Move over, Cavemen: People following a vegetarian or vegan diet are more likely to lose weight than their meat-eater counterparts

By Paige Fowler
Corbis Images

Paleo may be the diet du jour for trimming excess fat, but you may actually be better off nixing meat if you're looking to lose weight: People who eat a vegetarian or vegan diet lose more weight than those who eat meat, according to a study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Researchers reviewed 12 studies with more than 1,150 people who followed different weight loss plans for about 18 weeks. What they found: Those who followed a plant-based diet shed roughly four pounds more on average than those whose meals allowed meat.

Vegetarian diets are rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which are high in fiber and take longer to digest, which may keep you feeling fuller longer, says study author Ru-Yi Huang, M.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health. Plus, people who eat meat-heavy diets tend to experience more gas and bloating and that discomfort could derail their success, Huang explains. (Not ready to fully commit yet? Try these 5 Ways to Become a Part-Time Vegetarian.)

Researchers also found that people who gave up meat to lose weight were more likely to still be following their healthy eating plan one year later than those who consumed animal products.

Going vegetarian also means you don't have to count every calorie, as meat-free dieters who did count lost a similar amount of weight of those who skipped the math. The reason: Pound for pound, veggies contain significantly fewer calories-a pound of boneless beef, for instance, packs nearly five times as many calories as one pound of raw carrots. (Although anyone going plant-based needs to track their nutrients. See the most common vegetarian diet deficiencies and how to keep them at bay.)

Food for thought, indeed!