What Is a Whole Food Plant Based Diet (Wfpb)?
The term “Whole Food Plant Based” describes a diet that focuses on eating whole food plant based foods which are nutrient rich to achieve optimal health.
If you want to improve your health and the planet and enjoy a long life, then the Whole Food Plant Based (WFPB) diet is for you.
Yet another diet, you may think. Actually the diet is not a diet as such; it is a way of life.
What is the Whole Foods Plant Based Diet Anyway?
Did you know that the Whole Food Plant Based is actually quite old since the term was actually coined by Dr. T. Colin Campbell around 1982? Many experts like Dr. Michael Greger, Dr. Neil Barnard, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. John H. McDougall, and others are proponents of their own versions of largely Whole Food Plant Based diets. It has become increasingly popular with people who want to avoid processed food, meat, dairy or those who are concerned about sustainable and healthy living.
If you are familiar with the WFPB, you may still be confused as different experts in the field have their own take on this diet. And if you are unfamiliar with this diet then you can surely use some more information.
WFPB is a diet based on whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits with small amounts of nuts and seeds. It is not a calories restricted diet and does not require you to count your calories. You can enjoy as much low calorie, nutrient rich foods as you like-as long as you eat the right WFPB foods.
It is very different from a conventional western diet that lays great emphasis on meat and dairy as sources of protein, since it eliminates these two foods completely,
And it is much more flexible than an entirely vegetarian or vegan diet that many people find difficult to follow because they can be quite restrictive. In fact, many advocates of this diet embrace this diet because it is plant based, provides good nutritional values and is ecologically friendly as well.
What are the Health Benefits of the Whole Food Plant Based Diet?
You may well wonder how the WFPB diet benefits you. Just read about its many positives and you will be tempted to follow it.
Globally around 40% people are overweight, and obesity is a factor in many diseases including:
- Cardiovascular disorders
- Heart attack, stroke
- Joint problems,
While fat shaming may have become unpopular, the fact is that obesity by itself kills and if you want to be healthy and you are overweight, you need to lose weight. The WFPB diet will help you with both. On this diet you can lose weight and keep it off as well.
Poor gut health is a factor in many health problems including digestive disorders that are painful and debilitating, leading to nutritional deficiencies and more. You can improve your gut microbial composition when you eat more healthy plant foods as this study suggests. Better gut health also boosts natural immunity.
Cognitive decline is often associated with age. A diet rich in plant foods that have antioxidants and phytonutrients can help slow age-related brain problems like Alzheimer’s or dementia or even minor cognitive impairment. You don’t believe this?
This study shows that there is a 20% decline in cognitive problems when you simply include more fruits and vegetables in your diet. Isn’t it better than the prospect of facing cognitive problems in later life?
Diabetes or Metabolic Disorders
Diabetes and other metabolic disorders can severely restrict your lifestyle and lead to many other diseases, particularly if the sugar-insulin ratio is not well controlled. Fortunately, when you eat more whole plant foods with low glycemic index you fare better in managing your sugar levels and your satiety levels also increase, leading to lower sugar spikes and crashes.
The word is associated with dread and fear. Many people feel that a cancer diagnosis is akin to a death knell. Did you know that eating a whole foods plant based diet will significantly reduce your risk of developing certain cancers like gastrointestinal and colorectal cancers?
These are only a few of the major health benefits of eating a whole foods plant based diet.
Vegan vs Vegetarian vs WFPB
When we talk of WFPB, you may well think that it is a vegetarian or even a vegan diet. However, there are differences among these varied diets.
Vegans eat only plant based foods. They will not have any meat, dairy or even anything remotely connected with animals or birds or fish. Vegans will not have honey or any dairy products like cheese, yoghurt, butter, ghee and anything sourced from animals in anyway. Some vegans will not even use leather products.
Vegetarians are more flexible. However, there are many different kinds of vegetarians and this usually depends on personal choice. So there are:
- Strict vegetarians who will not touch any meat products including foods using gelatin like jellies and mousses.
- Ovo-vegetarians will eat eggs along with their plant foods.
- Lacto-vegetarians will include dairy and milk products.
- Lacto-ovo vegetarians will have both milk and eggs.
- Pescetarians are vegetarians who will also include fish in their diet.
Since vegetarians are by and large more flexible, some of them may eat honey and some may not.
Vegetarians and vegans will still eat processed foods.
As for WFPB diet followers, the emphasis here is on whole plant based foods comprising the major part of the diet. Meat, fish, eggs, honey and meat-sourced products are also excluded. The diet consists only of whole foods sourced from plants.
Whole Foods vs Processed Foods
Why should you eat whole foods? The fact is that whole foods (or even foods that are minimally processed) are more nutrient dense. You will get much, if not all, your vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and other nutrients from food instead of popping them in the form of supplements.
