If giving up carbohydrates sounds impossible, you don’t have to give up on your goal of weight loss. A new study shows that even a high-carb diet can lead to weight loss, as long as it is a high carb, vegan diet.
Researchers at the University of South Carolina showed that a vegan diet was the most effective for weight loss, outperforming four other diets. The randomized trial found that participants on the vegan diet lost more weight after two months and six months than the other groups by an average of 16.5 pounds.
Participants in the vegan diet also experienced other benefits, like decreased fat and saturated fat levels, lower body mass index, and improved levels of macronutrients.
A healthy plant-based diet, or vegan diet, aims to eliminate processed foods, oils, and animal foods, including eggs and dairy products. Fresh fruit and vegetables (cooked or raw), legumes, seeds and nuts make up the bulk of a plant-based diet. Included in the foods that you can eat when you go vegan are carbohydrates like rice, pasta, and whole grains.
How Does a High-carb, Vegan Diet Lead to Weight Loss?
Whole grains, rice, legumes, vegetables, and fruit all have one thing in common: they contain fiber. Foods high in fiber have been shown to increase satiety, which is the feeling of fullness after a meal, slow digestion, and decrease snacking later in the day. Certain fibers, like the beta glucan found in oats, can increase the time it takes to digest and absorb nutrients, which can actually lead to a reduced appetite. Peas, lentils, black beans, artichokes, broccoli, raspberries and avocados are all plant-based foods full of fiber that can fill you up and leave you feeling full and satisfied.
To experience the greatest weight loss benefits from a high-carb, vegan diet, it is important to pick the right carbs. A true plant-based diet aims to minimize or eliminate processed foods, so you won’t be loading up on cookies, crackers, or chips on this diet. Instead, add these carbs to your plant-based diet, and enjoy carbs all day long.
The beta glucan fiber found in oats does more than just help you feel full longer; studies have also shown that it can lower cholesterol levels and protect against heart disease. Beta-glucan may also enhance the immune system’s response to bacterial infections. Start your day off with a hearty breakfast of whole oats, not instant, to get the benefits of this carb.
Farro is an ancient wheat that originated in Egypt, and was eaten as a healthy pasta alternative by Romans. Farro is high in protein, fiber, and magnesium, a mineral that is responsible for over 300 chemical reactions in the body. Magnesium helps the body to absorb and use other important nutrients. Cook farro like rice, by simmering in a 1:2 ratio of water until the farro has absorbed the cooking liquid. Add it to salads, use it instead of pasta, or toss with roasted vegetables and a lemon vinaigrette.
There is a reason that quinoa has grown immensely in popularity over the last few years. This grain is packed with protein, has more fiber than many other grains, and it is a great source of nutrients like manganese, magnesium, zinc, and folate. The protein in quinoa is a complete protein, including all nine essential amino acids needed by the body. This makes quinoa a great alternative to meat for vegans and vegetarians.
Another ancient grain that contains all nine essential amino acids is spelt. Spelt is a species of wheat and is not a gluten-free option, but it is high in protein and fiber. Spelt contains a number of beneficial nutrients, including iron, copper, magnesium, potassium, zinc and B-vitamins. Try cooking spelt risotto style, by slowly adding a ½ cup of boiling water to the spelt and slowly stirring until the water evaporates. Use 2-3 cups of liquid for every cup of spelt. Stir in asparagus, peas and lemon for a springy spelt “risotto,” or a medley of different mushrooms.
If trying a variety of whole grains is too much for you, don’t worry. On a vegan diet, you can also enjoy potatoes, rice, and pasta.
Instead of counting carbs and calories, switch to a plant-based diet free of animal products and full of good, whole grains. The fiber in all of these foods will leave you feeling full and satisfied, slow your digestion, and have beneficial effects on your cardiovascular health and blood pressure. The best part about a high-carb, vegan diet is the weight loss that will come as a result of turning away from animal products. When you love carbs more than a steak, this is a diet worth a try.