A new study has found that the vegetarian diet is just as good for weight loss as the über-healthy Mediterranean diet. And the vegetarian diet was actually more effective at lowering LDL cholesterol, the "bad" cholesterol. We know: There are so many ways so many diets and methods out there that it can get a bit exhausting. But a vegetarian diet is increasingly becoming one to consider since it's also been proven to help you burn twice as many calories as other diets.
For those who still turn their noses up at the vegetarian diet, being veggie is totally different these days. For a start, there are so many more veggie options, and there are some amazing recipes—not to mention restaurants—that cater to this diet. Want to know how it can help you lose weight, plus the best recipes to follow? Here's a super-quick download on the vegetarian diet.
What Is the Vegetarian Diet?
The vegetarian diet isn't as restrictive as a vegan diet, so while meat's off the table, you can still eat eggs and dairy products. However, you want to make sure you get your daily intake of protein. Many vegetarians get this from beans, pulses and eggs, with tofu and Quorn also being popular.
How Does It Help You Lose More Weight?
Food Effect author and nutritionist Michelle Braude, MD, confirmed that the vegetarian diet is the best for weight loss: "Countless studies have shown that most men and women lose weight when they switch to eating plant-based protein instead of red meat and animal protein." She also cited one study that followed 1730 male employees for seven years and found that the more animal protein and saturated fats people ate, the more at risk they were of becoming overweight or obese.
Braude also explained that animal protein, especially meat, is high in saturated fat, "so by cutting this out of your diet, you save a lot of calories." She even said that despite chicken's "healthy" label, "certain cuts of poultry, such as dark chicken with the skin on, are extremely high in fat and, therefore, calories." So since a vegetarian diet is generally low in fat, you end up shedding pounds easier. It's as simple as that.
I'm Sold—Where Do I Sign Up?
The first thing is to work out if you can curb your meat intake. It's also worth noting that if you're dairy intolerant or can't eat eggs or nuts, it's not as easy to get your protein, which you will need for a balanced diet. However, it can be done. Braude again offered some sage advice about how to get enough protein in your diet when becoming vegetarian.
"If you're wondering how you will get enough protein and iron if you don't eat animal protein, just consider that the world's strongest primate, the gorilla, consumes enough of these nutrients by just eating fruit and vegetables and leaves," she says. Unlike the gorilla, she continued, "a human's vegetarian diet is likely to be a lot more varied, with plenty of plant-based sources of protein (nuts, nut butter, beans, legumes and so on so you definitely have nothing to worry about."
If you are worried about getting enough protein (the recommended consumption for the average woman is 46 grams per day), Braude has created a useful table you can use to work it out by eating meat alternatives:
Meat Alternatives High in Protein
Food Protein amount
75g cooked lentils 18g protein
75g cooked split peas 16g protein
2 eggs 12g protein
250g 0% Greek yogurt 23g protein
100g uncooked oats 7g protein
1 sweet potato 4g protein
40g chia seeds 12g protein
25g protein powder 20–25g protein
4 tbsp sunflower seeds 8g protein
Sofi F, Dinu M, Pagliai G, et al. Low-Calorie Vegetarian Versus Mediterranean Diets for Reducing Body Weight and Improving Cardiovascular Risk Profile: CARDIVEG Study (Cardiovascular Prevention With Vegetarian Diet). Circulation. 2018;137(11):1103-1113 doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.030088
Kahleova H, Klementova M, Herynek V, et al. The Effect of a Vegetarian vs Conventional Hypocaloric Diabetic Diet on Thigh Adipose Tissue Distribution in Subjects with Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized Study. J Am Coll Nutr. 2017;36(5):364-369. doi:10.1080/07315724.2017.1302367
Turner-mcgrievy G, Mandes T, Crimarco A. A plant-based diet for overweight and obesity prevention and treatment. J Geriatr Cardiol. 2017;14(5):369-374. doi:10.11909/j.issn.1671-5411.2017.05.002
Bujnowski D, Xun P, Daviglus ML, Van horn L, He K, Stamler J. Longitudinal association between animal and vegetable protein intake and obesity among men in the United States: the Chicago Western Electric Study. J Am Diet Assoc. 2011;111(8):1150-1155.e1. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2011.05.002