmental, ethical and health reasons. And while our health is extremely important, I believe it’s an added benefit for the majority who start a diet for environmental and ethical reasons.
I started this diet not because it was the healthiest diet out there, but because I wanted to make an impact. I think about the animals (predators or not), the soil… and this planet that has given us so much… and It’s hard NOT TO think of myself as a parasite that rips the ecosystem apart by turning biodiversity upside down.
And where I stand, I don’t think I’m the only one.
For that reason, the vegan diet is more a way of living, and less of a diet.
Veganism excludes all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty, whether for food, clothing or any other purpose. As such — the vegan diet is devoid of meat, dairy, eggs, and honey — but is rich in fruits, vegetables, seeds, grains, nuts, and legumes.
The Different Types Of “Vegan” Diets
Just like there exist Paleo, Intermittent Fasting and Keto diets — within the Vegan realm of food, there are different types of strategies and plans.
Whole-food vegan diet: A diet based on a wide variety of whole plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Raw food vegan diet: This particular vegan diet is based on raw fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, legumes or other plant foods cooked at temperatures below 48Cº (118°F).
The starch solution: A low-fat, high-carb vegan diet that focuses on cooking starches like potatoes, rice, and corn instead of proteins and fats.
80/10/10: This diet is a different approach to the raw vegan diet. Dr. Douglas Graham, a raw fooder since 1978 and the persons who created this approach, recommends obtaining 80% of your total calories from carbs and restricting both fat and protein to less than 10% of total calories each.
Junk-food vegan diet: This approach to a vegan diet relies heavily on fake meats and fake cheese, fries, processed sugars, and other heavily processed vegan food. If you’re looking to lose weight on a vegan diet… this is not recommended.
I’m not going to dive deep into the other forms of dieting as they are available in books. If you are interested in them, it would be wise of you to inform yourself further. Especially diets where you’re restricting certain macronutrients.
What You Can Buy As A Vegan
The meat and dairy plant-based replacements are immense. Here is a small grocery list of things you can buy for your vegan diet:
Seitan, Tofu, and Tempeh: These are essentially the closest alternatives vegans have to meat. They are rich in protein and should provide you as much protein as an animal-based protein.
Fruits and Vegetables: Try to diversify the fruits and vegetables you buy. If you eat too much of the same, you might lack nutrients from really important vegetables. For instance, broccoli, kale, lentils, beans, and other collard greens are paramount because they are a great source of calcium. It’s not my favorite vegetable but I don’t dare to avoid it.
Legumes: Ingredients such as beans, lentils, and peas are an excellent well of nutrients such as proteins, fibers, and other beneficial micronutrients.
Nuts and Nut butter: Yes! Peanut butter is vegan. Furthermore, the list of nuts available to us is crazy. Peanuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, cashews, walnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, and more! All great sources of unsaturated fats, iron, magnesium, fiber, zinc, selenium and vitamin E.
Seeds: The list of seeds runs long as well. Flaxseeds, chia, hemp, sesame, and pumpkin are among the seeds that contain protein and essential omega-3 fatty acids, which is important for weight loss.
Whole grains and cereals: One cereal I love tremendously is OAT. It’s one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat. It has a series of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant plant compounds. It’s rich in protein and carbs as well. Other grains and cereals include wheat, rice, corn, barley, and millet.
Nutritional Yeast: A really good way to increase your protein intake is by including nutritional yeast in your vegan dishes. Ensure you pick Vitamin B12 fortified one.
Algae: Algae are a good source of protein but they’re also a good source of Iodine. And for a vegan diet, acquiring a good source of Iodine is essential. To quote a study from the PMC, “Iodine deficiency remains the single greatest cause of preventable brain damage and mental retardation worldwide”.
Salt w/ Iodine: When buying salt, ensure you buy salt with Iodine. We don’t want to consume too much salt, but the one we do, ensure it has iodine.
Other Supplements You Can Consider
Some people fail to guarantee the nutritional intake they require to have a healthy and balanced diet.
They either eat too much of one thing and neglect the other more nutritional options, so they fail to meet the daily requirements for each nutrient. To keep this from happening, I’ve created a list of supplements you may want to consider in case the above happens.
Vegan Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin available through very few foods. Without enough Vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle, or misshapen.
You can obtain it when in contact with sunlight. The ultraviolet rays from the sun strike your skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis.
We recommend you get Vitamin D supplement if you don’t have as much access to sunlight.
Vegan Iron 25 mg
Important note: This one should only be supplemented in case of proven deficiency. Otherwise, it may cause you health complications and prevent the absorption of other nutrients.
That being said, always ensure your choice is free from gelatine.
