Diet

This 10 Day Plant-Based Diet Will Help You Burn Belly Fat and Boost Your Energy

You can eat as much as you want and still lose weight.

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A diet rich in animal fat causes muscle and liver cells to become clogged with fat. As a result, blood sugar can’t get into the cells to be burned. This results in weight gain and low energy.

A plant-based diet allows the body to flush built-up fat in muscle and liver cells. Blood sugar can get into the cells and be burned for energy, boosting metabolism and weight loss.

For every woman who wants a smaller waist without having to restrict herself, Neal Barnard, MD, a professor at George Washington University School of Medicine and president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, has the delicious solution: “You won’t have to starve the weight off. You’ll feel satisfied and full, and you’ll enjoy all the new foods you’re trying,” assures Dr. Barnard of his 10-day plant-based plan, which he has tested on thousands of women with impressive results.

“I can’t believe how easy it is,” people tell Dr. Barnard over and over. In a study from Barnard’s lab published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, women who ate unlimited low-fat plant-based food, including pancakes, lasagna, pasta, and even frozen desserts, lost an average of a pound a week — and many lost even faster. In fact, women FIRST spoke with reported losing as many as 12 pounds every five days!

The plan is so powerful because plant foods flush fat out of our cells. When our fat-storage cells are full of fat particles (as they tend to be when we eat a standard American diet), the particles overflow, triggering the creation of new fat-storage cells — but not before some of the fat particles escape into the bloodstream. Scientists long wondered where those particles end up, and Yale researchers, using breakthrough technology called magnetic resonance spectroscopy, discovered that these microscopic fat particles make themselves at home in any other cells that have room — most often muscle and liver cells.

Over time, these wandering fat particles start to fill up our muscle and liver cells, leaving little room for the blood sugar the cells need to produce energy. As a result, all of the body’s processes slow down, including metabolism. “But a low-fat plant-based diet has very little saturated fat, so the body is able to burn those built-up fat particles,” Dr. Barnard explains. “It’s like turning a burner on your stove from medium to high. You convert more food into energy, instead of storing it as fat. You start losing weight.”

Best of all, you’ll slim without struggle — and you’ll see results within 10 days. “People notice that the scale is looking more friendly day by day,” says Dr. Barnard, who notes that most women lose belly fat first. And all of this without deprivation or skimping on your favorite meals. “You won’t be counting calories or limiting portions — you can eat as much as you want.” Take 61-year-old nurse Jayne Strelecki, who says she never feels like she’s missing out on her plant-based diet. “I used to be able to eat an entire pizza and not feel full,” she shares. “Today, I still eat boatloads of food — but I’m not hungry between meals, and I’ve lost 125 pounds.”

Struggle-free slimming is just the beginning. “A plant-based diet is not only the easiest and healthiest way to lose weight and keep it off, but all the ‘side effects’ are good ones,” says Dr. Barnard. “It’s a powerful way to turn conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or type 2 diabetes around. It can also help you reverse heart disease, reduce your cancer risk and cut your risk of Alzheimer’s.”

Indeed, studies show that a plant-based diet can reduce headaches by 33 percent, arthritis pain by 50 percent, and blue moods by 46 percent. Veteran dieter Esther Loveridge, 70, reversed pre-diabetes and avoided a double knee replacement by following a vegan food formula. “I don’t even need glasses anymore,” cheers the great-grandmother, who lost a total of 130 pounds. “I’m on a natural high all the time. This way of eating helps everything!”

Ready to get started on your transformation? Read on for the expert tips that make it easy!

So delicious, so effective.

Filling up on plant-based foods for just 10 days allows the body to purge fat that’s built up inside cells to supercharge slimming. “It’s not only the most delicious ‘prescription’ you can imagine, but it’s also easy to follow,” asserts Barnard. “Unlike other diets, there’s no calorie counting and no skimpy portions.”

Indeed, there are only two real rules for Barnard’s detox plan:

  1. Build your meals from plant-based foods, primarily fruit, veggies, whole grains, beans, peas, and lentils.
  2. Supplement with vitamin B-12, a vital nutrient found primarily in animal products. (Dr. Barnard says any supplement with at least 2.4 mcg. of B-12 will do the trick.)

To get started, simply replace the animal foods in your diet with plant-based options and follow the strategies below to make meals deliciously easy.

