Can switching to a vegan diet help tackle obesity?

When I did Veganuary in 2019, I was interviewed by That’s TV Cambridge at an award winning vegan restaurant called Stem & GloryStem & Glory reopened in July after being closed for a few months due to Covid-19. The restaurant, with branches in London and Cambridge, is now open with a new menu, new seating (to allow for social distancing) and full range of measures in place to keep staff and customers safe.

The Cambridge restaurant has been made Covid safe, with ample space to service the manage the delivery, take away and ready meal side of the business and a new menu has been designed to give both eat in and take away customers a personalised experience.

Stem & Glory’s vegan menu is appealing to both – those seeking simple and delicious food or those wanting a more gastronomic dining experience.

Louise Palmer-Masterton is founder of Stem & Glory.  She feels that many people took the lockdown period as an opportunity to re-think their lifestyle and try new, healthier dishes and vegan eating has become popular post Covid era.  I found this article written by her very interesting and useful.

Can switching to a vegan diet help tackle obesity? 

The link to Covid-19 crisis and being a few pounds overweight, increasing your risk of complications due to the disease has brought the government to its senses on the matter of obesity.

But it’s hardly news that being overweight increases your vulnerability to ill health – diabetes to heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, kidney and liver disease to name but a few. The question now is how do we help people to lose weight and learn better eating habits?

How can a vegan diet help?

According to Peta, meat-eaters have three times the obesity rate of vegetarians and nine times the obesity rate of vegans. So it seems just cutting meat and dairy will immediately improve your chances of weight loss.

Indeed, recent research by Dr Katarina Kos, senior lecturer in diabetes and obesity at the University of Exeter, showed that vegan or plant-based diets are effective in providing more weight loss. The side product of which is an improvement in diabetes and in diabetes and weight-related complications.

This isn’t new information either, a Swedish study back in 2005 showed that self-identified semi-vegetarian, lactovegetarian, and vegan women have a lower risk of obesity than omnivorous women. The advice of that report 15 years ago when veganism was hardly known was to ‘consume more plant foods and less animal products to help control your weight’.

So, whether you go fully vegan, or remain flexitarian, eating fewer animal products and more plants will help you lose weight, and in turn improve your health outcomes.

What are the barriers to a predominantly vegan diet?

Many people report, when moving to a plant-based diet, that they are always hungry. That was certainly the case for me. Why is this?

Switching to a plant-based diet means a move from high fat, calorie dense foods such as meat and dairy, so the body takes a while to adjust. The solution is either 1. eat more calories, or 2. eat a greater proportion, and a wider variety of proteins. Number 2 being the better option in supporting weight loss. Legumes such as chickpeas, combined with tofu, quinoa and a sprinkling of nuts and seeds for example will combine to give a greater protein content than just eating chickpeas alone. As with any dietary change, the body does get used to it, but give yourself a month to adapt.

Meat and cheese replacements

I am a believer in sticking mainly to natural whole foods – fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains – and avoiding processed foods where possible. With the explosion in plant-based meat replacements currently it’s easy to lose sight of this. I do think meat replacements play a part in the conversion to eating more plant-based foods and less animal products, BUT I don’t believe they are a sustainable solution for health and weight loss.

Take the explosion in vegan junk food, known as ‘dirty vegan’. Dirty vegan is huge on the plant-based scene right now. Enormous stacked plant-based burgers, deep fried seitan (basically wheat gluten), chips, mayo, mac and cheese, all comfort foods and no doubt delicious BUT very high in calories and low in natural unprocessed ingredients.

And here lies the caution. Don’t be fooled into thinking that just eating plant-based food without attention to nutrition and calories will lead to better health and weight loss. The first vegan I ever met was very large and overweight. He lived on a diet mostly of potato chips!

The explosion in vegan cheese is also a red flag for me. A high fat and highly processed product which can never be healthy in my view. And if real dairy products are a problem for health and weight loss, then when we do eventually have an engineered cow milk product with all the same nutrients as real dairy, then unfortunately that will carry all the same health and weight loss risk as real dairy.

How do we make plant-based food delicious and interesting?

At Stem & Glory, we believe that gut friendly food, low in refined carbs, is the way to go. We focus on natural vegetables accompanied by nutrient dense components such as nuts and seeds. There is a big focus on layering umami flavours and flavour combining to get that explosion of deliciousness which overrides any need to eat huge portions to feel satisfied.

We use fermented and pickled foods too which are really good for your microbiome and overall health. In terms of the future of food, we believe this is where it lies. Fermented foods can play a huge part in strengthening the immune system, they are naturally probiotic, improving your digestive system and natural gut flora, which support all bodily functions and helps with weight loss.

Plant-based food can play a huge part in tackling obesity, and if you do just one thing to help with weight loss, then simply turning vegan is moving in the right direction. But moving away from vegan junk and meat replacements, towards natural unprocessed food is the right way to achieve optimum health and healthy weight.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Louise Palmer-Masterton is founder of multiple award-winning restaurants Stem & Glory; hip and trendy but accessible plant-based restaurants, serving delicious gourmet vegan food from locally sourced ingredients, 100% made on site. Stem & Glory also offers click-and-collect and local delivery in London and Cambridge.  www.stemandglory.uk  

Social Media:

Web: www.stemandglory.uk
Twitter: @stemandglory
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stemandglory/
Instagram: @stemandglory
Linked in: /louisepalmer-masterton
Seedrs: https://www.seedrs.com/stemandglory

Please note: the article was written by Louise Palmer-Masterton and shared here with her permission.

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