Vegan Omega 3
Omega 3’s are often researched and divided into three parts: the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA); the eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and the docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
ALA is the one our body doesn’t produce and has to be consumed through a diet. Our bodies convert ALA to EPA then to DHA.
The issue is — there isn’t enough information available to determine what the optimal intake is for each one, except ALA. You can find ALA in most plant foods like chia, flax, and hemp seeds. While EPA and DHA are found in fish and algae.
The fish contain these properties because they get it from algae, which means you don’t need to eat fish. Instead, you can source algae and introduce it into your diet — which is something the Japanese quite often do.
Otherwise, you can consider a supplement to facilitate your ingestion of EPA and DHA.
A Clean & Lean 7-Day Vegan Menu (Filled With Easy Recipes)
Let me help you get started with a week worth of meals.
I’m going to assume you’re worried about the 3 main meals of the day.
These meals are the most time-intensive, but the recipe pages are laid out in a step-by-step, easy to follow fashion… even if you’ve never cooked before, you should be able to do it.
Breakfast: Pumpkin Seed Granola with Millet and Oats
Breakfast: Tofu and Veggie Frittata
Breakfast: Apple Lemon Breakfast Bowl
Dinner: Mexican Veggie Burger
Breakfast: Chickpea Omelet
Dinner: Red Curry Noodle Soup
Breakfast: Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal
Lunch: Tu-No Casserole
Dinner: Ratatouille Baked Penne
Breakfast: Summer’s Best Avocado Toast
Dinner: Middle Eastern Quinoa Salad
Breakfast: Polenta with Pears and Cranberries
Lunch: Winter Vegetable Risotto
Dinner: Lentil Minestrone
You must diversify your sources of proteins, carbs, vitamins, minerals and so on. That ensures you’re rotating the right micronutrients without reaching a point where you have a deficiency.
The other good thing about a vegan diet is that it helps you eat fewer calories without you having to limit your food intake.
What To Consider If You’re Unable To Lose Weight On A Vegan Diet
This can happen… but there is always a reason. And when there’s a reason, there’s a solution.
Let’s look into common issues and fixes in case you don’t manage to lose any weight.
Your Portions Might Be Too Big
Remember what I’ve mentioned at the beginning of this blog post? If you want to lose weight, your nutritional intake must not exceed your body’s needs. In other words, you have to eat fewer calories than the ones you spend.
If you eat entire bowls of food and lead an extremely sedentary lifestyle, you will not lose weight. Yes, vegan dishes tend to be less caloric.
They’re filled with veggies, grains, nuts seeds… they have an incredibly high nutritious value, and the amounts of fiber within them is very beneficial to weight loss… but you need to keep the portions proportional to the number of calories you spend in a day.
You’re Drinking Too Many Calories
Boxing classes are a blast. If you’re looking to lose weight, there is nothing better. But what’s awesome about them as well, is that the coaches there have some pretty good inside knowledge about weight gain and weight loss… besides their boxing knowledge.
There was a particular rule at the gym — beverages are a no-go. Especially during meals. That’s because beverages are very caloric. If you eat your lunch with a smoothie, for example, you’re increasing your calorie intake by a lot! It’s like having two lunches at the same time.
And sugary beverages are notably dangerous. They are addicting. I’ve seen people sip hundreds of extra calories per day, which changes the whole picture — especially for someone who doesn’t eat the gym very often.
My advice? Stick to water and unsweetened tea. Make the H20 your drink of choice.
The Timing Of Your Meals
Regardless of your diet… the timing of your meals can be detrimental to your weight-loss journey. A smarter way to approach weight loss is by having your biggest meals earlier in the day — so you can fuel your most active hours and be more efficient.
Doing the opposite might make you gain weight, even if you’re on a vegan diet. A group of researchers tracked the eating habits of 52 adults and found out that those who ate past 8 p.m consumed more total calories than the early eaters. In other words, late-time eaters had higher chances of gaining more weight over time. (1, 2)
In my personal opinion, however, it’s more a question of what you eat and how much you eat, and less about what time you eat.
A Vegan Diet Based On Fast Food
Contrary to what many people might think, Vegan has already developed a couple of fast food joints with some pretty delicious food.
I, for example, visited a burger joint in Vigo, Spain quite recently and it was the BOMB! I ate what seemed to be a vegan version of the CBO burger, plus vegan bacon. (yes…)
All I can say about it is this… just because it’s okay for vegans to eat, doesn’t mean that it’s good for your waistline (or health). If you are motivated to lose weight, stick to a whole foods plant-based diet.
Frequently Asked Questions
See below the answers to frequently asked questions on a vegan diet.
