Plant Based Diet

What Is a Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet?

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By Alona Pulde, MD and Matthew Lederman, MD

A whole-food, plant-based diet is centered on whole, unrefined, or minimally refined plants. It’s a diet based on fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, and legumes; and it excludes or minimizes meat (including chicken and fish), dairy products, and eggs, as well as highly refined foods like bleached flour, refined sugar, and oil.

We know that’s a mouthful! Rest assured, though, that you’ll be eating in a way that people have thrived on for thousands of years. We believe that you will find—as we do—that the diet and foods are very tasty and satisfying.

So what should you eat?

All of Mother Nature’s goodness! Embrace all fruits and veggies; whole grains – quinoa, brown/wild rice; all beans and legumes – chickpeas, lentils; potatoes – sweet and regular; all nuts and seeds; superfoods like goji berries, hemp, flax & chia seeds; dried fruits etc. Almond milk makes the best dairy alternative, and actually contains more calcium, while quinoa, almond and brown rice flours make the best baking materials. Honey, dates, pure maple syrup, ripe bananas and date syrup make the best replacement for sugar, and are really just as sweet and cacao makes the best chocolate recipes ever while loading you up on superfood nutrition. Dried fruits dipped in nut butter make the best candy replacements and frozen blended bananas make the perfect ice-cream substitute. There are ways of making all your favorite foods healthy, you just have to learn how. But remember with everything I’ve mentioned here that if anything contains weird additives then it’s not going to have the same awesome effect on you, store brought non-dairy milks are a great examples of this as they all contain the most bizarre ingredients. So, make your own, it’s the easiest thing in the world, tastes delicious and gives you more goodness than you can imagine! Also you should always cook everything with coconut oil or olive oil and use things like hemp oil and flaxseed oil for cold dressings – never use things like vegetable oil, vegan butters and sunflower oil – these are nasty and processed and don’t contain any of the good fats!

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So what does this mean I eat less of?

This may seem like a long list at first but trust me the list of all the awesome things that you’re adding in is even longer! To really thrive you should say goodbye to the following as they’re all incredibly acidic and your body works best when it’s alkaline, they’re also really hard to digest which means they suck your energy and slow down your digestion:

* Dairy
* Gluten
* Refined sugar, including all candy, fizzy drinks and almost all chocolate – don’t worry you can buy amazing healthy chocolate and make your own incredible treats using raw cacao
* All other refined foods – white rice, white flour, white pasta etc Anything with chemicals, additives and flavorings, including natural flavorings as trust me these are anything but natural!
* Almost all supermarket products that are labeled as ‘healthy,’ such as dairy free butter, gluten free rolls and pizzas, soymilk and soy yoghurts, store brought almond milk etc – these items tend to be full of weird additives and chemicals that your body cannot digest, they’re really not much better than the gluten/dairy alternatives.
* Meat, fish and eggs – you don’t have to cut these out if you don’t want to, but try and reduce your intake and focus on getting the best quality products you can

What are my pantry staples? 

Apple cider vinegar
Brown rice
Cacao powder and cinnamon
Coconut oil and coconut milk
Dried fruit: figs, dates, apricots (unsulphured – they’re always brown not orange)
Fresh fruit: bananas, berries, apples, limes and lemons
Fresh vegetables: spinach, kale, avocado, tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, courgettes (zucchini)
Gluten free flours: brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, ground almond, ground flaxseed
Gluten free pasta: brown rice, quinoa
Hemp powder and seeds and chia seeds
Home made granola
Honey
Lentils, black beans & chickpeas
100% pure maple syrup
Nuts: almonds, cashews, brazils, pecans, walnuts
Nut butters: almond, cashew, pecans
Oats
Olive oil – high quality organic extra virgin
Rice cakes and gluten free bread (I use a brand called Biona)
Seeds: pumpkin, flax, sunflower
Spirulina
Tahini

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What equipment do you use in the kitchen?

