Why A Whole Foods, Plant-Based Diet?
It's actually quite simple. Research has shown that a whole foods, plant-based diet can help lower your risk of developing diseases that make up the leading causes of death in this country, including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and certain types of cancer. Studies strongly suggest that a whole foods, plant-based diet can help reduce inflammation in the body, help control weight gain and even prevent or reverse chronic disease.
What Will I Eat on a Whole Foods, Plant-Based Diet?
A whole foods, plant-based diet is more a pattern of eating than a specific diet regimen. It's fairly flexible and can be tailored to meet your individual needs.
It does not focus on restrictions but rather on an abundance of fresh, natural and wholesome ingredients.
Whole foods, plant-based meals are made of foods (mainly from plants) found in their natural state that have not been heavily processed and limits or avoids animal products such as diary and meat. The diet is abundant in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes.
It's A Lifestyle Choice
The benefits go beyond human health and nutrition. Our planet can no longer handle the environmental impacts of a meat heavy diet. The shift towards a more sustainable way of eating, through a whole foods, plant-based diet, can help reduce our carbon footprint and potentially help save our planet. It's an eating plan that happens to be an investment in our future.
"A diet rich in plant-based foods and with fewer animal source foods confers both imported health and environmental benefits." Dr. Walter Willet, EAT Lancet 2019
For me, the choice to consume a plant-based diet is also largely related to my advocacy for animals. I could no longer turn a blind eye to the fact that millions of these innocent, sentient beings are living short miserable lives only to be brutally slaughtered each and every day.
Making the decision to chose plants over animals is one that involves a conscious, honest look at where our food comes from and how it gets to our plate.
Do I Need To Commit To Being Vegetarian or Vegan?
The short answer is no.
I encourage any shift towards eating more whole foods and plants. Besides, each of us have individual circumstances and personalities that will influence the type of approach we take towards a plant-based lifestyle. Some make the switch immediately, while others will need to take small steps over time. There is no right or wrong way to go about it. You have to find what works for you and your family.
There are many different types of plant-based diets including Mediterranean, flexitarian, lacto-ovo vegetarian, pescatarian, and vegan, for example. But the premise is the same, the predominance of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes over meat and processed foods.
While these plant-based diets offer health benefits, additional studies have suggested that the more meat (especially processed meat) consumed the higher your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and that the less meat consumed the lower your risk is of heart disease, high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome.
What About Dairy?
Many people were taught to believe that dairy products were the cornerstone of a healthy diet. The fear was that without it, we wouldn't get enough calcium to keep bones healthy and strong. However, recent studies suggest that consuming dairy products is not only unnecessary, but could potentially do more harm than good.
A recent paper published by two Harvard researchers reviewed over 100 studies on milk and concluded that diary consumption is not essential for human health, does not prevent fractures, is associated with higher risk of certain cancers and is a major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, water pollution and antibiotic resistance.
A healthy plant-based diet that includes foods like soy products, fortified juices, plant milks, green leafy vegetables, legumes and seeds for example, can provide the body with adequate amounts of calcium and other important minerals necessary for proper bone health. * It's important to weigh the risks versus benefits of dairy intake with regard to each individual's health care needs.
Will I Be Hungry?
You may think that by eating less meat you'll be hungry all the time. But it's actually the opposite. Often, our bodies will seek out more food when it's not getting enough of what it really needs. A healthy plant-based diet is full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein and almost all the nutrients the body needs to thrive! Plant-based foods are vibrant, fresh, wholesome and full of amazing flavor so they can be extremely satisfying without being caloric! This is a huge advantage to those trying to maintain or lose weight.
Will I Get Enough Protein?
Many Americans consume much more protein than is actually required. Protein needs will vary depending on the individual, their age, health status, body type and physical activity.
When people think of protein, they automatically think animal-based sources, like red meat, poultry and eggs. However, it is absolutely possible to get enough protein with a plant-based diet. Research shows that consuming a variety of plant foods throughout the day, can supply the body with all of the essential amino acids necessary for adequate protein synthesis.* In fact, plant proteins have a significant advantage over animal protein in that they contain less saturated fat, more fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals (powerful plant chemicals that may help prevent cancer and other diseases).
Enjoy The Journey
The more you explore, research and learn about a whole foods, plant-based lifestyle, the more you will enjoy all the benefits it has to offer! At first it can seem daunting to learn to cook without meat. But, my husband and I have had so much fun experimenting and creating amazing recipes that we enjoy so much more than any meat-based meal! We enjoy waking up early on weekends to explore farmers markets in the summer and can't wait to make reservations at the newest vegetarian or vegan restaurant. We've become more active in nature as we explore hiking and bike trails and we look forward to planting a new garden every year. Our kids have grown to appreciate and respect the value of healthy food in their lives and as they've grown older, they often seek out and prefer whole foods, fruits and vegetables over junk.
Major Medical Associations and Institutions That Promote A Whole Foods, Plant-Based Diet
American College of Cardiology
American Heart Association
American Institute for Cancer Research
American Cancer Society
Canada Food Guide 2020
American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists
American Diabetes Association
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans
EAT-Lancet Commission of Food, Planet and Health