The health community will never be able to agree on which diet is best for you. Nevertheless, there is common consensus among experts and nutritionists that any diet that promotes the consumption of fresh, unprocessed foods is beneficial for your overall wellbeing. This is exactly what a plant-based diet, with an emphasis on whole foods, tries to achieve.
Here is everything you need to know about the benefits of whole-foods, plant based diet and how you can incorporate it into your lifestyle.
Whole-Foods, Plant-Based Diet: What is it?
Unlike other restrictive diets like Keto or Paleo, a whole-foods, plant-based diet isn’t necessarily a diet with set rules. Instead it is more of a lifestyle that allows greater freedom in terms of food choices and meal portions.
There is no set definition of what does and doesn’t constitute as part of this lifestyle since it can vary considerably with the amount of animal product a person incudes in their diet.
But all whole-foods, plant-based diets follow a basic set of principles:
- Focus on whole foods that are minimally processed
- Cut down or avoid animal products
- Limit added sugars, processed carbs and refined oils
- Invest in high quality foods such as grass-fed and organic produce that is fresh and locally sourced
Because of these principles, this lifestyle is often confused with veganism or vegetarianism. However, despite a few similarities, these diets are quite different than each other.
WFPB diet is far more flexible than vegetarianism (which excludes meats and poultry while allowing eggs, dairy and seafood) and veganism (which abstains from consuming all animal products including eggs, dairy, seafood and even honey).
Followers of a WFPB diet consume mainly whole foods and fresh fruits and vegetables. Meat and other animal products aren’t prohibited.
Many studies have shown that plant-based diets are one of the best ways to lose weight and manage cholesterol levels. Currently, more than 69 per cent of the American adult population is overweight or obese.
But, simple dietary changes such as sticking to whole foods high in fiber and eliminating added sugar can have a lasting effect on your health and facilitate weight loss.
A research involving 1,100 participants showed that people who followed a high fiber, plant-based diet lost an average of 4.5 pounds in 4 months in comparison to those who were assigned to a non-vegan diet. A one year follow-up also revealed that the plant-based dieters were able to sustain their weight loss over the long term.
Other Health Benefits
WFPB is more than just a weight loss tool. This healthy diet has a number of other benefits. It can reduce the risk of chronic diseases, increase insulin sensitivity and manage cholesterol levels.
The cardiovascular benefits of the WFPB depend on the types of food included in the diet. Studies have found that people who follow a diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and healthy fats were less likely to suffer from a heart disease than those who ate animal products.
However, not all plant-based diets are healthy. If you’re consuming fried, fatty foods or sugary drinks, you’re less likely to reap the heart-healthy benefits of a WFPB.
Research has shown that adopting a healthy plant-based lifestyle can lower your risk of cancers. A study on 69,000 participants determined that following a vegetarian or vegan diet lowered the risk of colorectal and gastrointestinal cancers by 22 per cent.
Of all the diets investigated by researchers, Pescatarianism has been found to be the most beneficial for cancer protection. It can lower the risk of colorectal cancer by a whopping 43 per cent!
There is plenty of scientific evidence indicating that following a plant-based diet can strengthen memory and prevent cognitive decline in old age.
This is because plants are rich in antioxidants. They can flush out the toxins and free-radical build-up from brain cells to improve mental clarity and cognitive functions. A recent study with over 31,000 participants showed that a plant-based diet can reduce the risk of dementia and cognitive impairment by 20 per cent.
One of the biggest and the most undeniable benefits of following a healthy WFPB diet is the reduction of diabetes risk.
A major study involving 200,000 healthy adults showed that people who stuck to a healthy plant-based lifestyle for a longer time period lowered their risk of developing diabetes by 34 per cent. Even people who already have type 2 diabetes can effectively control their blood sugar levels by following a WFPB diet.
What Foods Can You Eat on a Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet?
Like mentioned above, there are no fixed rules when it comes to following a WFPB diet. You just need to stick to whole foods free of any added sugar or preservatives.
Eating mindfully is the key to this healthy lifestyle which means that most foods that you’d normally eat such as eggs, meats and dairy are still allowed but only in small quantities. The main focal point this diet should be whole plant-based foods like beans, legumes, vegetables, fruits and nuts.
If you’re using animal products to supplement your WFPB diet, choose the organic, grass-fed variety from a local farm or a high-quality supermarket.
People following a pure plant-based diet can find variety of protein sources such as vegan protein powders, tofu, and tempeh.