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Plant-Based Diet Twist Can Double Your Ability to Lose Weight: Stanford Study

Millions are buzzing about Netflix’s battle-of-the-diets docuseries You Are What You Eat: A Twin Experiment. Spoiler alert: After just eight weeks, folks put on a plants-only plan by Stanford University scientists ended up dramatically healthier than their identical twins put on a well-balanced omnivorous plan. Plants-only twins got bad cholesterol 20 points lower, cut insulin 20% more, doubled their ability to lose weight — and scans showed they became biologically younger than omnivorous siblings who had the exact same birthday and DNA.

“The results speak for themselves,” says George Washington University nutrition expert Neal Barnard, MD. “And the twins in the study were fairly healthy to begin with. People who are out of shape will often do even better.” Take Maryland makeup artist Shauné Hayes, who gradually went plant-based after a health scare. She got off multiple meds, lost 100 pounds and feels a decade younger. Keep reading to learn surprisingly easy ways to use a plant-based diet for weight loss and huge health benefits.

Plant-based eating for weight loss beats other healthy diets

For the Stanford study, twins on both diets were coached to cut added sugar and processed carbs while emphasizing veggies, fruit and whole grains. Both groups even had nutritionist-prepared meals delivered to them part of the time. So almost everyone reduced calories, improved nutrient intake and boosted well-being. The plant group simply got a much bigger boost. Why? Well, when you eat only plants, “you almost always include more of what I call ‘power foods,’” explains Dr. Barnard, whose newest book is The Power Foods Diet: The Breakthrough Plan That Traps, Tames, and Burns Calories for Easy and Permanent Weight Loss. He says that options like broccoli, berries, beans and oats “are scientifically proven to power off excess weight that causes or worsens so many modern health problems.”

How ‘power plants’ turn back that clock on our health

The type of plant-based eating Dr. Barnard recommends is built around his power foods, which are all whole plant foods naturally lower in fat. He says this delivers maximum nutrients per calorie and also allows folks to eat until pleasantly full while still losing excess pounds.

The flood of nutrients we get from power foods does amazing things inside us. But weight loss is equally crucial for most of us, says the doc. That’s because as we slim down, we experience biochemical changes that help prevent, improve and even reverse countless health conditions blamed on aging, everything from diabetes and high blood pressure to heart disease and cancer.

Why plant-based eating for weight loss works so well

Eat a whole-food, plants-only diet, and Dr. Barnard says these are the key waist-shrinking benefits you can expect:

All-natural appetite destruction

Fiber, protein and micronutrients in whole plants fill us up and stimulate the release of hormones that make us “immediately less hungry,” says the doc. He adds that plants satiate us after significantly fewer calories than omnivore meals, so you really can eat all you need to feel full and weight still comes off. In one study led by Kevin D. Hall, PhD, test subjects who lived in an NIH lab for a month were alternately offered either all the low-fat plant foods they wanted or all the low-carb foods they wanted. During weeks when they were offered plant foods, folks ate an average of 689 fewer calories per day. “New injectable weight-loss drugs were developed to mimic this effect,” says Dr. Barnard. “The feeling is liberating.”

Effortless metabolism boost

Because roughage in plants stimulates metabolism, “studies show that on a plant-based diet, your ability to burn calories increases about 15% for several hours after the meal,” says Dr. Barnard. He says it’s a big reason NIH reseachers found plant-based dieters burned 4.16 times more fat mass than low-carb dieters, a finding that surprised even scientists. Says Dr. Barnard: “It’s like exercise without going to the gym. You’re getting calorie burn for free.”

Calorie blocking

Tufts University scientists have evidence that “plant fiber traps calories in the digestive tract and pulls them out of the body before they can be absorbed — so about 100 calories a day don’t count,” says Dr. Barnard. It may not sound like much. But remember that every power food blocks calories, boosts burn and helps shrink hunger. “All three effects all at once at every meal — that’s huge,” he adds.

Here’s your official list of power foods

Options that made Dr. Barnard’s power foods list include all fruit except avocado, all veggies including potatoes, all beans and peas, tofu, tempeh, oats, corn, whole grain, cinnamon, ginger and hot pepper.

Yes, other plants definitely have benefits. But these “power plants” are best for stimulating quick health transformations. Now, you might wonder: Won’t carbs in power foods spike blood sugar? Nope. Both fiber and plant protein blunt the rise of sugar. Plus, “new research shows that low-fat, plant-based diets are the fastest way to clear out fat that gets in cells and makes it difficult for cells to burn sugar,” says Dr. Barnard. “In one study, a plant-based diet controlled blood sugar three times better than other diets.”

Ready to see how much your body will change? Start making power foods your staples today. Bonus: Dr. Barnard says research shows you’ll save $500 a year on groceries!

