With top athletes like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers touting the benefits of eating “almost vegan” and Serena and Venus Williams eating completely vegan, it’s clear that you don’t necessarily need to eat meat to build muscle or hit peak athletic form.
But can a vegan diet help you lose weight?
“Weight loss on a vegan diet virtually always happens,” says Neal Barnard, M.D., president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. “It starts out as soon as you go vegan and continues week after week, plus the weight loss persists. The only reason you wouldn’t lose weight is if you are already at a healthy weight.”
A vegan diet may even be better than other plant-based diets for weight loss, according to a 2015 study published in the journal Nutrition: Researchers put 50 adults on one of five low-fat, low-glycemic diets: vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, semi-vegetarian, or omnivorous. After six months, people in the vegan group lost 7.5 percent of their body weight, while those in the other groups lost about three percent of their body weight.
Meanwhile, an analysis of 12 studies found that people on a vegan diet lost 5.5 pounds more than those on a omnivorous diet.
It’s worth noting that before you go on a vegan diet, it’s important to avoid common mistakes, like jumping into it overnight, not making sure you’re eating foods with key vitamins and minerals, and not eating enough protein.
And remember: Giving up meat and dairy doesn’t make your diet automatically healthy: Cookies, soda, potato chips, and other processed foods are vegan, too. You still need to make sure your plant-based diet is filled with balanced meals in the proper proportions.
Now learn why — and how — going vegan can help the pounds fall off.