Is a vegetarian diet good for weight loss

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Is a vegetarian diet good for weight loss?” and will discuss some tips to lose weight and will discuss some barriers to losing weight on a vegetarian diet.

Is a vegetarian diet good for weight loss?

Yes, a vegetarian diet is good for weight loss. Although research has proved that a vegetarian diet can help us to lose weight, it might be somewhat difficult because a vegetarian diet is all plant-based, means a high carbohydrate diet and contains a lot of refined sugar. So to lose weight with a vegetarian diet a strict calorie control is required to attain its benefits to the fullest. 

More than two-thirds (69%) of U.S. adults are overweight or obese [body mass index (BMI) > 25 kg/m2]. Overweight and obesity are associated with a number of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. Even modest weight loss—5% decrease in body weight—has been shown to lower the risk of chronic disease. There is also a growing body of literature examining the use of plant-based diets for weight loss (4).

A prospective matched cohort study of 116 individuals who followed strict vegetarian diets for 3 years showed a 15-kg weight reduction compared to the control group. Another long-term interventional study found a weight reduction of 10 kg at 1 year and 8 kg at 5 years compared to baseline in the group consuming a vegetarian diet, while the control group experienced an increase of 2 kg (1).

Weight loss on a plant-based diet might be challenging.

Vegetarianism may seem like a good method to lose weight, but there are several reasons why this may not be the case.

Not every vegetarian diet follows the health principles that are beneficial, such as consuming whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes. An unhealthy diet (characterized by refined grains, starchy foods, added sugars, low fruits and vegetables) can lead to an increased type 2 diabetes risk of vegetarians (2).

·         Overeating and under-consuming protein

Weight gain might occur if you eat more calories than you require. However healthy your vegetarian diet may be, you may still be overeating because of the lack of animal products in your diet. If you don’t eat enough protein, you’re more likely to experience this.

Ghrelin, a hormone that controls appetite, may be reduced by consuming more protein, which may lead to a decrease in total calorie consumption and an increase in weight reduction. Your weight reduction attempts may suffer if you don’t get enough protein in your diet. Vegetarians can meet their protein requirements easily, although it may take some time to adjust to the diet without meat.

However, research studies show that generally, patients on a plant-based diet are not at risk for protein deficiency. Essential amino acids are found in meat, dairy products, and eggs, as well as many plant-based foods, such as quinoa. Essential amino acids can also be obtained by eating certain combinations of plant based foods. Examples include brown rice with beans, and hummus with whole wheat pita. Therefore, a well-balanced, plant-based diet will provide adequate amounts of essential amino acids and prevent protein deficiency (3).

·         Overconsumption refined carbohydrate

When following a vegetarian diet, it’s tempting to overindulge in high-carbohydrate foods like bread, pizza, and pasta. Many restaurants and parties offer them as the sole vegetarian option. Refined carbohydrates, on the other hand, tend to be low in fiber and hence less effective in curbing hunger. Consequently, they may cause you to consume an excessive number of calories.

A healthy vegetarian diet should include whole grains, whole legumes and whole fruits, as well as fat sources such as nuts. Healthy vegetarian diets are related to a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes type II, lower levels of cholesterol. On the other hand, unhealthy vegetarian diets, which include refined grains and refined sugar, may lead to an increased risk of diabetes type II incidence (2).

In addition, some research shows that refined carbohydrates cause an increase in insulin, a hormone responsible for controlling blood sugar levels. Weight gain may also be a result of this. According to one research that included more than 500,000 participants, increased insulin levels after carb consumption was strongly linked to a bigger BMI (Body Mass Index).

·         Overindulging in high-calorie meals

Vegetarians can expect to consume more high-fat plant foods while making the switch to a vegetarian diet. Vegetarian meals commonly include nuts, seeds, and nut butter, as well as avocados, coconut, and almonds. The 9 calories per gram of these foods are more than the 4 calories per gram of proteins and carbohydrates.

Peanut butter, for example, has 191 calories, 148 of which come from fat, in 2 tablespoons (32 grams). In addition, many individuals consume more than the recommended amount of nut butter and other good fats.

