Whatever your reasons for going vegan, there are a number of ways you can expect to benefit from that decision. "Eliminating animal products will typically make a diet very low in saturated fats, which can be beneficial for heart health," Rebekah Blakely, a registered dietitian nutritionist for The Vitamin Shoppe, told POPSUGAR. "Eating a vegan diet can also be very high in fiber because the main food sources include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains. Fiber can help keep you full, reduce blood sugar, and support heart and gut health."
It's unsurprising then that eating a vegan diet may also help you lose weight, including stubborn belly fat. "Research has shown that meat eaters tend to have a higher BMI," Lindsey Toth, MS, RD, senior dietitian for Swanson Health, told POPSUGAR. "With its focus on nutrient-dense, plant-based whole foods, the vegan lifestyle may be better suited to keeping you trim than traditional modern diets, but you need to keep an eye on your macro and micronutrients to make sure you get everything your body needs to stay healthy." This is one of the biggest caveats of a vegan diet: if you're not careful, you can miss out on key nutrients like iron, vitamin B12, zinc, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids. "For someone who plans their diet properly, they can often still get the recommended amount of these nutrients, with the exception of B12," Rebekah said. Always discuss your diet with your doctor, who can help you identify any gaps and, if necessary, fill them with supplements.
When you're not getting adequate nutrients, you may actually see the number on the scale — and the inches on your waist — creep up instead of down. "Someone following a vegan diet has to be careful to get enough protein and not eat too many processed carbohydrates if they want to lose belly fat," Rebekah explained. Just like there are loads of processed, gluten-free products on the market, there are a number of vegan-friendly yet unhealthy foods as well, and relying on these for a fast bite may cause you to gain weight instead of lose it.
If you aren't ready to go full-fledged vegan, there are a number of steps you can take to change your diet and possibly shed belly fat in the process. "Just cutting out processed foods and eating more vegetables can make a huge difference in your weight management efforts," Lindsey said. "You could also try reducing your consumption of meats or animal products to just a few times a week. Also, try getting more of your protein from plant sources, which is better for both you and the environment."