While there are so many diets to choose from, one that is generally accepted as one of the healthiest by experts of all kinds is a whole-food plant-based diet. This diet is exactly what is sounds like – choosing whole, minimally processed foods, and focused mostly on plants to boost our health and wellness. This article will explain what the whole-food plant-based diet is, what its benefits are, and provide an example meal plan to follow the whole-food plant-based diet.
- What is the whole-food plant-based diet?
- Whole-food plant-based diet benefits
- Foods for the whole-food plant-based diet
- Foods to avoid on the whole-food plant-based diet
- Whole-food plant-based meal plan
What is the whole-food plant-based diet?
Unlike many other diets, the whole-food plant-based diet is not overly complicated and doesn’t require tons of planning or calculating macros or calories – it just focuses on the quality of the foods you’re choosing, making it more of a lifestyle. While not incredibly restrictive, there are still some basic rules to follow when adhering to this style of eating plan:
- Mostly whole and minimally processed foods
- Primarily made up of plant-based choices – whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds
- Usually avoids all animal-based products – no dairy, fish, eggs, meat, etc.
- Avoids white sugars, processed/refined flour and other grains
- Focuses on high quality, locally sourced, or organic choices when possible
Because the whole-food plant-based diet is more of a lifestyle, it’s not necessarily vegan or vegetarian in nature; however, a plant-based diet usually comes primarily from plant sources with limited animal products (or none at all).
Summary: The whole-food plant-based diet is an eating pattern focused on minimally processed, plant foods.
Whole-food plant-based diet benefits
Can be effective for weight loss
A research study from 2020 in the American Journal for Lifestyle Medicine found that following a whole-food plant-based diet made participants lose an average of 19lbs (8.6kgs) over three months without measuring portion size.1
Can be effective for maintaining weight loss
Participants in the same study either lost more weight or kept their weight down at the 6- and 12-month marks, which isn’t very common in weight loss studies that follow a specific diet for a short period of time.1
Can support heart health
Researchers have repeatedly shown that whole-food plant-based diets can help to improve cholesterol numbers and heart health overall.2
May slow the aging process
Newer research is investigating the way that the high antioxidant content of whole-food plant-based diets can help to support skin and brain health as we age.4
More environmentally friendly
Choosing to follow a whole-food plant based-diet, especially if you can focus on local and organic foods, can help to reduce waste and the impact of food processing on the environment.5
Summary: Whole-food plant-based diets are high in fibre and nutrients, which have health benefits and protective effects.
Foods for the whole-food plant-based diet
Following a whole-food plant-based diet does not need to feel restrictive. Check out the example options from each food group below (this list is NOT inclusive of all of the foods included in the whole-food plant-based diet)
Whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa, farro, oats, barley
Berries, citrus, apples, pears, bananas, peaches, pineapple, kiwi, melon, etc.
Leafy greens (kale, spinach), cruciferous veggies (Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower), peppers, onions, carrots, etc.
Potatoes (white, red, yellow, sweet), squash
Avocado, olive oil, coconut, sunflower seed oil, etc.
Black beans, chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, navy beans, soy beans
Nuts, seeds, nut butters
Almonds and almond butter, chia seeds, sunflower seeds and sunflower seed butter, peanut butter, tahini (sesame seed butter), etc.
- Coffee, tea, water, juice, plant-based milks
- Animal products (if choosing)
- Organic / local eggs, free range meats, poultry, dairy; wild caught or sustainably farmed fish
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Foods to avoid for the whole-food plant-based diet
- White (refined) grains: bread, pasta, rice, baked goods
- Packaged and convenience foods: frozen meals, fast food, processed snack foods
- Processed meats and chicken products
- Sweetened drinks (and artificial sweeteners)
Whole-food plant-based diet meal plan
Here are three days of ideas for meals following the whole-food plant-based diet:
Did you know you can bulk on a vegan diet? Let us explain...
Take home message
A whole-food plant-based diet focuses on nutritious foods with no limit on portion sizes. It can be effective for weight loss as well as preventing health issues, and is more environmentally friendly that a diet high in processed and animal foods.
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