A blender, food processor and a spiralizer. I use the blender for smoothies and soups, the food processor to crush nuts and make things like hummus, nut butter and energy balls and I use the spiralizer to make zucchini noodles. 

A Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet Is Not a Diet of Vegetables

You may have heard that people living this way eat lots of spinach, kale, and collard greens, and that this is,in fact, the primary basis for many of the meals. You may even think we live only on leafy and raw vegetables. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

While leafy vegetables are an important part of the whole-food, plant-based diet, they are a very poor calorie, i.e., energy, source to be sustainable. We would need to eat almost 16 pounds of cooked kale to get 2,000 calories of food! We certainly don’t eat this way, and we wouldn’t blame you for thinking it sounds crazy—we think so, too! In fact, it is virtually impossible to get enough calories from leafy vegetables alone to form a sustainable diet. Perhaps the most common reason for failure in this lifestyle is that people actually try to live on leafy vegetables alone. If you try to live on these vegetables, you become deficient in calories. Not eating enough calories leads you to feel hungry, which over time may result in decreased energy, feelings of deprivation, cravings, and even binges. These issues are not caused by switching to a plant-based diet—rather, they are all related to not eating enough.

20150411_131425Don’t get us wrong: We certainly recommend you eat generous amounts of leafy vegetables. But these are complementary foods that you eat regularly. They are not the energy source on your food plate.

So if leafy vegetables aren’t the basis of a whole-food, plant-based life- style, what is?

Starch-Based Foods and Fruit Form the Basis of the Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet

The center of your plate is now going to be the starch-based comfort foods most of us have always loved, but that have long been relegated to side dishes or stigmatized because of a misperception that they are “unhealthy.” Yet these are the foods that people around the world have thrived on for generations: tubers like potatoes and sweet potatoes; starchy vegetables like corn and peas; whole grains like brown rice, millet, quinoa, and buckwheat; and legumes like chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, and lima beans.

They may be prepared a bit differently—leaving out oil and dairy, for example—but most of them will nonetheless be familiar. Those that aren’t may become delightful new discoveries you’ll make as part of embarking on your new lifestyle. They come in the form of delicious dishes like Sweet Potato Lasagna, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Tuscan White Bean Burgers, Easy Thai Noodles, Lima Bean Soup, Shepherd’s Pot Pie, Black Bean and Rice Burritos, Polenta Curry, and Spicy French Fries. In addition to starch-based foods, you can enjoy as much whole fruit as you like.

No More Eating For Single Nutrients . . . Focus on the “Package” and the Foods You Enjoy

The idea of eating a particular food for one nutrient is pervasive in our culture. We have been led to believe we should eat meat for protein, dairy for calcium, fish for omega-3 fatty acids, and even tomatoes for lycopene, among many others. This sort of thinking is misguided and has caused grave harm to human health. The quest for protein, for example, has steered us toward meat consumption. In this quest, we not only consume protein in excess of our needs, but also many harmful substances like dietary cholesterol that are only present in animal foods.

No food is a single nutrient, and we should never think of foods in that way. Any given food has countless nutrients. What matters most is the overall nutrient profile, i.e., the whole package. Whole, plant-based foods contain all the essential nutrients (with the exception of vitamin B12), and in proportions that are more consistent with human needs than animal-based or processed foods. So our question is really this: Why waste any of what we eat on inferior packages? As long as—over time—we choose a variety of whole, plant-based foods, we will easily meet our nutritional needs.

Even on this diet, people sometimes tend to worry about eating a certain type of green vegetable for calcium, beans for protein, nuts for fat, and so on. We ask you to let go of that kind of thinking. The most important thing in this lifestyle is to choose the whole, plant-based food you enjoy most!

Eating a wholefood, plant-based diet is an amazing way to get to your natural weight too. Taking out gluten, processed food, animal products and refined sugar allows your digestive system to work a million times better so everything will be digested faster and more effectively which allows you to loose weight. Don’t focus on counting calories or fat, focus on eating three proper meals a day filled only with goodness and you’ll see amazing results.

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