What is a Whole Foods, Plant-Based Lifestyle?
Updated: Sep 4, 2019
You've probably seen the term Whole Foods Plant-Based or WFPB around in various posts or groups. What is it? And what makes it special?
Whole-Foods: An Apple is a whole food, applesauce is not. An Olive is a whole food. Olive oil is not. We speak of whole-foods relative to partial foods or food fragments like sugars, oils or flours. When you eat foods as close to or in their whole form, they provides several health benefits:
Bioavailability: When you eat food in an unadulterated state with everything it originally came with, the proteins, fats, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants are more bioavailable. Meaning, your body recognizes and is able to use more of what comes in that original package. Your body sees the Vitamin C in an orange much differently that the Vitamin C in a pill. When your body can more efficiently use what's in a food, you benefit with better health.
You Get Everything: When you eat whole foods, you get EVERYTHING! When you refine or process a food product, you inevitably throw out fiber, water, vitamins and minerals that your body needs. Why would anyone do this? Food manufacturers, in an effort to make their products more palatable, extend shelf life or simply get to the product they're looking to sell or use, remove many beneficial elements from the whole foods, giving you a refined and processed food.
Satiation: Piggy-backing off of points from 1 and 2, eating these foods makes you feel full, mainly because of the fiber and water content and volume that is still present. Fiber and water are some of the most under appreciated but most important elements in foods that we're not getting. And these are main players in what trigger our bodies to stop eating when we've had enough. With the majority of the standard American foods we're eating today, hyper-concentrated forms of calories with no water or fiber, we have to overeat, just to be satisfied. And that, as you guessed, leads to weight gain. If we stick to unrefined foods with minimal processing, our bodies will feel satisfied sooner, with less calories.
Wholistic: When you eat a whole-food, it has hundreds, if not thousands, of individual parts, whether they be vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals or antioxidants. They all work together, they all work in synergy. This vitamin will make the absorption of that mineral higher. And that antioxidant will affect how that phytochemical expressed. When we eat a multivitamin pill or foods that are heavily processed, these synergistic processes no longer function, which causes our health to suffer. For more on the Wholistic process of food, check out the book Whole, by T. Colin Campbell.
Plant-Based: This may be a little more self-explanatory. In contrast, we could speak about an Animal-Based diet, in which case a Whole Foods, Animal-Based diet may contain steaks, ribs and chicken breasts, while excluding processed animal foods such as hot dogs, spam or even bacon. But we're talking about plant-based. Plants are the basis of this lifestyle because they're the healthiest foods on the planet, for several reasons:
They Contain Everything You Need: Repeating much of what was said above in #2, plants contain virtually everything you need to not only live, but to thrive as a human. Yes, even more-than-adequate protein levels. Get your fats, proteins, carbs, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, antioxidants, fiber and water from plants. Animal-based foods lack many of these elements (Carbs, Water, Fiber + Many Vitamins & Minerals).
Blue Zones: The longest lived populations of peoples in the history of the planet have eaten diets made up of predominantly plants. These 'Blue Zones' of people who live into their 90's and 100's, include places like Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, California; Sardinia, Italy. They didn't necessarily eat 100% Vegan (I'll cover this in another Blog post) but approximately 70-80% of their calories were coming from whole plant foods. As a comparison, American's are getting 7% of their calories from whole plant foods. And as Dr. Kerry Graff said, "It's Killing Us"
The Planet: What we eat plays a huge role in planetary health. The #3 source of greenhouse gasses isn't Planes, Trains or Cars, it's animal agriculture. Essentially, cow burps. Not to mention water use. One hamburger = 2000+ gallons of water. For animals living on 1 acre of land, It takes 10 acres of land to produce food for for those animals. Why don't we just use those 11 acres to produce plant-foods for humans, directly. Watch Cowspiracy for more information on how our food choices impact our health.
The Animals: I'm not going to get too deep into this topic. Just know this; We don't need to eat animal products to be healthy. In fact, we could avoid many of todays chronic diseases and ailments if we excluded animal products. Estimates are as high as 50-60 billion (with a B) animals are killed each year, for us to eat. Bottom Line-It's unnecessary, unethical and cruel.
Disease Prevention and Reversal: No one is arguing that we can't eat meat. Of course we can. But is that what's best for us? Is eating meat what our bodies are designed for? Many would argue no. Our ancient ancestors certainly ate meat to survive, but that's not a great reason to do it today when getting ample calories isn't a problem any more. Added saturated fat, cholesterol and high protein levels in animal products have been associated with many of todays chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. Sugary and refined treats are also to blame, for sure, so don't think I'm looking only at animal products. What if we could prevent or reverse diabetes or heart disease? The only diet/lifestyle that has been proven to reverse chronic diseases like these is a Whole Foods, Plant-based diet.
So, to bring the two terms together, eating a Whole Foods, Plant-Based Diet means eating the majority of your calories from whole plant foods, like potatoes, rice, beans, greens, broccoli, bananas, apples and squash. Anything in the produce section is fair game. There's so much variety, abundance and flavor. Check out THIS post for a mock grocery list of what we buy week to week.
I grew up eating meat and dairy. I haven't been eating this way my whole life. But to me, after researching, reading and thinking about this topic since January 2012, eating animal products doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Which is why I changed what I ate, and so can you.
Get Healthier today.