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As of 2022, there are 18% obese vegetarians. A recent study published in the Nutrients journal found that approximately 30% of omnivores are obese or overweight compared to 13% of vegans. This is not a surprise considering that animal products contain more fat than most plant-based foods. The big question is why are vegetarians overweight if they are eating a plant-based diet?
Plant-Based Diets Increases 48%
Several years ago, the main reason for U.S. consumers to shift to a plant-based diet was to improve health. However, as of 2020, the number of people opting for a plant-based diet for health reasons declined from 82% in 2018 to 65%. At the same time, the percent of those driven by environmental reasons increased from 31% in 2018 to 48%. However, these stats don’t answer our question – why are vegetarians overweight? If this is true, this begs the question – are they still healthy?
Why are Vegetarians Overweight?
Although the lion’s share of vegetarians and vegans are typically the healthiest people in the world, there is a segment of this population that are nutritionally high risk. This group may have a lack of certain vitamins and other nutrients. However, Lizzo is a robust vegan, therefore she must be a statistical anomaly.
Lizzo is an Overweight Vegan
The Super Star, Lizzo, has beat the odds for overweight people. She’s been eating a vegan diet since 2020 and has developed a healthy relationship to food and weight. Good for her. In fact, she wishes that other people could internalize that being overweight is not a death sentence.
Lizzo is the proud owner of a clothing line specifically designed for the fuller figure. Her brand name is Yitty. Her motto is “I lead a very healthy lifestyle. I feel very lucky because I don’t feel that weight gain is bad anymore, the singer says, nor is weight loss – it’s neutral.”
Lizzy is having a big year. The singer just took home her first Emmy, dropped her own line of shapewear, and announced a new documentary coming to HBO Max. Lizzo, the flautist-singer-dancer is currently on the road with her first arena tour. Although she continues to gain an endless fan base, her weight continues to cause many heads to turn. With her success, she doesn’t have to cook, she can hire a personal chef or dine out at any restaurant of her choice.
Find Vegan Restaurant
Vegetarians and vegan restaurants are trending in terms of the vegan lifestyle. In fact, the demand for plant-based foods continue to skyrocket. Even fast-food restaurants have jumped on the plant-based band wagon. If Lizzo or other vegans are looking for a plant-based restaurant in their areas, no problems.
Happy Cow offers a directory with listings of restaurants and cafes that offer amazing plant-based foods. Just search by state or city to find a restaurant that accommodates both your unique diets and your cravings. On the other hand, vegan meals are easy to put together in the comfort and convenience of your home kitchen, provided you have the main protein staples on hand.
Vegetarian/ Vegan Protein Staples
Even though vegans do not eat meat, they are still able to get an adequate amount of protein from certain foods. When you swap animal protein for plant protein, you stand to reap a bounty of health benefits. Incorporate lentils in a veggie-packed soup or put them in your next veggie burger. Here are a few examples:
Lentils (Up to 9 grams of Protein per ½ Cup). Lentils and legumes such as beans, peas, nuts, and seeds offer a full protein package. They are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, and provide an abundance of protein. In addition, they contain antioxidant-rich polyphenols.
A 2017 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences found that polyphenols have anti-obesity, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetes properties.
Tofu (9 g of Protein per 3 oz). Like hemp seeds, soy contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. Soy is the basis of several types of foods, including soy milk, edamame, miso, tempeh, and soy nuts. These foods give you plenty of ways to incorporate soy products into your diet. It’s the main ingredient in tofu. Put tofu high on your list of meat substitutes. A 3-ounce (oz) serving offers 9 grams of protein, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Tofu contains potassium and iron. However, critics believe that the use of soy leads to breast cancer. However, the American Cancer Society, found that is safe and advisable to eat soy products. Add this versatile soy protein to a stir-fry or roast it on a sheet pan with a plethora of veggies.
Hemp Seeds (10 grams of Protein per 3 Tbs). “These little seeds contain all nine essential amino acids, 3 tablespoons (tbsp) provide about 10 g of protein. They are also called hemp hearts. Sprinkle them on salads, soups, yogurt, or on top of nut-buttered toast. They have a nutty flavor and nice crunch.
Chickpeas (7.5 grams of Protein per ½ cup). They are also called garbanzo beans. Chickpeas are legumes that are rich in protein, folate, fiber, iron, phosphorus, and healthy fatty acids, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. A ½ cup serving packs a generous portion of protein according to the United States Department of Health (USDA). Roasted chickpeas are great as a snack. They also make a delicious hummus dip.
Nuts (5 to 6 grams of protein per ¼ cup). Almonds offer the most protein per serving, and pistachios are a complete protein, right behind almonds. In addition to protein, nuts are a good source of heart-healthy unsaturated fats, which lowers cholesterol levels (Mayo Clinic). Other nut choices are walnuts, cashews and hazelnuts which you can add to salads, smoothies or on top of veggies. Other forms of protein include the following:
Nutritional Yeast (8 grams of Protein per ¼ cup). Many vegans go nuts over nutritional yeast’s cheese-like umami flavor. It is packed with B vitamins, the antioxidant glutathione, and protein. A quarter cup supplies 8 grams of protein. Plus, it’s free of gluten, sugar, dairy, and artificial flavors or ingredients.
You can add it to soups and sauces, sprinkle it in popcorn or avocado toast, or blend with soaked cashews. This makes a tasty, homemade, vegan cheese on pasta or veggies. There are a few more proteins you can add to your shopping list. These include:
- Quinoa (8 grams per cup). Contains all 9 essential amino acids.
- Black Beans (7.5 grams of Protein per ½ Cup). Rich in essential nutrients.
