Is a vegan diet low fat?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Is a vegan diet low fat?” and will discuss how a diet with low-fat content is beneficial for health?

Is a vegan diet low fat?

Yes, a vegan diet is low in fat. For a 2,000-calorie diet, the World Health Organization recommends that we take no more than 10% of our calories from saturated fat, or 22 grams per day. Eating more saturated fat raises the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes as well as cancers, heart disease, and death. Saturated fat intake is reduced immediately when you eliminate animal products from your diet. A diet centered on whole foods, plant-based foods, emphasizes heart-healthy unsaturated fats and “good” carbs, allowing for a larger consumption of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals (1).

A vegan diet places a greater emphasis on minimizing or excluding all processed foods made with refined grains and added sugar, refined fats and oils, and salt and emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. As a consequence, vegans ingest less fat than non-vegans (1).

In the United States, a 2017 survey reports that 6% of consumers identify as vegan, an increase from 1% in 2014. Other countries are reporting similar increases in veganism. Most notably, in the United Kingdom, a 2018 survey reports that 7% of consumers identify as vegan, up from 1% in 2016 (6).

Veganism boosts metabolism, prevents disease, and lowers cholesterol

To kick-start your weight reduction, you might try a diet without extra fat or animal products. People who ate this manner lost an average of 5.9 kilos (13 pounds) during 16 weeks in a study published in JAMA Network Open in November 2020.

Overweight and obese people were randomized to either a low-fat vegan diet or a control group that did not modify their diets. Vegans were urged to eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, as well as avoid added fats and animal products in their diets via weekly culinary demonstrations and nutrition assistance.

Participants in both groups consumed fewer calories throughout the 16-week study, but those on a vegan diet cut down an average of 355 daily calories more than those on a control diet (2).

Obesity is uncommon in individuals whose diets are based on plant-derived foods. In clinical trials, such diets cause weight loss, for which explanations have been offered. First, a high-fiber, low-fat diet has a low energy density, which reduces energy intake. Second, a low-fat, vegan diet increases the thermic effect of food, which accounts for approximately 10% of total energy expenditure (2).

Because they ate less high-fat and high-calorie items and replaced them with plant-based meals, it’s possible that participants lost more weight than they would have otherwise, says lead study author Hana Kahleova of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington D.C.

In addition to eliminating meals that are high in fat and cholesterol, Dr. Kahleova recommends substituting these items with plant foods that are strong in fiber and antioxidants. In terms of enhancing cardiovascular and metabolic health, both are critical.”

These so-called cardiometabolic risk variables include things like your blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels. In the research, those who ate a vegan diet lowered three risk factors: In addition to improving insulin sensitivity, they increased their post-meal metabolism and decreased the amount of fat that accumulates in cells.

According to Kahleova, “Our research has proven that this diet treats the underlying causes of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease all at once.”

In fact, a research showed that, when compared to the diet suggested by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 of the USDA as a healthy ideal meal plan MyPlate, average vegan meal plans provide more total vegetables (180%), green leafy vegetables (238%), legumes (460%), whole fruit (100%), whole grains (132%), and less refined grains (<74%) (1).

Previous research has shown that a vegan diet is good for you

New recommendations announced in December 2016 by the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AAND) promote a plant-based diet to minimize the risk of obesity, heart disease, and some malignancies.

If you follow a plant-based diet that eliminates meat and fish, as well as animal products like eggs and milk, and in certain circumstances honey, you can lower your risk of heart disease by 29 percent, diabetes by 62 percent, and cancer by 18 percent, according to the AAND recommendations (3).

Low intake of saturated fat and high intakes of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, soy products, nuts, and seeds (all rich in fiber and phytochemicals) are characteristics of vegetarian and vegan diets that produce lower total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and better serum glucose control. These factors contribute to reduction of chronic disease (3).

According to Diabetes Care, a vegan diet may be more helpful for weight reduction than other dietary approaches. Over 22,000 men and 38,000 women were surveyed for this research, which looked at their BMI and eating habits (4).

The average BMI of vegans was 23.6, which falls within the range of 18 to 24.9 that is considered normal or healthy. Nonvegetarians had an average BMI of 28.8; vegetarians who ate dairy and eggs had an average BMI of 25.7; and vegetarians who ate fish had an average BMI of 26.3, according to the study (4).

The notion that animal protein stimulates insulin secretion and possibly insulin resistance was proposed decades ago. However, a number of other dietary constituents are associated with protection against diabetes in observational studies or influence insulin sensitivity in food trials. Vegetarian diets are rich in vegetables and fruits, foods that reduce oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. The vegan group consumed 650 g/day of fruits and vegetables, which is about one-third more than the amount consumed by nonvegetarians (4).

Too much healthy fats in a vegan diet might be dangerous

Some of the healthiest vegan foods, such as avocados, almonds, and seeds, have a high-calorie content and may contribute to weight gain if consumed in excess. There is no need to limit your diet more, but be mindful of safe serving amounts for oils, nuts, seeds, and other high-calorie health foods, such as almonds and walnuts. When it comes to avocado, for example, one serving is just one-third of the whole fruit!

Plant-based saturated fat is no better than animal-based saturated fat, so it’s vital to keep that in mind as well. Because they are a plant-based source of lipids, coconut-based goods  have a health halo and may be found in a variety of “health foods.” Due to their high caloric and saturated fat content, coconut oil and coconut milk should only be used sparingly, particularly if you’re attempting to lose weight.

In addition, the food environment is changing and the industry is responding with the exponential increase in the market of highly processed, convenient and cheap plant-based foods. This overcomes some of the barriers, but there is concern about whether they are healthy and environmentally sustainable. Plant-based foods have a halo effect around health and the environment, but many being produced are ultra-processed foods that are high in energy, fat, sugar and salt and have a higher environmental impact than minimally processed plant-based foods. The trend towards eating more highly processed plant-based convenience foods is a concern with regard to both public health and the targets set to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (5).

Other FAQs about Vegans that you may be interested in.

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Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered the query, “Is a vegan diet low fat?” and discussed how a diet in low-fat content is beneficial for health?

References

  1. Karlsen, Micaela C., et al. Theoretical food and nutrient composition of whole-food plant-based and vegan diets compared to current dietary recommendations. Nutrients, 2019, 11, 625.
  2. Kahleova, Hana, et al. Effect of a low-fat vegan diet on body weight, insulin sensitivity, postprandial metabolism, and intramyocellular and hepatocellular lipid levels in overweight adults: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA net open, 2020, 3, e2025454-e2025454.
  3. Melina, Vesanto, Winston Craig, and Susan Levin. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: vegetarian diets. J Acad Nutr Diet, 2016, 116, 1970-1980.
  4. Tonstad, Serena, et al. Type of vegetarian diet, body weight, and prevalence of type 2 diabetes. Diabet care, 2009, 32, 791-796.
  5. Macdiarmid, J. I. The food system and climate change: are plant-based diets becoming unhealthy and less environmentally sustainable?. Proceed Nutr Soc, 2021, 1-6.
  6. Becerra, René A. Becoming Vegan, Staying Vegan: Social Ties and Media. eScholarship, University of California, 2019.