10 Reasons a Vegetarian Diet Helps with Weight Loss and Health
By Rebecca Walton, Service Director
Vegetarians tend to be healthier, live longer and are less likely to become obese than their meat-eating counterparts, and a vegetarian diet can be just as good as a meat based one. However, it's important to remember that the quality of your diet still counts!
While eating a vegetarian menu can help you lose weight and reduce the liklihood of obesity and other chronic disease risks, going veggie doesn't guarantee weight loss - calories from plant based foods count just as much as those from meat and fish.
A diet full of veggie or vegan junk food won't help your weight or make you healthy. For an idea of how to lose weight on a veggie diet, take a look at our vegetarian weight loss meal plan.
So is Being Vegetarian Healthy?
The evidence shows that eating a balanced vegetarian diet has huge health benefits! However, it's important to take into account the types of food you eat. You'll still need to moderate highly processed foods packed with fat, sugar and calories to maintain a healthy diet.
Top 10 Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet
Our 10 science-backed benefits might be just enough to encourage you to give vegetarianism a try! (With even more resources to get you off to a good start below the list...)
1. Live longer...
Recent studies1 have shown that following a vegetarian diet improves your mortality rate by up to 12%!
Following a vegetarian diet can increase your life span and lower your risk of death. All of the health benefits mentioned below accumulate to improve mortality, decreasing your risks of chronic illnesses. You’ll be surprised by how much a meat free diet can help your body inside and out!
2. Lose more weight...
According to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition2, you could potentially lose twice as much weight following a vegetarian diet...
Researchers found that a vegetarian diet resulted in an average loss of 6.2kg compared to 3.2 kg for a conventional diet.
3. Lower your blood pressure...
Fruits and vegetables are low in sodium but rich in potassium, characteristics that help to lower blood pressure... 32(!) different studies3 have shown that following a vegetarian diet can lead to lower blood pressure compared to an omnivorous diet.
4. Lower your cholesterol...
Further studies found that4 plant based vegetarian diets are commonly associated with lower cholesterol levels due to reduced intake in saturated fats and an increased intake of plant based foods.
Researchers believe the link between vegetarian diets and lower cholesterol is due to lower saturated fat intake and increased consumption of plant foods that are naturally rich in components such as fibre, soy protein and plant sterols.
Why not try introducing more meat free evening meals like this vegetarian cottage pie?
5. Lower your risk of heart disease and strokes...
A new study5 which analysed almost half a million Europeans found that people who followed the most pro-vegetarian diets had a 20% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
High cholesterol and blood pressure play an important role in the prevention of heart disease and we already know that following a vegetarian diet lowers your blood pressure and cholesterol (see points 3 and 4 above). Results clearly showed that the risk of heart disease in vegetarians is about a third lower compared to non vegetarians6.
6. Lower your risk of type 2 diabetes...
Specialist diabetes researchers have shown that a healthy vegetarian or vegan diet can help to protect against type 2 diabetes, showing a 50% increase in prevention!
A vegetarian diet rich in plant based foods is low in fat and supplies your body with fuel that helps to contribute to more stable blood sugar7.
7. Lower your risk of bowel and colon cancer...
Many people are already aware that eating less red or processed meat, regardless of if you chose vegetarianism or not, can reduce your risk of colon and bowel cancer.
But did you know, a recent study from the University of California has shown8 those who follow a vegetarian diet can reduce their risk of colon cancer by up to 22%!
8. Lower your risk of becoming obese...
A vegetarian diet could cut your risk of becoming obese by up to 43%9 supporting recommendations to make the shift to diets rich in plant foods, with lower or no intake of animal foods.
9. Protect yourself against common bowel disorders...
Vegetarians are a third less likely to get diverticular disease – a common bowel disorder.
The University of Oxford’s researchers10 believe this could be due to the increased amount of dietary fibre consumed within a vegetarian diet.
10. Helps with chronic kidney disease...
Individuals with kidney disease must limit their amount of phosphorous intake and clinical studies11 have shown that following a vegetarian diet can help this.
Patients following a vegetarian diet had lower blood phosphorus levels compared to those on a meat-based diet according to the Clinical Journal of the American Society Nephrology.
Bonus Benefit - Reduce your carbon food print!
Following a vegetarian diet can not only improve your health but can also help slash greenhouse gas emissions12.
Current research13 shows that by 2050, emissions could increase by 80% if diets continue to involve eating less fruit and vegetables and more animal products. Livestock raised for food contributes to 14.5% of total greenhouse gas emissions, following a vegetarian or vegan diet could help you cut your environmental impact.
Where do I start?
If you're thinking of becoming a vegetarian (or vegan) and wondering where to start, check out our plant based diet plans, veggie recipes, and other resources for more information:
Vegetarian Diet Plan - 14 day veggie meal plan for weight loss with mix and match meals, including easy pdf download
Easy Vegan Diet Plan - Quick and easy vegan meals to help you lose weight, full 7 day plan
Calorie Counted Veggie Recipes - Easy to follow low calorie vegetarian recipes with full nutritional info including calories per serving
Vegetarian Calorie Control - Dietitian's Q and A on vegetarian diets and weight loss
Vegetarian Foods Calorie Counter - Calories in favourite vegetarian brands and products
Going Veggie: What to Eat - A free guide from the UK Vegetarian Society to help you get started
Going Vegan - Information on getting started with going vegan from UK organisation Viva!
National Vegetarian Week 13-19th May
Promoted by the vegetarian society to inform, encourage and inspire people on going vegetarian. For 2019 National Vegetarian Week has its own website, including 50 veggie things to do in May. Find out more
Cancer Research UK's Veg Pledge
You could try going vegetarian for a month, boost your weight loss and raise money for Cancer Research.
For more information check out Cancer Research UK.
You can use the WLR food diary and database to monitor and balance your vegetarian diet. You'll also see how many calories and other nutrients you need and consume. Start a free trial here.
- Vegetarian diets associated with lower risk of death
- Vegetarian dieting may lead to greater weight loss
- Vegetarian diets associated with lower blood pressure
- Association between plant-based diets and plasma lipids: a systematic review and meta-analysis
- Semi-veggie diet effectively lowers heart disease, stroke risk
- Vegetarianism can reduce risk of heart disease by up to a third
- Type of vegetarian diet, body weight, and prevalence of type 2 diabetes
- Vegetarian diet linked to lower risk of colorectal cancer
- Eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables could cut obesity risk
- Diet and risk of diverticular disease in Oxford cohort of European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)
- Vegetarian Compared with Meat Dietary Protein Source and Phosphorus Homeostasis in Chronic Kidney Disease
- Live long? Save the planter? Better diet could nail both
- Analysis and valuation of the health and climate change cobenefits of dietary changes