Losing Weight with A Plant-Based Diet

The beginning of the year is usually the time when we review our goals for the year, and these often include personal goals of weight loss and maintenance, introducing a good exercise routine, and being mindful of what one is eating.

Being overweight: i.e. having excess body fat, is the number one risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes.

In a previous article, we discussed insulin resistance and pre-diabetes.

A quick recap: Insulin resistance occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin’s effects.  The pancreas DOES produce insulin, BUT the accumulation of FAT in the muscle and liver cells INTERFERES with the action of insulin.

This fatty build-up creates toxic breakdown products and free radicals that cause inflammation and block the insulin signalling process. This fat comes either from the fat you EAT or the fat you WEAR (body fat).

A diet low in fat is one of the keys to losing weight.

Yet, even if we don’t eat extra fat, the fat we “wear” actually overstretches the muscle and liver cells, spilling over into the bloodstream, potentially causing the same clogging of insulin signalling you would get from eating a fatty meal.

The number of individual fat cells in your body doesn’t change much in adulthood, irrespective of the amount of weight you gain or lose. These fat cells just swell up with fat as the body gains weight, so when you gain extra “belly” weight – you are not necessarily creating new fat cells; rather you are cramming more fat into existing ones. And as per the above, in overweight and obese people, these cells can get so bloated, that the fat spills back into the bloodstream.

Body fat increases when one eats too many refined, high GI foods and sugars; too much overall fat especially saturated (animal) fats, and when one does not do enough physical exercise.

PLANT-BASED DIETS: The Solution to Easy, Adaptable, Life-Long Weight Loss!

A plant-based diet, which includes mainly unprocessed plant foods, and minimal (if any) animal foods, eaten at regular intervals throughout the day is a diet that is automatically low GI (energy-sustaining), low in saturated fats and contains monounsaturated fats (protective), and as such is the ideal diet to follow when losing weight and preventing pre-diabetes.

Because most whole plant foods are naturally nutrient-dense and low in calories, they are ideal for a weight-loss diet. Counting calories and restricting portions is often a frustrating and soul-destroying exercise. A simple solution to this problem is to choose foods that are both filling and also low in calories.

  • FIBRE bulks up the volume of foods without adding calories.
  • WATER does the same thing.
  • FRUITS and VEGETABLES, on average, contain +/- 80-90% water, as well as a lot of fibre (5-7g/serving).

Due to the fact that people tend to eat the same amount of food at a meal, regardless of calorie count (probably because stretch receptors in the stomach send signals to the brain after a certain volume of food has been ingested), if they eat that volume as a zero-calorie component like fibre or water (i.e. lots of vegetables, legumes and fruit), they can eat more but gain less weight.

Of interest, have a look at the amount of food in a 100 calorie serving:

  • Steamed Broccoli – 285g (>2-3 cups = a head of broccoli)
  • Raw Tomatoes – 555g (6-8 tomatoes)
  • Strawberries – 310g (>2 cups)
  • Grilled Chicken breast – 70g (½ palm-size)
  • Cheddar cheese – 25g (matchbox-size)

It makes sense, therefore, that 100 calories-worth of plants will fill you up, while 100 calories of animal-based foods will leave you hungry.

One can basically eat as much you want on a whole-food, plant-based diet without worrying too much about counting calories or carbs.

In addition to weight loss, people who consume plant-based meals experience improved blood glucose control, better insulin sensitivity as well as reduced risk of heart disease compared with people who followed diets that included more animal and processed products.

Legumes are an essential part of plant-based diets for weight-loss:

Interventional research trials show that when large groups of individuals with pre-diabetes or insulin resistance were split into two groups:  one group eating 1kg of any form of legumes per week over and above their normal diets vs the other group cutting calories by 500kCal/day – that the legume-eating group lost belly fat and improved blood glucose control just as effectively as the calorie-cutting group, and gained extra benefits such as lowering cholesterol levels and improving insulin sensitivity. In other words, better health was achieved by improving the QUALITY of their foods by eating legume-rich meals.  

Plant-based diets result in one getting better as well as feeling better.

Other advantages include:

  • Eating primarily vegetable and legume foods results in one being less likely to binge (on the wrong foods)
  • Plant-based diets result in one feeling less hungry.

As such, a plant-based diet is more sustainable and easier to adopt as a long-term way of eating, especially when trying to lose weight.

Go Plant-based!

In other words, eat 90% or more plant-based food, including:

  • All-you-can-eat greens
  • LOTS of other vegetables (fill half your plate with vegetables of different bright colours: red, orange, green);
  • LOTS of beans and legumes (include these in meals and snacks)
  • Wholegrains
  • Fruits (2-4/day – spread throughout the day)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • ELIMINATE refined grains, junk foods, oil and salt
  • Restrict animal product consumption (including meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy)

Keep it simple!

Make use of healthy food alternatives, e.g. a balanced meal replacement drink, as a meal substitute when time constraints present.

Soya Life has a meal-replacement drink that contains soya, a plant-protein, instead of dairy, an animal protein.

This meal-replacement is ideal in a simply-structured weight loss plan, in that it is:

  • Balanced, containing a good proportion of carbohydrates, proteins and fats
  • Low GI
  • Plant-based
  • Ideal for busy lifestyles

A sample menu plan for quick weight-loss*:

BREAKFAST:      

Soya Life Instant Meal Replacement Drink blended with water and berries to make a smoothie

MID-MORNING:             

Carrot sticks, celery sticks, cucumber, cherry tomatoes dunked in Hummus (2Tbs)

LUNCH:                              

Soya Life Instant Meal Replacement Drink + a mixed salad with at least eight different veggies in it

MID-AFTERNOON:         

A portion of fruit

SUPPER:

  • Chickpea Curry (1 chopped onion braised with 2tsp garlic, curry spices to taste, 1 can drained chickpeas, 1 can chopped tomatoes, and ½ tin lite coconut milk: simmer until thickened) served with ½-1 cup cooked rice + salad
  • Or Lentil Lasagna + salad
  • Or Soybean Frikkadels + rice + 3 portions veggies
  • Or Black-eyed Beans with Spicy Rice and a salad/veggies.

*consult with a Registered Dietician for individualized dietary advice

The Soya Life Instant Meal replacement shake is available in the health section at Dischem.