People are switching to a plant-based diet due to its health benefits like a lower risk of heart diseases, weight reduction and management, and overall wellbeing. But, to get these benefits, you must plan your eating habits so that the average daily calorie intake is reduced. This is because, when people transition to plant-based food, they tend to eat more because of lower calorie density and this might cause weight gain. In this article, we will focus on the aspects of plant-based diet that can help you easily manage weight. Read on to know more about them.
The important aspects that you must consider when eating plant-based food are calorie density, food addiction, appetite and satiety.
Before going further ahead, let us get a general understanding of the plant-based diet, as it is a generic term. This type of diet involves eating whole foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, as well as other moderately cooked plant foods that do not contain animal products or by-products. Apart from this, it also involves cooking techniques that ensure minimal nutritional loss so that you get maximum health benefits.
Furthermore, you also avoid highly processed plant-based food because they have none of the beneficial plant nutrients. For example, you must avoid white rice, white bread, juices, potato chips and fries, as well as limit the use of oils like olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, etc. Having said that, let us go further ahead, and get a better understanding of calorie density, food addiction, and appetite and satiety.
Calorie density is also called energy density because it is the energy contained per pound of food. As already mentioned in the introduction, you lose and manage weight by reducing the calorie intake. The calorie content of plant-based food varies, i.e. nuts have high calories, while fruits and vegetables are generally low on calories. Also, if you eat more calorie-dense food, it can make you feel bloated.
Foods with lower calorie density have higher water and fiber content and removing the water can increase their calorie density. So, plant-based food products like bread have moderately high calories as it does not contain water. Likewise, baked food, dry fruits, etc. have high-calorie density. Also, oils are the most calorie-dense items. For instance, two tablespoons of olive oil contain 240 calories. This makes it more calorie-dense than refined sugars. So, when making plant-based foods, you must restrict the use of oils to a minimum.
Appetite And Satiety
Switching to a plant-based diet alone does not help with weight management. It also depends on the quantity of food you eat. In a natural habitat, animals eat enough amount of food to maintain the right body weight. Our biology is naturally designed for foods that are low on calories and high in fiber like plant-based food, and occasional consumption of meat. But, the change in our eating habits like frequent consumption of calorie-dense processed food and meat affects our appetite mechanism. This results in systemic overeating, leading to weight gain.
Satiety is the feeling that you had eaten enough, and it plays an important role in weight management. This is also determined by the volume of food eaten. People who eat plant-based food are leaner because fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds have relatively low-calorie density compared to meat. Because of this difference, people who eat plant-based food feel full with less energy-dense and a fiber-rich food, resulting in satiety.
One of the biggest reasons for overweight is eating too many calorie-dense snacks that are hyper-palatable, and these excessively stimulate the dopamine reward systems in the brain. Because of this, we become addicted to such foods, leading to overeating. You must also keep in mind that such snacks also come under the label of plant-based food because they are made using plant products. Some of the examples are potato chips, French fries, fruit bars, health bars, etc. But they are not good for health and many of them are made using highly refined plant products.
The best solution to this issue of addiction is to follow moderation and limit the food portion size. Make plant-based snacks that are low on calories using vegetables, fruits, whole-grain crackers, sandwiches, etc. Also, be mindful of your weight management vow when eating energy-dense foods like nuts, seeds, dry fruits, baked plant-based food products, etc. You should also make it a point to compensate for this by eating foods that are low on calories. Always ensure that you do not go too hungry by eating healthy foods with carbohydrates to keep you fuelled. Finally, a change in mindset is required, i.e. you need to understand that the purpose of food is to nourish rather than giving an ecstatic experience.
These are the important points that you should keep in mind when eating a plant-based diet for managing weight. It is also good to discuss with a dietician, and plan your diet to get the best result.