Image: Ryan-Kelly, Jennifer. Ultimate Guide. July 2021.
If you look around, our world is in turmoil. Our earth is sick; we are sick. The environmental and health issues plaguing mankind can often be overwhelming. In such a scenario, it is but natural for us to look for a solution – something that won’t just benefit the environment, but also keep us healthy. Why not try a new diet? The whole-foods plant-based diet is a great way to do both of these things.
This ultimate guide to the whole-foods plant-based diet will be your one-stop solution to all your woes, trust me. Once you know how beneficial it is to both nature and man, you won’t be looking back anymore.
What is a Whole-Foods Plant-Based Diet?
As you may be able to tell by the title, the whole food plant based diet is a combination of two different diets. The first one, the whole-foods diet, consists of only those foods that are processed as little as possible. The second diet, the plant based diet, consists of food that is strictly made from plants, and does not include any meat, seafood or animal products like eggs, dairy or gelatin.
With the combination of the two diets, we get the whole foods plant based diet – a diet that consists of plant based food that is processed as little as possible. It is a diet similar to the ones our ancestors ate. They took what the earth offered and ate it as is since they had no means of processing it. The idea of the whole foods plant based diet is that you can recognize the food you eat. There are no crazy chemicals or ingredients that are hidden or disguised, which is otherwise usually seen in pre-packaged food.
What to Eat on a Whole Foods Plant Based Diet
Now that you know what the whole foods plant based diet is, let’s see what you can actually eat on it. While it may seem like this diet can be restrictive, there’s a whole lot you can include on your grocery list!
This includes unrefined flours, rolled oats, brown rice, quinoa and whole grain breads (including pasta!).
Some examples of these are chickpeas, lentils, black beans, tofu and tempeh (minimally processed).
Choose any fruit you want to eat that is either fresh, frozen or dried! *Tip: dried fruit is great if you need to get in your calories.
Our first category of vegetables includes starchy veggies: potatoes, corn and peas. Our second category of vegetables are non-starchy veggies: broccoli, brussel sprouts, carrots, tomatoes, etc.
Almonds, cashews, peanuts, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, tahini, etc.
Tip: to get your omega 3 in, include chia seeds, hemp seeds or walnuts in your diet.
You can include milk alternatives in your diet on the whole food plant-based diet. Make sure that the milk alternatives are unsweetened! Want to learn more about what milk alternative you should try? Check out our article, “The 12 best Milk Substitutes For Every Occasion.”
We encourage you to keep your meals full of flavor! These are some delicious condiments to use liberally on this diet: salsa, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, mustard and other minimally processed condiments.
There are plenty of beverages you can keep in your diet like coffee, tea, water, wine and fresh fruit juices. Beware of added sugars to these beverages and if you reach for something, make sure to check the ingredients. Remember, the less ingredients the better!
Health Benefits of the Whole Foods Plant Based Diet
By eating food that comes straight from our earth with little to no chemicals or additives, our bodies benefit tremendously.
A whole foods plant based diet can help lower your cholesterol because cholesterol is only found in animal products. Also, animal products contain saturated fat and are usually higher in calories. Saturated fat can build up plaque in your arteries and can lead to coronary artery disease. (1)
A whole-foods plant-based diet will help with natural weight loss. Eating whole vegetables, fruits and grains, you will feel fuller while eating less calories. With eating less calories than you did before, you will lose weight. Remember that eating is important and eating enough will keep you focused and energized!
Lower Blood Pressure
There was a meta-analysis done in 2014 that explored data from 39 studies. These studies concluded that those who followed a vegetarian diet had a lower blood pressure than those who followed omnivorous diets (2). Another study done in 2016 showed that vegetarians had a 34% lower risk of developing hypertension compared to those who ate an omnivorous diet (3).
Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes
Fatty tissue increases the resilience to insulin and that is why if you are overweight, you are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes (4). As mentioned before, this diet helps keep the weight off naturally which means you would have a lower amount of fatty tissues. With a whole-foods plant-based diet, there is little to no saturated fats. Eating foods with high levels of saturated fat increases the chances of getting type 2 diabetes (5).
Decreased Risk of Cancer
There are a lot of different causes of cancers. The question is: can a diet prevent some cancers? The answer: yes. In fact, a diet can be a great defense against cancer. There are multiple whole and plant-based foods that have nutrients that can help fight against cancers. Foods like tomatoes, flax seeds and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts) are just a few foods that fight against cancer. Also, it is seen that red meat can cause cancer. (6)
If you want to keep reading about cancer fighting foods, read our article, “Twelve Cancer Fighting Foods“ at Cook & Culture.