Is It Bad To Consume Soy In Excess?
Soy contains protein, isoflavones, and fiber, all of which are beneficial to your health. It was once believed that soy would increase the risk of breast cancer. However, eating a moderate amount of soy does not increase that risk.
If you rotate your sources of protein every other meal, you’re left with a nutrient-rich diet that prevents any excesses.
The idea that soy increases the risk of cancer comes from the isoflavones within. Isoflavones are essentially estrogen. And according to research, high levels of estrogen in your body are linked to an increased risk of cancer. (Particularly for women, of course)
This being said, soy doesn’t contain high enough levels of isoflavones to increase the risk of breast cancer. On the other hand, the levels of isoflavones in soy-based supplements may be exaggerated, which is why you should consult a health expert before taking any supplements.
Can I Get Enough Protein As a Vegan?
Yes, you can.
A whole-foods plant-based diet is extremely rich in protein.
Here are examples of what you can eat to rotate your protein source and still have more than enough protein in your system. Check the table below:
|Product Name||Protein (100g)||Also Abundant In|
|Tofu||8 grams||Calcium & Iron|
|Lentils||9 grams||Fiber, Iron & Vitamin B-6|
|Seitan||75 grams||Iron & Calcium|
|Chickpeas||19 grams||Potassium, Fiber, Iron, Magnesium & Vitamin B-6|
|Artichoke||4 grams||Fiber, Vitamin C & Magnesium|
|Black Beans||8 grams||Calcium, Iron & Magnesium|
|Tempeh||19 grams||Potassium, Magnesium & Iron|
|Edamame||11 grams||Fiber, Magnesium, Iron & Vitamin C|
|Peanuts||26 grams||Magnesium, Iron, Fiber & Fat|
|Quinoa||4 grams||Potassium & Iron|
|Kidney Beans||24 grams||Iron, Potassium, Magnesium & Vitamin B-6|
|Hemp Seeds||31 grams||Iron, Calcium & Magnesium|
There are more plant-based protein sources available out there. This table is to simply show you other alternatives to meat and dairy.
What Are The Best Milk Substitutes?
There are many plant-based alternatives to milk.
With the introduction of new, plant-based brands in the market and the necessity for old brands to rethink their approach — plenty of new, plant-based milk is being created.
We have hemp milk, cashew milk, coconut milk, almond milk, rice milk — all very delicious choices to any vegan out there.
Whichever one you choose, just ensure it’s fortified with Calcium, Vitamin D and Vitamin B12. It’s important to not miss out on specific micronutrients — especially when you’re looking to lose weight as a vegan.
Are There Egg Replacements Available?
There are currently egg replacements available in health shops.
I know people who use this one:
However, there is a far more natural way to replace eggs in a recipe.
Chia and Flax Seeds are often used in baking. One tablespoon of chia or flax seeds and three tablespoons of hot water create the perfect egg replacement. By joining the two you’re going to create a paste that can be added to your cake recipe.
Here is a more in-depth blog post about it.
Is Vegan Food More Expensive?
On average a pound of ground beef costs something like $5 and a pound of chicken breasts $4. A pound of canned black beans, on the other hand, costs just under $1. Not only that, you can buy dried black beans which are even cheaper.
Assuming you eat 1 pound of meat per meal and have 14 meals every week — and assuming you make the switch to a similar amount of beans, collard greens and legumes as a substitute — you could stand to save hundreds of dollars every year if you don’t go overboard with exotic ingredients.
Can You Be An Athlete On A Vegan Diet?
Yes, you can! You can aim to become a Formula 1 driver like Lewis Hamilton or a tennis player like Serena Williams! Or even an ultramarathoner like Rich Roll!
Yup, all these people I’ve mentioned are vegan.
What About Plants? Don’t They Feel Pain?
Plains have no emotions as far as science goes. They don’t have a brain or central nervous system, which means they don’t feel anything.
Not to mention, it takes 16 pounds of grains to produce just one pound of meat. Therefore, it’s hardly a difficult choice to make.
Many people go vegan for ethical, sustainable and health reasons. If done the right way, a vegan diet will help you lose weight.
Not only that, it will keep you healthy.
You must take due measures to counteract possible deficiencies that might take place in your body if you always invest your money in the ‘same’ ingredients.
Make sure you’re building your diet around plant-based ingredients that are nutritiously rich, and also ensure you’re diversifying your diet.
Take me for instance. For the first time in my life I made a chickpea soup with the following ingredients:
- And a Cabbage.
It was delicious.
I also ensure I take my 100 mg of Vitamin B12 every day. Though I do forget sometimes.
Stay vegan, stay healthy.