What & Why
What is Whole Food Plant Based?
A plant-based diet is a diet simply based on plants. The majority of the daily calories come from vegetables, whole-grains, beans, lentils, soy, mushrooms, fruits, berries, herbs, spices, nuts and seeds, and animal products are only consumed very sparingly, if at all. It focuses on what is included, rather what is excluded. The plants are the centre of the meal, and the centre of the diet. A whole food, plant-based diet emphasize even more on that the plant foods should be consumed in their whole, natural state; food-as-grown.
Why Eat Whole Food Plant Based?
In one way, it’s very simple. The same foods that are proven to be the best for our hearts and our health, are the same foods that are proven to be the best for our entire planet! Namely, plant-based foods.
I think most of us want to live long and healthy lives, as well as have access to fresh air, clean water and lush forests. By making conscious decisions about what we put on our plates, we really can make a significant difference to our own health and the climate (and of course the animals!).
It is not rocket science. Large population studies have consistently shown that in places where people predominately live on plants, people tend to live longer, have less diseases, and stay healthier even in old age.
By eating a whole food plant-based diet we can prevent most of today’s common chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes type 2, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and even many types of cancer. These conditions often have the same root cause – our lifestyle. Most of us eat too much food, the wrong food, and are too sedentary.
Science has also taught us that plant-foods have significantly less impact on the environment than animal products, meaning plant foods are less resource intensive; e.g. contribute to less carbon emissions, less water consumption and less deforestation.
The more I have studied dietetics and nutrition, learnt about the environment, and seen how today's farming works, the more convinced I have been that basing our diet on plants is not only the healthiest way of eating, it is the future way of eating! A whole food, plant-based diet is the only diet that is both health promoting, environmentally friendly and animal friendly.
It may sound like a cliché but it feels very empowering to eat this way, at least it is for me, and I hope it can be for you too. If you would like some tips on how to get started, check out my post on how to easily transfer to a plant-based diet.
My Top 10 reason to eat WFPB:
1. It is packed with nutrients that will promote health and longevity.
2. It will significantly decrease your risk for many preventable and chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and even many types of cancer.
3. It will boost your gut flora and strengthen your immune system.
4. It will help you keep a healthy weight throughout life.
5. It is the most climate friendly diet.
6. It is the most animal friendly diet.
7. It will give you heaps of energy to be physically active, and when you eat well you want to live well, it's a positive spiral.
8. It is easy and can be done even on a low budget, no"superfoods" or juice detoxes are needed, just go back to basics and eat foods-as-grown.
9. It will make you feel amazing, empowered and good about yourself.
10. Last but not least - it is absolutely delicious!
What is the difference between Vegan and Plant-based?
A vegan diet excludes all animal-derived foods. Usually, but not always, it goes hand in hand with a vegan lifestyle too, whereby no animal products are used or worn. A vegan diet is not automatically healthy, if it includes e.g. potato chips and coke, which per se, are vegan. In most cases a vegan diet is healthy, although it's focus may be more on eliminating animal products and being a cruelty free diet. A plant-based diet focus more on the abundance of plants that are included, and may not be 100% free from animal products, as explained above.
Do I need to exclude all animal products to get the health benefits of a plant-based diet?
No. You don't need to exclude every single animal product from your diet to get the benefits of eating more plants. Although there is substantial scientific evidence that a plant-based diet is the optimal diet for health and longevity, whether or not that means 100% plant based or 95% plant-based is probably secondary. What we do know instead, is that people who do live predominately on plants, seem to be the healthiest and longest-lived people on the planet. These people, found in the so called Blue Zones around the world, have much less prevalence of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and even cancer, and they are more healthy and active even in old age. These people lived on average 95% plant-based. On my page about disease prevention you can read more about different studies made on vegans or people who live mainly on plants, and what different health benefits that provides.
To be clear, by eating animal based foods or junk food, you don't automatically get diabetes, heart disease or cancer but the more you eat of those foods the higher your risks are. And the reverse applies to plant-foods, the more you eat of them the higher your protection is.
The World Health Organization, The American Institute for Cancer Reaserch and World Cancer Research Fund recommend people to avoid processed meat (sausages, ham, salami, bacon etc) and limit their intake of red meat (e.g. beef, pork, lamb) to a maximum of 500g (18oz) per week. The reason for that is because meat and especially processed meats are strongly link to many diseases including heart disease, diabetes and many types of cancer, especially colon cancer. For every 50g (1.8oz) processed meat that are eaten daily, the risk of colorectal cancer increases by 17%. If you are not fond of the idea of living completely plant-based, I would highly recommend you to look over your meat intake and at least follow the international recommendations regarding meat intake.
To summarize; having plenty of vegetables and plant foods in your otherwise omnivores diet (a diet that includes animal foods), will have a great impact on your overall health, so it doesn't have to be all or nothing, most important is to maximize your intake of health promoting foods, such as whole plant-foods, and minimize your intake of disease promoting foods, such as animal based foods and processed food.