What is a Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet?
Whole Food Plant-Based Diet is a term you’re going to hear a lot from us. It’s the cornerstone of nutritional medicine and the key to any program that professes improved health and longevity. Plant-based diets have grown in popularity over the years and you can now buy many of the foods available from an Organic Food store or even your local supermarket. However, people have a lot of questions about switching to a whole plant-based diet.
1. What does Whole Food Plant-Based Diet mean and what can I eat?
A Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet is a way of eating that consists predominantly of plant foods in their unrefined (or minimally refined) form – plant foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. The diet minimizes animal products like dairy, eggs and even fish as well as processed white flour, sugars, oils, and the big offenders like soda (even diet), processed snacks and fast foods.
It emphasizes eating nutrient-rich foods that supply the body with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant phytonutrients while severely reducing the pro-inflammatory and toxic foods we all-to-often consume.
2. Is a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet the same as being a vegetarian or vegan?
The short answer is no. Although they both minimize animal protein, a vegetarian or vegan diet is not necessarily whole plant-based. For example, in addition to eating fruits and vegetables, a vegetarian diet can include processed foods, chips, white pasta, and even soda.
A Whole Food Plant-Based Diet focuses on consuming a large amount of healing, nutrient-rich phytonutrients and eliminating toxic, inflammatory foods. It can also be more flexible, incorporating small amounts of animal protein especially for those who are transitioning to a more plant-based diet.
3. Is there any place for a small amount of meat or fish in a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet?
Yes. Although science has conclusively shown the inflammatory and negative effects that animal products have on the body, especially on the heart and arteries, there is likely a level of animal consumption minimal enough to not contribute to a sustained chronic disease.
We encourage you to aim for a consumption of less than 10% of your calories in animal protein, processed oils or processed foods. We recommend treating your animal products as a condiment, as you would ketchup or mustard. You wouldn’t eat ketchup at every meal or even every day (maybe the 5-year olds out there would disagree), and when you do, it is a tiny part of your plate. Doing that will fulfill your taste for animal protein so you don’t fall victim to cravings or deprive yourself of the foods you love. We also encourage you to be thoughtful, not only of your own health, but the health of the planet, and limit the consumption of animals as much as possible.
4. How can I get my protein if I’m not eating meat?
The meat, dairy and egg industries have successfully influenced government and health agencies through billion dollar lobbying campaigns to convince us that we need meat, dairy and eggs to have proper nutrition. The fact is that you can get more than enough protein from plant sources, without the damages to your heart, brain or other organs, or even the increased risk of cancer.
Whole grains (especially quinoa and millet), beans of all types, lentils, nuts as well as leafy green vegetables contain large amounts of protein. If you eat a variety of plant foods, you won’t need to worry about an adequate protein intake.
5. If I follow a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet, can I stop taking my prescription medications?
So, what usually happens when people transition to a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet is that blood pressure decreases, blood sugar decreases, joint pain and inflammation improve, and you start to lose weight. Because you are finally treating the actual source of your condition – the chronic inflammation – instead of just managing the symptoms. If you are on medications, it is important to carefully monitor your blood pressure and blood sugar and if they start to get low, consult with your doctor in order to decrease the dosage. Often times, you will no longer require the prescription drugs but we strongly suggest that any adjustment to your medications are only done with the help of your doctor.
6. How can I get variety if I'm only eating plants?
The plant kingdom is extremely diverse, way more so than the animals we traditionally eat. And, the healthiest way to eat is consuming a wide variety of phytonutrients. Eating 8 servings of broccoli each day is not as effective as eating 8 servings of 8 different vegetables, and not just vegetables but also fruits, whole grains and legumes, nuts and seeds. We know it can be challenging, especially transitioning from the typical Western diet. And that is why we have listed a few resources that can help you to go plant-based and maintain variety.
FoodTherapyMD has the resources to help. Here are a few websites and cookbooks that can help you with some delicious recipes and meal plans.
A great site with weekly meal plans for your plant-based eating!
Both online or available as a cookbook!
The China Study Cookbook
by Leanne Campbell
A Plant Based Life
by Micaela Karlsen
Eat To Live Cookbook
by Joel Fuhrman, M.D.
Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook
by Ann Esselstyn
by Joel Fuhrman, M.D.