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Low-carb vegan diet helps health and weight loss with plant-based protein power

Vegan cooking produces weight loss.
Vegan cooking produces weight loss.
Photo by Neilson Barnard

A new study offers insight into how low-carb diets can facilitate weight loss while enhancing heart health. It also provides a way for vegans to benefit from the increased fat-burning that occurs when carbohydrates are reduced, reported the Epoch Times on Tuesday.

Researchers from the University of Toronto, St. Michael’s Hospital (Toronto), Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, New York Medical College and Solae LLC designed a weight loss plan that featured vegan protein and healthy fats. "We designed a diet that combined both vegan and low-carb elements to get the weight loss and cholesterol-lowering benefits of both," stated the lead author Dr. David Jenkins.

At the conclusion of the study, low-carb dieters lost more weight and had improved cholesterol counts when compared to the high carb group. Dr. Jenkins referred to the diet as "Eco-Atkins," noting that it used the vegan version of the ketogenic Atkins plan detailed in "The New Atkins Made Easy: A Faster, Simpler Way to Shed Weight and Feel Great -- Starting Today."

So does this mean that everyone should follow a low carb vegan diet for health and weight loss? Well, maybe, said Virginia Messina in an exclusive interview on Thursday.

"There doesn't seem to be any magic formula for weight loss," qualified Virginia, co-author of "Vegan for Her: The Woman’s Guide to Being Healthy and Fit on a Plant-Based Diet." However, she notes that some find reducing carbohydrates and boosting protein helps "with satiety. It also might help protect muscle mass during weight loss."

As for the ketogenic aspect of low-carb diets? Virginia is positive about the use of high fat low carb diets to jump-start weight loss.

"They definitely seem to be beneficial for weight loss over the short term," she confirmed. "But most people can't stick to this way of eating for the long term."

Virginia, who also co-authored "Vegan for Life: Everything You Need to Know to Be Healthy and Fit on a Plant-Based Diet," urges vegans to be conscientious about protein intake. The recommended forms for vegans include "low-carb, protein-rich plant foods are soyfoods like tofu, tempeh, textured vegetable protein, and veggie meats," she added.

Although beans also are rich in protein, Virginia cautions that they come with carbohydrates. However, rather than slash carbs so drastically that beans are not allowed, she "would caution vegans to avoid very low-carb diets if it means giving up beans."

Other options for vegans who want to go low-carb include nuts and seeds. In addition, various types of protein powders are available for plant-based dieters.

Brendan Brazier, a former professional Ironman triathlete, has created a line of whole food nutritional products called Vega. For example, Vega protein bars are made from rice and pea protein. Vega Protein Smoothies are gluten-free, soy-free and dairy-free.

He's the author of "Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life" and "Thrive Foods: 200 Plant-Based Recipes for Peak Health."

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