When you’re shopping…

If you can’t imagine giving up chicken tenders and meatballs, 2020 is the perfect time to experiment with plant-based foods. Companies like Morning Star Farms, Sweet Earth and Yves use plant-based proteins to create an array of options available in mainstream grocery stores. And they are just as delicious as the real thing — and often healthier. In fact, Beyond Meat’s plant-based ground beef replacement closely resembles beef in taste and texture, and it has more protein.

Plant-based dairy products have also come a long way in recent years. You can now swap out cow’s milk and yogurt with soy-, almond-, cashew-, rice- or oat-based products. Each has a unique flavor and texture, so Dr. Barnard suggests trying a few options before settling on one you like best.

Another smart pick: ready-to-eat soups. Look for brands with a variety of plant-based options, like Amy’s, Imagine Organic, and Tabatchnick. Dr. Barnard’s rule of thumb: Select products with no more than about 3 grams of fat per serving to avoid stalling your slim-down.

Whether you prefer heat-and-eat meals, love to cook from scratch or land somewhere in between, Dr. Barnard suggests keeping a supply of soups and frozen meals on hand for busy days. “You can still rely on convenience foods for quick and easy meal prep,” says Dr. Barnard. “The plant-based versions cook up just as quickly!”

And on days when the drive-thru isn’t avoidable? “Nearly every fast-food chain has plant-based options — including meatless burgers, bean burritos, and baked potatoes,” Dr. Barnard says. His go-to: A veggie sandwich on a toasted bun with red wine vinegar dressing from a sub shop.

In the kitchen…

Dr. Barnard recommends cutting out added fats and oils during the 10-day cleanse (you can reintroduce them once built-up fat has been emptied from your cells). So instead of sautéing onions and garlic in oil, he suggests cooking them in vegetable broth or wine, which deepens their flavor and prevents sticking to the pan. For salad dressing, he suggests purchasing nonfat dressings or making your own by combining flavored vinegars (like balsamic, apple cider or rice wine) with mustard (try Dijon or spicy brown) to create unique flavors.

Don’t love vegetables? Dr. Barnard’s number-one secret weapon for getting even the pickiest eaters to dig into their veggies: Bragg Liquid Aminos ($11.19, Amazon). “Steam your veggies until they’re soft, then top them with a dash of Braggs,” he suggests. The savory sauce, which is made from soybeans and purified water, and usually sold alongside soy sauce, adds a sweetness that softens the bitterness of most vegetables.

A sample day to get you started.

Breakfast: Berry oatmeal

In saucepan, heat 3⁄4 cup non-dairy milk. Add 1⁄4 cup oats, cover and cook 15 min., stirring occasionally. Top with sliced bananas and raspberries.

Lunch: Tomato soup

Boil 3 cups vegetable broth. Add half a diced potato, 1⁄2 cup carrots, 1⁄4 cup peas and 2 diced tomatoes. Simmer 20 min. Top with scallions; serve with bread.

Dinner: Pasta primavera

Toss 3⁄4 cup warmed cooked pasta with 1⁄2 cup lima beans, 1⁄4 cup corn, 1⁄4 cup red peppers and 1⁄4 cup fat-free tomato vinaigrette. Garnish with basil.

Dessert: Chocolate nut clusters

On parchment, make small circles with 6 oz. of melted dairy-free chocolate. Add pecans and chopped macadamia nuts. Refrigerate for 20 min.

Day 11 and beyond…

Once they’ve completed the 10-day cleanse, most women FIRST spoke with said they stick with a largely plant-based plan, adding small portions of plant-based fats (such as avocado oil or olive oil) and eating meat much less frequently. Dr. Barnard assures that your tastes will change, and you’ll naturally crave healthy fare, making it easy to maintain your weight loss.

But… how will I get enough protein without meat?

“There is actually a lot of protein in plants — that’s how cows are able to grow so large,” asserts Dr. Barnard. Indeed, according to USDA nutrient analyses, a plant-based diet can easily provide the government-recommended 46 grams of protein per day. If you’re concerned about getting enough protein, load up on beans (20 grams per 1⁄2 cup), quinoa (14 grams per 1⁄2 cup), lentils (10 grams per 1⁄2 cup), oats (6 grams per cup) and brown rice (5 grams per cup). Also smart: Opt for soy-based milk and yogurt, which provide more protein than other plant-based dairy options.

This story originally appeared in our print magazine.

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