On the other hand, vegetarians consume less saturated fats, and replacing these fats with polyunsaturated fatty acids has been shown to be beneficial for diabetes and its comorbidities (2). However, vegetarians are most likely to be deficient in the omega-3 fats. Deficiency in essential fatty acids may manifest as skin, hair, and nail abnormalities. Foods that are good sources of n-3 fats should be emphasized. They include ground flax seeds, flax oil, walnuts, and canola oil (3).

·         Vegetarian cuisine that has been processed

As a vegetarian, you may find it difficult to shed pounds if you depend too much on processed meals. Most vegetarian goods include needless additives and other dangerous components, even if they are labeled as such. Veggie burgers, meat alternatives, frozen dinners, baked foods, packaged sweets, and vegan cheese are all examples.

A healthy, plant-based diet aims to maximize consumption of nutrient-dense plant foods while minimizing processed foods, oils, and animal foods. Overly processed, soy-based meat substitutes are often high in isolated soy proteins and other ingredients that may not be as healthy as less processed soy products (ie, tofu, tempeh, and soy milk (3).

With extra sugar and calories, many of these meals are laden with salt and other preservatives, and coloring additives. It might lead to weight gain when consumed in excess. Consumption of foods with high amounts of LDL (bad) cholesterol and/or sodium (high blood pressure) was shown to be associated with an increased risk of obesity.

Recommendations for vegetarians to lose weight

A possible mechanism underlying the effect of vegetarian diets on weight reduction may be the abundant intake of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Whole-grain products and vegetables generally have low glycemic index values, and fruits are rich in fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and minerals. Viscous fiber, around 20 to 50 % in whole-grain products, could delay gastric emptying and intestinal absorption. Several prospective studies have reported an inverse association between fiber consumption and weight loss (1). Therefore, in order to lose weight, it is recommended to include a great amount of fiber-rich vegetables in the diet.

Weight reduction on a vegetarian diet may be aided by a variety of methods, including:

·         Non-starchy veggies should make about half of your plate. Cutting down on calories and staying full is easier when you eat a diet rich in high-fiber vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, leafy greens, and mushrooms.

·         Every meal and snack should include some kind of protein. Beans, nuts, seeds, lentils, eggs, dairy products, and soy meals are all high-protein vegetarian options (such as tempeh, tofu, and edamame). 

·         Choosing complex carbohydrates. Whole grains, starchy vegetables, fruits, and legumes are among the foods that contribute to feelings of satiety.

·         Portion control for high-calorie meals. To keep yourself from overindulging in nuts, seeds, and healthy fats, pair them with low-calorie items.

·         Relying mostly on natural foods. Whole fruits and vegetables, for example, do not include any needless additives.

·         Reducing the amount of highly processed foods in your diet. Foods like meat substitutes and frozen meals are likely to be laden with toxic additives, more salt, and added sugar.

It is possible to lose weight on a healthy vegetarian diet that prioritizes whole plant meals and excludes refined carbohydrates and highly processed foods. However, don’t overlook the importance of sleep, water, and exercise in the weight reduction process.

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In this brief guide, we answered the query, “Is a vegetarian diet good for weight loss?” and discussed some tips to lose weight and discussed some barriers to losing weight on a vegetarian diet.


  1. Huang, RY., Huang, CC., Hu, F.B. et al. Vegetarian Diets and Weight Reduction: a Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. J GEN INTERN MED, 2016, 31, 109–116. 
  2. Olfert, Melissa D., and Rachel A. Wattick. Vegetarian diets and the risk of diabetes. Curr diab rep, 2018, 18, 1-6.
  3. Tuso PJ, Ismail MH, Ha BP, Bartolotto C. Nutritional update for physicians: plant-based diets. Perm J, 2013, 17, 61-66. 
  4. Turner-McGrievy G, Mandes T, Crimarco A. A plant-based diet for overweight and obesity prevention and treatment. J Geriatr Cardiol. 2017, 14, 369-374.