So, you watched a few documentaries, like Forks Over Knives, Food Choices, or What The Health, and got exposed to the term Whole Foods, Plant Based Diet. Even learned that this diet is far superior than any other diet, reducing disease risk, especially cardiovascular disease and diabetes - the leading lifestyle diseases around the world. You also learned that this diet and lifestyle is not only good for your health, but also is a lifestyle that extends compassion to animals and ultimately benefits the ecosystem. Although, the name is self-explanatory, the questions remain: what is it? is it scientifically proven? how do you implement this diet? what are the benefits? how can you get help on this journey? I'll try to answer these questions!
First things first: a vegan diet is not the same thing as a whole food plant-based diet. People who eat a Vegan Diet do not eat animal-based products, including meat, dairy, eggs, or animal-derived ingredients, like honey, based on ethical grounds. This lifestyle extends beyond excluding food and ingredients made from animal products and is carried over to everyday life. Shoes, clothes, accessories, makeup, shampoo—anything made with materials that come from animals, like leather, silk, wool, gelatin, beeswax, lanolin, etc., is off the table. Just like the vegan diet, people who eat a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet avoid animal-based products, including meat, dairy, and eggs. Unlike the vegan diet, processed foods, including oil, white flour, and refined sugar is not part of the diet. This way of eating is based around unprocessed or minimally processed veggies, fruit, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and the emphasis is on health and overall wellbeing.
The term Whole Foods, Plant-Based Diet was introduced by T. Colin Campbell PhD, an American biochemist and Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Studies at Cornell University. Trough his groundbreaking research work, Dr Campbell was between the firsts to prove the link between diet and disease, especially cancer. He is featured in the aforementioned documentaries and is the author of the book The China Study, detailing the research results of the China Project, the most comprehensive study of nutrition and health ever conducted.
A whole-food, plant-based diet is centered on whole, unrefined, or minimally refined plants. It’s a diet based on fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, and legumes; and it excludes or minimizes meat (including chicken and fish), dairy products, and eggs, as well as highly refined foods like bleached flour, refined sugar, and oil. This is the diet that people have thrived on for thousands of years. The diet and foods are very tasty and satisfying. Following are the food categories that are included:
Fruit: mangoes, bananas, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, oranges, cherries, etc.
Vegetables: lettuce, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, carrots, etc.
Tubers and starchy vegetables: potatoes, yams, yucca, winter squash, corn, green peas, etc.
Whole grains: millet, quinoa, barley, rice, whole wheat, oats, etc.
Legumes: kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, lima beans, cannellini beans, black beans, etc.
Our society has an obsession with protein. Animal derived protein (and the cholesterol that inadvertently comes with it) has been linked with causation of disease, especially cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. Plant derived protein did not exert the same result in the studies conducted. Dr Campbell has proven scientifically that animal protein can turn on the genes responsible for initiation of disease, and has recommended that our diets contain no more than 10% protein, which should be plant based.
When one adopts a Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet the changes are often nothing short of spectacular. Within days of giving up all animal products, blood glucose levels and diabetic neuropathy is diminishing (Neal Barnard, MD). Cholesterol levels plummet and quite often it has been found that cardiovascular disease is reversed (Cadwell B Esselstyn, MD). Arthritis, gout, chronic inflammation, migraine headaches, anxiety, insomnia, all improve and eventually disappear (Michael Greger, MD). The most spectacular of all is weight loss and surging energy levels (The Pritikin Diet).
You will find that preparing your own meals is the only way you can control what goes on your plate. It is a far more economical way than eating out, or have someone else prepare your food. There are so many wonderful cookbooks on the market that are loaded with delicious and simple recipes. You can become adventurous and make your own recipes from dishes you grew up with or are familiar with. It is really a very versatile way of eating!
I have worked for the past 20 years helping individuals improve their lives and maintain their health with nutrition, exercise, and positive outlook. I strongly believe that food plays the biggest role in our life with regard to maintaining health and heal our bodies. The foods we choose to consume can be the purest form of medicine, or the slowest form of poison! I am a Certified Plant-Based Nutritionist and I advocate for it every chance I have!