What is a Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet?

A whole food, plant-based diet (WFPB diet) focuses on unprocessed or minimally processed plant foods in their whole, natural form. This includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts/seeds, and excludes all animal products, oils, refined sugars, and highly processed foods such as bleached flours and white bread.

One guideline of this diet is to avoid processed oils, which extract only the fats from the whole package of the original food source, leaving behind the majority of the fiber, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals, and resulting in a very concentrated, calorie-dense food with few nutrients. In fact, oil is the number one most calorie-dense food, and is not very satiating in relation to the amount of energy it contains. Instead of oil, it is recommended to consume whole sources of fat such as nuts, seeds, avocados, and olives.

Benefits of this diet include reduced risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and various cancers, and weight management. Firstly, whole plant foods are rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients that fight free radicals, which are unstable molecules that damage cells and lead to disease and illness. They also feed good gut bacteria in your microbiome, which significantly improves immune health. A WFPB diet also eliminates the harmful compounds such as saturated and trans fats in animal products and processed foods that can contribute to chronic disease. Secondly, a WFPB diet can aid in weight loss or weight management because plant foods are generally low in calories but high in nutrients. This means that you can consume high volumes of food for relatively low calories and feel full and satisfied from the volume and fiber content.

What Can You Eat on a WFPB Diet?

As mentioned above, all fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts/seeds in their whole form are welcome on this diet. I have also included a list of some meal ideas below:

oatmeal: You can sweeten oatmeal with mashed banana, chopped dates, or date paste/date syrup flavored with cinnamon and vanilla extract with optional ground flaxseeds or other nuts/seeds. You can also add in additional fresh or frozen fruit, cacao powder, matcha powder, etc.

chili: You can make chili with oil free sautéed onion, beans or lentils, and optionally other vegetables such as bell peppers. If watching sodium intake, adding a healthy dose of spices will add flavor without the need for salt.

vegetable soup: You can add both nonstarchy vegetables and starchy vegetables such as potatoes or sweet potatoes. You may also add in a whole grain such as barley or whole grain pasta and beans for a heartier soup.

Potatoes/sweet potatoes: My favorite method of cooking white potatoes is air fried in cubes or fry shapes or boiled whole, and my favorite method for sweet potatoes is roasted whole. I recommend you branch out from orange sweet potatoes and try other varieties such as japanese (my favorite), hawaiian, hannah yam, and stokes purple.

pasta: Choose a whole grain or bean pasta with oil free tomato sauce and vegetables cooked without oil. Some stores such as Whole Foods carry oil free tomato sauce, but if you can’t find one, it is very easy to make your own.

Stir Fry: Sautée vegetables in a nonstick pan or add a bit of water or vegetable broth to make the dish oil free, and add a protein such as tofu or tempeh. Bragg’s liquid aminos or coconut aminos are great lower-sodium soy sauce alternatives for flavoring, and you may also serve the dish with brown rice.

Buddha bowl:Buddha bowls are simply plant-focused meals with small portions of several different foods combined into one bowl. You can include a whole grain such as brown rice or quinoa, vegetables, a protein such as beans or tofu, a sauce, and additions such as sauerkraut and nuts/seeds. One variation of this would be a burrito bowl with spanish rice made from brown rice, romaine lettuce, beans, salsa/pico de gallo, oil-free fajita veggies, guacamole, and corn.

Additional Information and Recipes:

Forks Over Knives (information and recipes)

T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies (information and recipes)

NutritionFacts.org (information)

How Not to Die (book)

The China Study (book)

The Starch Solution (book)

Monkey and Me Kitchen Adventures (recipes)

Chef AJ (recipes and Q &As)

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