Foods that are highly processed contain a fair amount of additives, preservatives, emulsifiers, thickeners, improvers, flavor enhancers and chemicals. Often, they are not even ‘real’ foods or contain a minuscule amount of ‘real’ ingredients.
More often than not they are high in calories and any health benefits from these are only from added vitamins and minerals. Highly processed foods lead to weight gain and eating these foods constantly will impact your health negatively.
What Can You Eat on the WFPB Diet?
Let’s get down to basics: what can you eat on the WFPB diet anyway? Whole, Unrefined plant foods!
Foods you should have on the Whole Foods Plant Based Diet include:
- Fruits – all fruits including citrus fruits like orange, tangerine; dense fruits like banana, apple, peach, pear; all kinds of berries; fruits with a lot of water content like water melon and other melons. These are best eaten in their natural state on their own or in salads or even cooked.
- Vegetables – all vegetables including leafy greens, tubers, peas, beans, peppers, corn and gourds to mention a few. These can be had raw (when possible) or cooked.
- Legumes – all dried pulses, lentils and beans that need cooking. Many of the whole ones can also be sprouted, adding to their nutritive value.
- Cereals and grains – some of these can be had whole and others need to be ground. Whole-wheat, brown rice, millets, quinoa, farro, oats, barley, corn and other grains provide carbohydrates, protein and fiber apart from vitamins and minerals.
- Nuts and seeds – these provide many nutrients, including antioxidants and protein. However, their consumption should be restricted as they are usually high in calories.
- Herbs, spices and condiments – these are natural food flavorings and also have many nutrients.
As you can see that gives you a huge variety of foods to choose from on the WFPB.
What Foods Should You Avoid on the WFPB?
Whole foods give you more nutrition and fewer calories than processed foods. Foods you should not have when you follow the Whole Foods Plant Based Diet include:
- Milk and dairy products including cream, ice-cream, yoghurt, butter, and desserts that are milk or cream based.
- Refined grains, polished rice, dry and ready to cook pasta, white bread in its many variations.
- Processed cheese, cheese slices, cheese spread in tubs, cubes or tubes.
- Cakes and cookies that used processed and bleached flours, sugar, eggs and fat.
- Candies and sweets because they are forms of processed sugar.
- Processed cereal including breakfast cereals of different kinds.
- Fast foods and junk foods like burgers, pizza, hot dogs, fries and others.
- Deli meats, processed meats, potted meats, bacon, sausage, frozen ready to fry or cook meats, including fish fingers, chicken nuggets and pates and pastes that contain a whole lot of additives.
- Canned or bottled fruit juices and juice-based beverages, fruit canned in sugar syrup, canned vegetables and soups (unless they are all natural), potato chips and other packed munchies, salted, fried and flavored nuts.
- Beverages like soda, juices and ready to drink liquids, sports drinks, energy drinks that have a host of additives and provide no specific nutritional benefit.
- Bottled sauces and packed mixes that contain many added ingredients and provide little nutrition.
- Any processed foods and substitutes like sugar substitutes, mock meat or vegan friendly foods that may be packaged or frozen.
Basically most items that are packed in cartons, bottles, tubs, tubes and cans are usually highly processed and should be avoided as far as possible. All these have a long shelf life because of the many unwanted ingredients that they contain.
Dr. Michael Greger’s Daily Dozen
Dr. Michael Greger, a medical doctor, best-selling author, internationally acclaimed speaker and advocate of plant-based nutrition created a daily dozen checklist to help more people to fit the healthiest WFPB foods into their daily routine.
THE DAILY DOZEN CHECKLIST
- Beans or legumes: 3 servings
- Berries: 1 serving
- Other fruits: 3 servings
- Cruciferous vegetables: 1 serving
- Green vegetables: 2 servings
- Other vegetables: 2 servings
- Ground or whole flax seeds: 1 serving
- Nuts and seeds: 1 serving
- Herbs and spices: 1 serving
- Whole grains and cereals: 3 servings
- Beverages: 5 servings
- Exercise: 1 serving or 90 minutes a day
Dr Greger makes his Daily dozen free app available for iPhone and Android. This app will help you to track how your daily diet. Many people have made it into a game. To ensure you get all your recommended daily servings, you need to tick off all 24 boxes.
You can watch his explanatory video here:
The Whole Foods Plant Based diet is healthy and comes with a host of benefits. You will lose weight, have more energy, better gut health and also reduce your risk of getting some cancers, heart disease, cognitive decline and metabolic disorders.
It is more environmentally friendly and sustainable, so good for the planet as well. It consists of real food instead of packaged and processed foods that harm your health and your environment, only profiting big business.