MONTH 1 – Article
Wholefood Plant-Based Diets
Last Reviewed: 04/02/2022
Time To Read: 3mins
What is a wholefood plant-based diet?
A wholefood plant-based diet is one that has no meat, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy products or added fats and oils. The food groups you can eat from include wholegrains, fruit & vegetables, legumes, plant-based milk and nuts and seeds in small amounts.
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The difference between a whole food plant-based diet and a vegan diet is the removal of added fats and oils. This means removing plant-based spreads and oils like olive oil, sunflower oil, canola oil and especially coconut oil (which is high in saturated fat). A whole food plant-based diet is really defined more by what is included rather than what is excluded.
What can I eat on a whole food plant-based diet?
You can eat the following foods on a whole food plant-based diet:
- Whole grains such as brown rice, oats, quinoa, lentils, barley, bulgur
- All vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, bok choy, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower), and leafy greens (like kale, spinach, lettuce)
- Herbs & spices
- All fruit, including dried fruit but limit this due to its high sugar content
- Nuts & seeds in moderation. Try choosing nuts and seeds that are higher in omega-3 like flax and chia seeds
- Plant-based milk
A word on sugar – sugar has no nutritional value and cannot be classed as a whole food. Fruit juice is also not a whole food, however if you choose to use both sugar and fruit juice in your diet, do so in moderation.
What foods should be avoided on a whole food plant-based diet?
The following foods should be avoided if you are eating a whole food plant-based diet:
- All forms of meat (including chicken and fish)
- All dairy products
- All fats and oils, especially coconut oil which is very high in saturated fat and therefore contributes towards increased risk for developing heart disease
- Avoid refined grains like white rice and white pasta.
Do I need to take supplements if I follow a whole food plant-based diet?
Because all dairy products are eliminated on a whole food plant-based diet, it is strongly recommended that you take a vitamin B12 supplement. Vitamin B12 is mostly found in meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products so individuals following a whole food plant-based diet will be risk of deficiency of this vitamin.
Vitamin B12 is important for normal blood and nerve function. It also plays a part in making folate (Vitamin B9).
A deficiency in Vitamin B12 or Folate can result in a lack of energy, extreme tiredness, mouth ulcers, a sore and red tongue, muscle weakness, pernicious anaemia, disturbed vision, problems with memory, understanding and judgement.
Calcium is another mineral that followers of a wholefood plant-based diet need to pay attention to. Because the primary source of calcium comes from dairy products, care needs to be taken that calcium requirements are being met when eating a wholefood plant-based diet. Refer back to month 9 of your lifestyle plan to check best sources of calcium and calcium requirements daily.
Why should I eat a whole food plant-based diet?
It is well documented that plant-based sources of protein in place of animal protein (meat, chicken, dairy, eggs) results in a significantly lower risk of dying from coronary heart disease. A diet filled with wholegrains, fruit and vegetables, and nuts and seeds that promote omega-3 intake will have a significant effect on your risk for developing obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. In addition, this type of eating pattern has been proven to reverse heart disease in some cases – something that medication is unable to do.
How to get more wholegrains into your diet:
- Swap white bagels for wholegrain ones
- Make sandwiches with wholegrain bread
- Look for wholegrain foods that have been fortified with folic acid (vitamin B9)
- Replace white rice with brown rice, quinoa, wild rice, barley, or bulgur
- Add wholegrains like rice and barley to soups or casseroles
A word on fats and oils:
The Food Cruncher supports a wholefood plant-based diet however we are not adverse to including a small amount of unsaturated fat in the diet if it makes this eating pattern sustainable. This means, adding a little oil (like olive oil or sunflower oil) to your cooking will not harm your health. If cooking and using a little oil makes your food taste better, you are more likely to continue eating a wholefood plant-based diet, which can only benefit your health. Most of your nutrition will be coming from wholegrains, fruits & vegetables, nuts and seeds and some plant-based milks, so adding a little unsaturated fat will not significantly contribute towards an excess calorie intake (which can promote weight gain).
We hope you found this article useful.
Michelle @ The Food Cruncher
- Williams, KA, Patel H. Health Plant-Based Diet. What Does it Really Mean? J Am Coll Cardiol. 2017. Vol. 70. No. 4.
- Freeman AM, Morris PB, Barnard N, Esselstyn CB, Ros E, Agatston A et al. Trending Cardiovascular Nutrition Controversies. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2017. Vol. 69. No. 9.
- Esselstyn CB, Jr, Gendy G, Doyle J, et al. A way to reverse CAD? J Fam Pract. 2014;63:356–364.
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