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Plant-based foods are great for weight loss, regardless of the type

A recent analysis from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine highlights the benefits of replacing animal products with plant-based foods. 

This analysis, which expands on a previous study by the same committee, emphasizes the significant impact of plant-based diets on weight loss, cholesterol, fat intake, and fiber intake in overweight adults.

Key insights on plant-based foods

The most significant finding is that both healthy and unhealthy plant-based foods contribute to weight loss when they replace animal products in the diet. 

This conclusion is significant because it underscores the potential of a plant-based diet, regardless of the specific type of plant-based foods consumed, in managing weight and improving overall health.

“While a low-fat vegan diet rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans is the gold standard for weight loss and improved health, the good news is that a plant-based diet that eliminates animal products and minimizes the consumption of oil can help with weight loss in people who are overweight,” said study co-author Dr. Hana Kahleova, director of clinical research at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

How the study was conducted

This analysis is a secondary examination of a prior study that involved 244 overweight adults. The participants were divided into two groups. One group followed a low-fat vegan diet, and the other made no changes to their diet. Notably, the study imposed no restrictions on calorie intake, and the researchers did not give participants specific instructions on diet quality.

The study authors used three different indexes to assess plant-based diet adherence: the plant-based diet index (PDI), the healthful plant-based diet index (hPDI), and the unhealthful plant-based diet index (uPDI). 

The PDI measures general adherence to a plant-based diet, the hPDI emphasizes fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans, while the uPDI includes more refined grains and fruit juices. Higher scores on these indexes correlate with greater consumption of plant-based foods and reduced consumption of animal products.

Plant-based foods show promising results

The results revealed that after 16 weeks, participants on the vegan diet showed increased scores in all three indexes. This increase significantly correlated with participants losing an average of about 13 pounds, mainly from reduced fat mass and visceral fat.

Factors contributing to this weight loss included increased consumption of whole grains and legumes, and reduced consumption of meat, vegetable oil, and sweets. The control group showed no change in their index scores.

Overall, the analysis provides strong evidence that eating plant-based foods is effective for weight management and health improvement, regardless of the specific type of plant-based foods consumed. 

Best plant-based foods for weight loss

Plant-based foods are excellent for weight loss as they’re typically lower in calories and higher in fiber and nutrients. Here’s a description of some effective plant-based foods for weight loss:


Beans, lentils, and peas are great sources of protein and fiber, which can keep you feeling full and satisfied. They’re also low in fat and calories.

Whole grains

Foods like quinoa, brown rice, barley, and whole wheat are rich in fiber. They take longer to digest, which helps in maintaining steady blood sugar levels and keeping you full longer.

Leafy greens

Spinach, kale, collards, and other greens are incredibly low in calories but high in fiber and essential nutrients. They add bulk to meals without adding many calories.

Nuts and seeds

While higher in calories, nuts and seeds like almonds, chia seeds, and flaxseeds provide healthy fats, protein, and fiber. They should be eaten in moderation.


Berries, apples, pears, and other fruits are high in fiber and natural sugars, satisfying sweet cravings in a healthier way. They’re also full of vitamins and antioxidants.


Non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and bell peppers are low in calories but high in fiber and nutrients, making them perfect for weight loss diets.

Tofu and yempeh

These soy-based products are high in protein and fiber, yet low in calories. They can be great meat substitutes in various dishes.


Rich in healthy fats and fiber, avocados can help you feel full and satisfied. However, they are calorie-dense, so portion control is key.


Low in calories and high in flavor, mushrooms can be a satisfying substitute for meat in many dishes.

Herbs and spices

Using herbs and spices like turmeric, ginger, and garlic can add flavor without calories, helping to make plant-based meals more satisfying and enjoyable.

The study is published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.


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