Help with the Prevention of Alzheimer’s
A study done in 2017 by Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience that explained how eating more fruits and veggies (about 100 grams more on average), can prevent cognitive impairment. Eating those 100 grams per day prevents cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s risk by 13%. (7).
You can learn more about eating a diet that helps protect brain function through Cook & Culture’s article, “What is the Mind Diet and How Can It Boost Your Brain?”.
Environmental Benefits Following a WFPB Diet
Not only do we get to benefit from the nutrients of the whole foods we eat, the planet gets to benefit as well!
Smaller Carbon Footprint
As the name suggests, processed foods take processing. This processing usually leads to large gas emissions because of everything that goes into making the product, including the product packaging. Buying food that is minimally processed, like whole fruits and vegetables, doesn’t require much processing and therefore leaves a small carbon footprint. Also, very processed foods usually contain palm and soy oils that typically have negative environmental impacts. (8) For more reading on how you can stop palm oil deforestation, read our article, “Five Tips for How You can Help Stop Palm Oil Deforestation”.
Also, make sure to consider buying local fruits and vegetables. The less your food has to travel to get to you means the less carbon emissions emitted. When buying whole foods, make it a priority to buy fruits, vegetables, grain, etc from local shops and farmers. (9)
Keeping Soil Fertile
Some reasons for deforestation is because it is a solution to make way for animal agriculture, resulting in a depletion of nutrients in the soil. If you were to grow different plants or trees in the soil , there would be a rotation of nutrients and this would keep the soil fertile and healthy.
End to Overfishing
If more people ate a whole foods plant based diet, there would be a decrease in eating fish. Overfishing is wreaking havoc on the ocean’s biodiversity and ecosystem. Not only would this help the fish population in the ocean, but it would also fix some issues in the food chain in the ocean, helping the ecosystem.
Tips From an Expert
Photo was provided by Dr.Stephanie Peacock
Dr. Stephanie Peacock is a health and wellness coach that uses a more holistic approach. She focuses on how to reverse diseases with nutrition, movement and lifestyle modifications. Dr. Stephanie Peacock is a national champion swimmer, a world university gold medalist and a US Olympic Team alternate. A background in swimming has given her the opportunity to look into speed recovery and improving performance with nutrition.
Dr. Stephanie Peacock knows the benefits of eating a whole-foods plant-based diet and wants to educate others while helping them live their healthiest and most successful life. I reached out to Dr. Stephanie Peacock because of her background and expertise, so we could give you the best tips and even a bonus recipe that she has created herself!
Dr. Stephanie Peacock’s Tips
1. Think of the foods that you are already incorporating into your diet that are plant based. For most, it’s the “sides” of their plate. We have been brought up to believe they should only be sides, when in fact they should be the main course! Whichever these sides are, keep those in your daily diet.
2. Plan ahead. Think about the foods you will make for the week, and make the swap for plant based options. For example, if you normally have burgers one night, make a sweet potato black bean burger or buy an already made plant based patty. A grocery list is key.
3. It’s okay to use the transition foods to start out. These have zero cholesterol in them, and they help to gain your footing in plant based foods. For example, swap out eggs, cheese, dairy, and meat for all the amazing plant based brands that exist now!
4. The produce section is your best friend. Go explore and pick a variety of vegetables and fruits you can use in your morning breakfast, salads and dinners.
(Makes 2 Servings)
-2 cups rolled oats
-2 very ripe bananas
-1/2 cup plant milk
-1 teaspoon cinnamon
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
How to Make Them:
Place oats into a blender and blend until it becomes a flour. Then in a mixing bowl, add the bananas and mash them. After the bananas are mashed, add in the flour, milk, cinnamon, and vanilla. Combine well. Heat the skillet on medium heat with a tablespoon of water in place of oil. Add the batter in a little at a time for the pancakes to cook, and flip over until golden brown on both sides. These can be topped with maple syrup, nut butter, and fruit!
Photo was provided by Dr.Stephanie Peacock
The whole foods plant based diet is one that is beneficial for all. It makes us healthier and helps the planet heal as well. It’s not just another diet that you’re gonna give up after a week because it’s not sustainable. Actually, it may be one of the most sustainable diets you ever try! With this guide, you now have all the knowledge necessary to embark on your sustainable journey. Check out our article “Eight Favorite Plant-Based Diet Whole Foods For Any Recipe” for extra tips on this diet and foods you can add to different recipes you find.
This diet can change the world, but we need more people to join in. I encourage you to invite friends along with you when you’re following a new eating plan like this one. Following a new way of life with others makes accountability easier. It’s also always fun to share an experience with a friend or loved one.
Share this article to help us educate those who may not have ever heard about this diet and may want to learn about it. You can also share this guide with them and share your experience with going whole-foods plant-based with us here at Cook & Culture. We’d love to hear from you!