Wish you could slim down and get radiantly healthy without dieting? “It’s not only possible, there’s overwhelming evidence that it’s your best option,” insists internationally recognized nutrition expert Michael Greger, M.D., author of the mega-seller How Not to Diet.
Dr. Greger’s book distills a staggering 4,990 studies into eating guidelines so powerful, folks say they can enjoy unlimited portions and still shed 5, 10, even 24 pounds. The simple secret: building meals and snacks using whole plant foods. “Lately, a lot of us have stocked up on things like canned beans, nuts, and frozen fruit, so we’re already on our way. These foods prevent, treat and even reverse conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. On top of that, they set us up for remarkable fat loss!”
You may wonder if a plant-based diet really beats the popular keto diet in lab tests. Few head-to-head comparisons exist, but Dr. Greger points to an NIH study during which volunteers were alternately given four weeks of plant-based meals (high in carbs, low in fat) and four weeks of animal-based keto meals (low in carbs, high in fat). A special testing chamber showed that eating keto “caused rates of body-fat loss to slow by more than half,” says Dr. Greger.
Follow-up studies confirmed the findings. “A whole-foods plant-based diet burns more fat. On top of that, it’s the only way of eating ever proven to reverse heart disease. It’s the diet that science says is your best bet to get lean and live a long, happy life.”
How to Whole Food Diet Works
No matter how you choose to eat unprocessed plant foods, they’ll help shrink your waist. One big reason: “Most plant foods are so low in calories for their volume that you couldn’t physically eat enough to maintain your weight,” says Dr. Greger. “To match the calories in a cup of strawberry ice cream, for example, you’d have to eat 11 cups of strawberries. Whole plants naturally keep you from going overboard.”
But it’s not just about calories. “Research tells us that many plants contain compounds that can double as appetite suppressants, metabolism boosters, fat burners, and starch blockers,” Dr. Greger adds. Beans are a big one since they’re the richest natural source of resistant starch, a fiber-like compound proven by a University of Colorado team to speed fat burning for hours upon hours.
Meanwhile, a 15-cent daily dose of flaxseed has been shown to triple weight loss; in one study, a group of women following the same diet lost 21 pounds in 12 weeks if they added flax, and just seven pounds if they didn’t. “This is on par with many diet drugs, but with no risk of side effects,” Dr. Greger notes.
He’s also a huge fan of ordinary herbs and spices. “In many spice studies, no one knows if they’re eating the spice or not, which makes the findings especially strong,” he says. “For example, 110 overweight men and women were either given capsules filled with about 1⁄4 tsp. of garlic powder, or a placebo capsule that smelled like garlic. Those who got the real powder lost 6 pounds. It’s a phenomenal effect, given that it’s effortless and only costs 2 cents a day!”
To make it easy to emphasize foods most strongly linked to weight loss, Dr. Greger created a simple list, which he’s sharing, below. Not sure you can eat plant-based full-time? No problem. “Do it 80 percent of the time, and you’re still going to improve your weight and health,” Dr. Greger promises. Just dig in, and let the transformation begin!
The Whole Food Eating Plan
Each day, aim for: 3 servings of beans; 2 cups of fruit (berries daily); 5 servings of veggies (cruciferous and greens daily); 1 Tbs. of ground flax; 1⁄4 cup of nuts/ seeds; 3 servings of whole grains (limit flour); 1⁄4 tsp. of herbs/spices; and 5+ cups of water, coffee or tea. The free app “Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen” makes tracking easy. Freely add whole plant foods; limit or avoid processed plant options like sweeteners (except date sugar), oil and juice. Always get a doctor’s okay to try a new plan.
Breakfast — Mix 1 cup unsweetened nut milk, 1⁄2 cup berries, 1⁄2 cup oats, 1 Tbs. ground flax, 1 Tbs. date sugar, 1 tsp. chia and dash cinnamon; chill overnight and enjoy.
Lunch — Layer hummus and veggies on flourless bread (like Ezekiel brand); enjoy with a side of fruit and a salad with greens, broccoli, and oil-free dressing.
Snack — Enjoy a serving of beans (such as edamame or homemade bean soup) along with a serving of fruit (such as sliced tomato, fresh melon or grapes).
Dinner — Simmer a 15 oz. can beans, 15 oz. stewed tomatoes, 6 oz. frozen corn, 6 oz. tomato paste and 1 Tbs. chili powder for 7 minutes. 4 servings
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.