Your Guide to the Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet

Your Guide to the Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet

The whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet is quickly gaining popularity. This healthy eating style is less of a diet and more of a lifestyle. Learn all about the whole food, plant-based diet and find out what it can do for you.

What Is The Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet?

There isn’t a strict definition of the WFPB. Unlike many other diets, this one offers you some flexibility. How you handle the diet depends on your own preferences.

Of course, there are a few basics that you need to know about the WFPB diet. Here’s an overview of some of the basics:

  • Most of your foods are made with minimal processing
  • You avoid or limit animal products
  • You eat mostly plants, vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, and whole grains
  • To the best of your ability, foods with extra sugar, processed oils, and white flour are not in your diet
  • You emphasize the importance of food quality and opt for locally sourced and organic food choices

If you think that the WFPD diet sounds like being vegan or vegetarian, you’re right. However, there are differences between the diets.

When people follow a vegan diet, they don’t eat any animal products. This includes dairy, poultry, meat, eggs, honey, or anything that comes from animals.

The whole food, plant-based diet is more flexible. Although you shouldn’t eat too many animal products, you can eat some. Some people choose to forego all animal products, while others just limit them.

If you choose to eat animal products, choose your products carefully. Look for pasture-raised eggs and free-range chicken. Beef and pork products should be grass or pasture-fed. When you buy seafood, purchase wild-caught fish from sustainable fisheries.

There are many other foods that you can eat on the WFPB diet. Check out this shopping list of foods you might buy if you’re switching to the diet:

  • Berries
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Potatoes
  • Brown rice
  • Rolled oats
  • Chickpeas
  • Seeds
  • Cashew butter
  • Natural peanut butter
  • Coconut milk
  • Soy sauce
  • Tofu
  • Coffee

As you shop, look for high quality ingredients with minimal processing or additives. If possible, buy from local farms and farmers markets.

Myth-Busting about the Diet

Before you decide whether or not you should try the diet, you should learn fact from fiction. Here are some of the most common myths regarding the WFPB diet:

1. The Diet Has No Scientific Basis

Some people believe that there are no scientific studies that document the benefits of the WFPB diet. However, this is not the case. Plenty of research shows that a plant-based, whole food diet can help support metabolic health, heart health, healthy weight, and more.1

2. The Diet Does Not Provide Enough Protein

Contrary to popular belief, meat and poultry aren’t the only sources of protein. You can get plenty of protein from other sources, like beans, nuts and tofu. A plant-based protein powder can also help increase your protein intake.

3. The Diet Is Too High In Carbs

Due to the popularity of low-carb diets, some people believe that the WFPB diet is too high in carbs. But the idea that carbs are universally unhealthy is simply not true. Carbs are the primary energy source for your body and brain. What matters is the kind of carbs you are eating.

Simple, processed carbs, like white flour, have little nutritional value and are metabolized very quickly, often leading to blood sugar spikes and crashes. But complex carbs, like the ones found in whole grains, fruits and veggies, are metabolized more slowly and are rich in nutrients and fiber. Those are the kind you'll be eating on the WFPB diet.

Benefits Of The Diet

There are many benefits to the WFDP diet. It takes some adjusting, but the benefits make the lifestyle change worthwhile. Here’s a closer look some of the major benefits of the diet:

1. Supports Heart Health

Eating plant-based whole foods is good for your heart. When you eat vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and nuts, you lower your risk of heart disease2.

That said, you need to eat the right foods to maintain a healthy heart. If your WFPB diet includes a lot of fruit juices and refined grains, you’re not doing your heart any favors.

2. Supports Gut Health

When you stick to your whole food, plant-based diet you can lower your risk of gastrointestinal and colorectal cancer. In one study, researchers found that vegetarians had a 22% lower risk of developing colorectal cancer than non-vegetarians3.

3. Supports Brain Health

Plants are full of antioxidants, which help protect the brain from the damaging effects of cumulative oxidative stress. Studies show that plant-based diets can help slow or reduce the onset of cognitive decline.

4. Supports Blood Sugar Management

A plant-based diet supports metabolic health and blood sugar regulation. Studies show that those who eat a plant-based diet have a significantly reduced risk of developing diabetes.4

5. Supports Healthy Weight Weight

The WFPB diet can help you shed unwanted pounds. Because it’s high in fiber, which supports gut health, and excludes foods that are processed, which supports healthy blood sugar levels, the WFPB diet is one of the most simple and effective diets for healthy weight loss.5

6. Supports the Environment

Even your diet affects the environment. When you eat animal-based foods, you contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption that comes with farming practices. By cutting out animal products, you can limit your impact on the environment. If multiple people take on a WFPB diet, the impact on the environment can be great.

If you want to start experiencing the benefits of the whole food, plant-based diet give it a try and find out for yourself what it can do for you.

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1., Tuso, Philip J et al. “Nutritional update for physicians: plant-based diets.” The Permanente journal vol. 17,2 (2013): 61-6. doi:10.7812/TPP/12-085

2., Healthful and Unhealthful Plant-Based Diets and the Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in U.S. Adults, 2017 Jul 25;70(4):411-422. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2017.05.047

3., Vegetarian dietary patterns and the risk of colorectal cancers, 2015 May;175(5):767-76. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.59

4., Plant-Based Dietary Patterns and Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes in US Men and Women: Results from Three Prospective Cohort Studies, 2016 Jun 14;13(6):e1002039. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002039. eCollection 2016 Jun

5., Greger, Michael. “A Whole Food Plant-Based Diet Is Effective for Weight Loss: The Evidence.” American journal of lifestyle medicine vol. 14,5 500-510. 3 Apr. 2020, doi:10.1177/1559827620912400