Yes, your body really will feel and act younger

While other diets always seem to work best for younger folks, “we’re doing a study right now, and we’re seeing that the benefits of plants are as strong or stronger for people in their 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond,” reveals Dr. Barnard. He says it’s because plants help heal chronic conditions that make weight harder to lose as we age. “So we’re seeing diabetes improve, blood pressure and cholesterol come down, people getting off medications. So people are finally able to lose excess weight they couldn’t get rid of for decades.”

Plant based diet for weight loss success story: Shauné Hayes, 49

Before and after photos of Shaune Hayes, who lost 100 lbs with the help of a plant based diet
Doug Sanford

Shauné Hayes vividly remembers the day she woke up and couldn’t move her right arm. Rushing to the ER, she was diagnosed with bursitis, an inflammation in the cushioning around our joints. “I was 100 pounds overweight, and it was aging my body way too fast,” Shauné shares. “I also had prediabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, arthritis, frequent heartburn and polycystic ovarian syndrome. I needed to figure out how to get healthier.”

A health coach suggested whole-food, plant-based eating. “I was raised on barbecue and Little Debbie cakes, so I doubted I could do it,” she admits. But she had fun experimenting with power-food-packed smoothies, grain bowls, even 7-layer dip. “Within two to three weeks I felt so much better, there was no question I’d keep going. My breathing, skin, mental clarity, energy and sleep got better. Weight was coming off. My blood pressure, cholesterol and A1C came down so much, my doctor couldn’t believe it.”

A big appeal of whole-plant eating? She’d been promised she could enjoy bottomless portions, even of starchy foods, and still move toward her goals. “I ate what I wanted until I was satisfied. Wrap sandwiches, soup, curry, stews. If I wanted volume, I had it. As someone who dieted for decades, to finally be eating without those restrictions — it was such a relief, a different kind of weight lifted.”

Shauné shed 50 pounds in a year, coming off multiple meds. She kept losing. All of her health problems reversed, and she’s been 100 pounds lighter for four years. “This all happened in spite of hormonal issues that slowed my metabolism. I lost faster than I ever did when I was younger. And by eating some of the meals I make, my 76-year-old mom also lost weight and lowered her cholesterol.” Shauné now works with Dr. Barnard, helping teach others about the power of power foods. Adds Shauné, 49: “As long as you have breath in your body, try eating more plants. You’ll be amazed by what is possible.”

How to use a plant based diet for weight loss

For fastest results, build meals and snacks around plants proven to enhance weight loss. That means basically all veggies, fruit, beans/peas, minimally processed whole grains (like oats, corn and brown rice) and spices. Keep servings of nuts/seeds and healthy sweetener small. Avoid oil, animal products and highly processed foods. We’ve got ideas to inspire you below. Find more at Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s recipe page.

Sample breakfast: Spring berry oats

Mix ½ cup each oats, nut milk and frozen berries and 1 Tbs. any seed; chill at least two hours; enjoy with optional maple syrup

Sample lunch: Hummus sandwich

Plant Based Diet For Weight Loss: Vegan sandwich with tofu, hummus, avocado, tomato and sprouts on board.
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Layer fresh, roasted and/or pickled veggies and hummus (ideally oil-free) on whole grain bread; enjoy with a side of fruit

Sample dinner: Lentil Bolognese

Just warm cooked lentils with fat-free marinara; add seasoning to taste. Enjoy over any whole-grain or bean-based pasta.

Bonus recipe: Dr. Barnard’s Quickie Stir-Fry

Plant Based Diet For Weight Loss: Vegetarian meat free mycoprotein pieces vegetable stir fry, brown rice served in white plate.
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This dish from The Power Foods Diet is weeknight-easy and so delicious

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs. coconut sugar or other sugar
  • Sriracha to taste
  • 16 oz. frozen stir-fry vegetables
  • 2 cups cubed tofu or thawed edamame
  • 4 cups cooked brown rice

Instructions:

  1. Whisk together the soy sauce and sugar; set aside.
  2. Stir vegetables in nonstick skillet over medium heat until warm but still crisp. Stir in tofu/edamame.
  3. Add sauce; mix well and let heat through. Enjoy over cooked brown rice. Serves 3-4

Click through for more on the benefits of plant-based eating:

Plant-Based Protein: 6 Types and Top Benefits of Plant Protein

This Genius 50-50 Plate Hack Is Helping Women Lose Weight Effortlessly

New Science Reveals That Simply Adding Two More Servings of Veggies a Day Can Powerfully Speed Weight Loss

New Twist on Whole30 Is Helping Women Lower Cholesterol, Eliminate Pain & Lose Serious Weight

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