Why I Eat Primarily Whole Food Plant-Based
The main reason I started eating whole food plant-based (WFPB) was initially selfish. I continue to choose it for the best health possible, to feel energized and alive! People eat this way for other reasons too but I do it for mainly for health.
What does WFPB mean? Whole foods means eating little to no processed foods. Plant-based means just what it says: food that comes from plants and not animals. Some like to label it as “vegan”. Vegan means eating mostly plants and no animal product like meat or dairy. But you could actually be an unhealthy vegan by eating more processed foods, fat and sugar. So combining whole foods and plant based is the best of both worlds.
Dr. Joel Fuhrman coined the term “nutritarian”, which refers to nutrient-dense and plant-rich. He allows small amounts of fish or meat and says it should be the “condiment” to a meal rather than the focus. I would say I’m not strictly vegan so I’ve used the term “veganish”. I don’t want to worry too much about eating one wrong thing and feel stressed about it. In fact I’d rather not put a label on the way I eat. The term vegan also emphasizes what I don’t eat and I don’t think of my eating style as a negative thing. I strive for WFPB.
Everyone has their own eating style and I have no judgement over anyone else’s choices but I do feel we have a responsibility to be the healthiest we can be within the resources we have. We each make our own decisions based on what we know at that time. I prefer to base my own health and eating decisions on science and what works best for me.
Eating more plants and less meat is becoming more popular thanks to recent media coverage including the documentary Forks Over Knives and the new documentary Eating You Alive. This eating philosophy is based primarily as a result of scientific studies including The China Study by Dr. Colin T. Campbell and his son M.D. Dr. Thomas Campbell. This 20-year study began in 1980 and the findings were first published in 2005. You can find additional supporting evidence in the book How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger. It means eating more veggies, fruits, beans peas, lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds instead of animal products, dairy and processed foods.
Further research by Dr. Dean Ornish showed that eating a low-fat, plant-based diet could in fact reverse heart disease. Additionally, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn was able to stop and reverse heart disease in patients who were gravely ill. Eating red meat is associated with increased rates of cancer and heart disease. In 2015, the World Health Organization announced that red meat and processed meats are known to be carcinogenic. They can lead to diseases like colon cancer, which is on the rise in North America. Other advocates with evidence to support a WFPB eating style are:
- Dr. Michael Greger founded NutritionFacts.org and there is a wealth of information including significant evidence to support a plant-based diet.
- Dr. Joel Furham’s website, book Eat to Live, food pyramid
- Forks Over Knives success stories
- Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets
Eating whole foods means eating foods in their natural state. Processing food removes the nutrients and fibre and leaves little nutritional value. Eating whole foods also means less added sugar or fat. Most plant-based food is higher in fibre, lower in sugar and full of valuable phytochemicals and other nutrients. Eating WFPB not only gives you the right nutritional balance, it also leaves you feeling satisfied.
When you eat food that is highly processed, your body doesn’t get what it needs nutritionally and it constantly craves more and you feel hungry. Even if you just ate something, if it’s not nutritionally good, your body may send you signs of hunger because it is looking for the right nutrients. If you keep eating the wrong foods you fill up on empty calories and end up gaining weight. I have discovered that when I eat WFPB, I feel more satisfied and less likely to graze.
Many plant-based foods like fruit and veggies are much less calorie dense and require more volume to increase the total caloric value. You usually can fill up on more and not over eat. It is possible to eat vegan and not eat healthily by eating processed foods high in sugar and/or fat. That’s why the emphasis is on whole foods.
I eat plants mostly for my own health but there are some good side effects:
- I feel better, have more energy, am less lethargic & have good performance
- It’s easier to maintain a healthy weight
- It’s good for the environment
- It saves me money
- It doesn’t support animal cruelty
While it’s true that vegans eat a lot of salads, we’d have to eat a huge amount of leafy vegetables to sustain the correct amount of energy. It’s best to eat a wide variety of foods in as many colours and textures as possible. We need fruits, vegetables, tubers and starchy vegetables, whole grains and legumes. I try to eat many different colours of food. If you are thinking of trying this lifestyle of eating, start small: start with meatless Monday. Make simple changes that will last and that you feel good about. Do what feels right to you!
What’s on your dinner plate?
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Find some WFPB recipes