- Tempeh (14 grams of Protein per 3ounce). High protein soy product. Protein substitute.
- Peanut Butter (7 grams of Protein per 2 Tablespoon). Plant-based protein. 180 calories.
What Do Doctors Say About Vegetarianism?
Physicians and medical experts in America and abroad clarify the pros and cons of a plant-based diet. They report that there are numerous research-proven health benefits to following a vegetarian diet, but only if you’re doing it properly. As long as you are not substituting meat with processed or high-fat vegetarian products, you are okay. Both lacto-ovo vegetarians and vegans need to make sure they are getting adequate nutrition.
What is a Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian?
The most common types of vegetarians include lacto-vegetarians, lacto-ovo vegetarians, and ovo-vegetarians. Her is a brief description of each type:
These are vegetarians who avoid all animal flesh. Their eating pattern is based on grains, fruits and vegetables, legumes (dried beans, peas, and lentils), seeds, nuts. It excludes meat, fish, and poultry. They consume dairy and egg products.
The lacto-vegetarian diet is a variation of vegetarianism that excludes meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. Unlike other vegetarian diets, it includes certain dairy products, such as yogurt, cheese, and milk. People adopt a lacto-vegetarian diet for environmental or ethical reasons. https://youtu.be/xOZP3XaTdbo
Ovo vegetarian is a type of vegetarianism which allows for the consumption of eggs but not dairy products, in contrast with lacto-vegetarianism. Those who practice ovo-vegetarianism are called ovo-vegetarians. “Ovo” comes from the Latin word for egg.
According to the Journal of Metabolic Surgery and Allied Care, Vegetarian diets in India are often linked to a higher rate of obesity than non-vegetarians. In fact, India has the world’s largest vegetarian population, with 40% of the country adhering to a vegetarian diet. Contrary to popular belief that a vegetarian diet is healthier than a non-vegetarian one, this is not the case, in terms of India.
In 2019, evidence showed that there were a significant higher number of vegetarians than non-vegetarians who underwent Bariatric surgery at the local medical center. The study also analyzed gender-based differences between vegetarians and non- vegetarians and found that there were significantly more females vegetarians than their male counterparts who underwent the surgery.
Research Analyze Medical Conditions
Dr. Sanjay was the chief analyzer of 235 Indian patients. He is convinced that there are some medical conditions that drive weight gain and make it much harder to lose weight. These include hypothyroidism, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and sleep apnea. Certain medications can also make weight loss harder – even cause weight gain.
This intense study assessed the association between a vegetarian diet and the incidence of morbid obesity that would necessitate bariatric surgery in Indians. Another South Asia Paradox study took the Indian vegetarian study further.
South Asia Paradox
Medical experts found that Vegetarianism in India is unique in many ways. It is usually practiced lifelong and spans across multiple generations. Hence, (the) author explained that unlike vegans, or even vegetarians in the West, Indian vegetarians consume significant amounts of butter, ghee, and honey.
Furthermore, Vegetarianism is practiced for religious and cultural reasons in India. Therefore, Indian vegetarians, typically, consume more unhealthy snacks, eat more frequently, dine at fast food outlets more often, and consume more fried and processed food than non-vegetarian Indians and Western vegetarians.
In addition, biological differences between Western and Indian vegetarians play a major part in obesity rates among both demographics.
Non-vegetarians in India do not consume red or processed meat. As a result, they are healthier than vegetarians. While vegetarians consume more refined and processed foods, they are gaining more weight. The goal is to produce healthier Indian vegetarians. To accomplish this task the medical communities plan to shine a light on healthier marketing strategies. The current food industry targets minors.
Outlook for Indian Vegetarians
This study predicts that with more people adopting vegetarian lifestyles for religious, economic, and cultural reasons, bariatric surgeons will encounter more obese vegetarian patients.
Researchers project that ongoing studies of this nature provide opportunities to address the national epidemic obesity by prohibiting the marketing and consumption of unhealthy vegetarian foods that attract a vulnerable population like adolescents.
They warn vegetarians to transition with caution before taking the plunge into a plant-based lifestyle. “Make sure to cover all your bases and look carefully into the pros and cons.” In addition, consult with your medical team (primary care physician, nutritionist, licensed dietitian, etc.) first. This lifestyle is not for everyone. There are pros and cons to factor in.
Pros and Cons of a Vegetarianism
There are a lot of vegetarian diet pros and cons to factor into your decision. Aside from its health benefits, vegetarianism lowers your grocery bill and saves you money in the long run. On the other hand, it runs the risk of a vitamin deficiency due to the abstinence from meat. You experience low levels of vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids. So, proceed with caution. Also, there are medical complications to consider.
There are some medical conditions that drive weight gain and make it much harder to lose weight. These include hypothyroidism, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and sleep apnea. Certain medications can also make weight loss harder – even cause weight gain. I will cover these in a subsequent blog post. If you identify with any of these conditions, consult with your doctor before plunging into a plant-based lifestyle.
Thank you for joining me on this vegetarian, vegan expose. I hope you find it useful in your quest to find the healthiest, most sustainable lifestyle. Good health is one of the most important attributes of life. There has been a natural, organic shift that seems to be pervading over a wide portion of the American population. That is the transition to a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle.
Hollywood celebrities, multi-millionaires, faith-based communities, and even whole neighborhoods are opting and swapping their prior health habits for a vegetarian vegan lifestyle. Even some of my close relatives are cashing in. This is extremely exciting stuff. On the other hand, people already in the fold, are experiencing some incredible, unintended consequences with a plant-based lifestyles.
I would really appreciate some of your thoughts on this subject. Feel free to leave your feedback and questions in the comment section below. I always look forward to interactive conversation with you.