There are a variety of health benefits to be gained from adding plant proteins to the diet. Plant proteins are generally lower in calories and fat than traditional meat sources. A diet high in meat, particularly red meat with its high saturated fat content, may increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer. But, what about plant proteins for weight loss? A new study now suggests that a diet rich in plant based proteins may be an effective way to take off those excess pounds while lowering cholesterol levels at the same time.
This study which was published in Archives of Internal Medicine this month showed that participants who went on an “Eco-Atkins” diet for four weeks experienced significant weight loss. An Eco-Atkins diet is one that is low in carbohydrates and rich in plant based protein sources such as tofu, tempeh, beans, nuts, and gluten based “wheat meats”. When compared to a group placed on a high carbohydrate, vegetarian diet consisting of whole grain foods, low-fat dairy, and eggs, the weight loss amounts were similar; but the group on the Eco-Atkins diet had greater reductions in total cholesterol. The Eco-Atkins participants also experienced greater elevations in HDL levels, the good cholesterol as well as a reduction in blood pressure.
Although larger studies are needed to confirm these findings, this study suggests that plant proteins for weight loss may have additional benefits that extend beyond simple weight control. A diet high in plant protein and low in total carbohydrates could have beneficial effects on the overall risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.
The standard Atkins diet has been criticized for its strong focus on meat protein and fat. Although effective, experts are concerned about the long-term effects of a diet high in animal derived protein and fat. Use of plant proteins for weight loss could be an effective and safe way to control weight.
Another study that looked at plant proteins for weight loss using the Eco-Atkins diet showed that this diet also increased insulin sensitivity, lowering the risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes. The Eco-Atkins diet still offers many of the advantages of the traditional Atkins diet such as reduced hunger and cravings. It appears that plant proteins also help to increase satiety. The Eco-Atkins diet also emphasizes healthy fats such as canola and olive oil for cooking which have additional heart healthy benefits.
Could plant proteins for weight loss in the form of an Eco-Atkins diet be the answer to healthy weight loss? Although more studies are needed, it looks promising.