Whole Food, Plant-Based is a type of diet and lifestyle that focuses on eating whole, plant derived foods while reducing animal foods, heavily processed and artificial foods. It also does not require calorie counting. To fully understand the diet, it’s important to break down a few definitions.
Defining Whole and Plant-Based
So what does whole food mean? Whole food means unrefined, minimally processed, and in a more natural state.
Foods that fall under this definition includes fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, herbs, spices, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and beans. They do not have added sugars, added fats, added salt, preservatives, or other added ingredients. There’s also nothing that has been taken away from these foods – they are whole. So what does plant-based mean? Plant-based essentially means deriving from a plant which has been grown in soil; something that comes from the ground and not from an animal.
Now on the other hand, foods that are not whole are those that are refined, processed, and have added unhealthy or artificial ingredients. Which is what you avoid and limit on a Whole Food, Plant-Based diet and lifestyle. Examples of these types of foods include fast food, frozen dinners, white flour, white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, oils, and many more.
Understanding Refined, Processed, and Artificial Ingredients
Refined foods undergo processing making them have less nutritional value and more highly concentrated. The body processes refined foods quickly causing a spike in blood sugar as well as a lack of feeling full. Examples include refined sugar such as white sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar. There are also refined grains which include white flour and white rice. There are three parts of a grain – the bran, germ, and endosperm. When something has all three in tact then it is a whole grain. White rice and flour have had their bran and germ removed which means a loss in it’s protein and nutrients.
Now processed foods are those that have experienced some sort of alteration. There are varying degrees of processing. Minimally processed means there has not been a substantial change to the nutritional content. It may include things like “cleaning, grinding, refrigeration, pasteurization, freezing, and vacuum-packaging“. Highly processed means the food undergoes many processing steps with many things added such as fat, salt, sugar, preservatives, artificial color and flavor. Highly processed foods are typically ready to eat, lower in nutrients, and hardly resemble their natural form.
Artificial ingredients include things like stabilizers, coloring, flavoring, preservatives, emulsifiers, and thickeners. These ingredients are man-made and pose health risks.
Not the Same as Vegan or Vegetarian
A WFPB lifestyle is not the same as a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle or diet. Those diets orient around what they eliminate rather than what they focus on. For example, vegetarians avoid meat only but sometimes do eat other animal products such as eggs or dairy. While vegans do not believe in eating any type of animal product. This includes meat, fish, dairy, eggs, or insect derived foods such as honey. The important thing to understand that these lifestyles don’t necessarily focus on eating healthy foods. They simply focus on not eating certain foods. Many vegans may still consume unhealthy foods such as highly processed foods or packaged foods.
The Benefits of a Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet
A Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet has many benefits that have been backed by medical research.
- Reduced risk for cardiovascular disease
- Promotes weight loss and improved weight management
- Improves blood pressure
- Lowers cholesterol
- Improves cardiovascular health
- Reduces risk for type 2 diabetes
- Reduces inflammation
- Improve BMI
- Reverse type 2 diabetes
- Reverse heart failure
What I Teach and Promote in My Practice
I believe in following a 80%+ Whole Food, Plant-Based diet as it is more realistic and sustainable long term. This means I still eat and teach that is okay to eat small amounts of meat, egg, and dairy. I also believe in indulging in less healthy foods such as those that are highly processed but only on special occasions and rare basis. It is still entirely possibly to reap the benefits of a plant-based diet without having to follow it 100% perfectly. We are imperfect humans and trying to achieve perfection in a diet is not the answer to long term health and wellness. I have another blog post coming out soon about my philosophy and how I structure my Whole Food, Plant-Based plans and programs – stay tuned! Feel free to contact me for more information or if you want to work with me!
Try these whole food, plant-based recipes to get you started or visit my recipe index: