It can be confusing, all these terms flying around for various types of diets. For instance, do you think that a plant-based, whole foods diet is just a new name for vegetarianism or veganism? Similarly, are you a diehard meat eater who thinks that this diet is not relevant to you?
Certainly, the diet itself is simple. It is just the words that can be hard to understand. We lay it out simply and cleanly here – just like the food itself in a plant-based, whole food diet. First, a definition of sorts, and then reasons.
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What is a plant-based, whole food diet?
A vegetarian diet means that you do not eat meat. Vegan? You do not include any ingredients that come from animals in your diet – meat, dairy, or eggs, among other things. However, neither of these diets have anything to do with the quality of your food. You could be a vegan and eating highly processed food.
For instance, white rice and potato chips can both be vegan. Neither contains much in the way of essential nutrients that will truly nourish your body. This is because the plant-based original ingredients have gone through many steps before they reach your plate. Therefore, many of the complex antioxidants, nutrients, vitamins, and other healing nutrients that plants contain will have been sacrificed.
In a plant-based, whole food diet, you will be eating foods that have been interfered with as little as possible. Nutrients stay intact. You will be more deeply satisfied by this diet. In fact, calling it a diet is misleading. This is not a short-term strategy for weight loss. It is a lifestyle that will hit the spot for years and years, once you get used to this new way of eating.
Some vegetarians or vegans eat plant-based whole foods. Further, some meat-eaters eat these ingredients, too. There are no prescriptive or strict formulas about how much you need to incorporate these ingredients into the way you eat. You can adjust the balance as suited to your lifestyle, health, and preferences.
Reason 1: Diet influences your risk of chronic diseases
Chronic diseases are diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. The exact cause of these diseases can be hard to pinpoint. However, research suggests that the Western diet and lifestyle contribute substantially to your risk of suffering from a chronic disease. (1) It goes even further! The scientist Dr. Michael Greger has collected a lot of research which suggests that there is a possibility that, once you have chronic diseases, a plant-based whole food diet may help reverse it.
For instance, one study looked at people with heart disease. 82% of these people recorded improvement in their condition once a plant-based diet was embarked upon. (2) Moreover, another study suggested that plaque which blocks arteries in patients struggling with heart disease actually started to dissolve once a plant-based diet was brought in. (3) Above all, these are strong and life-affirming suggestions!!
Reason 2: Genes? Nope… your health is mostly about you
Many of us think that suffering from heart disease or cancer is inevitable. In other words, isn’t it about genes, hereditary susceptibilities, and our world?
Certainly, some of it is. However, another study described by Dr. Greger found that only 10% – 20% of the risk of acquiring a chronic disease is thanks to our genes. (4) Consequently, 80% – 90% is about your choices. Most importantly, about diet and exercise.
Reason 3: It’s so, so, so, so tasty!!!
Our palates can be trained… and our palates get used to whatever we eat. So, if you are used to eating a lot of processed food, a plant-based, whole food diet may taste strange to you at first. However, once you get used to it, it’s a beautiful new world. This type of food has a whole breadth of flavour and texture that other ways of eating do not offer. Plant-based, whole-food ingredients can be juxtaposed with much more freedom.
Reason 4: Yes! You can get everything your body needs
Many people think that it is more difficult to get certain nutrients from a plant-based, whole food diet. For example, calcium and protein. However, you can get everything you need from this way of eating. It is just about seeing things in a new way and accustoming yourself with new menus and combinations. In this day and age, there are many more resources out there to help ease you into a new way of food shopping, menu planning, and cooking. The Association of UK Dietitians has a wonderfully informative site that is a good reference point. (5)
Reason 5: A plant-based, whole food diet may also help manage weight
A plant-based, whole food diet is not primarily intended as a weight loss program. However, many people have found that their weight holistically comes into balance once they start eating this way. It is important to remember that many diets that promise short-term weight loss are hard to keep up over a long period. You will start having cravings or your body will not be adequately nourished. An entire lifestyle overhaul is the only real answer. (6)
Reason 6: Cholesterol, hypertension, and several types of cancer
You can add the above to the list of things that researchers believe a plant-based, whole foods diet helps with. Animal fats may contribute to your chances of having to deal with these troublesome conditions. Whether you are looking to eliminate animal fats completely from your diet or just to introduce more whole foods into your way of eating and slowly righting the balance, transitioning to plant-based foods may well be wise. (7) (8)
Intrigued? There’s more. Plant-based, whole foods leave a lower carbon footprint, meaning this way of eating is better for the world, too. And there’s much, much more to learn and discover. Don’t take our word for it, though! So, eat, read, look. Above all, enjoy it.