There’s been a lot of talk about whole-food, plant-based diets lately – and for good reason!
Most nutrition experts agree that diets emphasizing fresh whole foods are excellent for overall health, and that’s exactly what this kind of “diet” does.
Often referred to as “WFPB”, this way of eating doesn’t have one clear definition and is not necessarily a weight loss diet (although it helps a lot of people drop stubborn extra pounds).
In fact, I prefer to call WFPB a “Way of Eating” (WoE for short) because it is more of a lifestyle than a “diet.”
- Whole food means natural foods that are not heavily processed. That means whole, unrefined, or minimally refined ingredients.
- Plant-based refers to food that comes from plants and doesn’t include animal-based ingredients like meat, fish, milk, eggs, or honey.
While there are no official guidelines on how to properly do a WFPB diet, there are some basic principles that apply:
- Eat whole, nutrient-dense foods that are not processed (or are minimally processed)
- Limit or avoid animal products
- Focus on plant-based foods, including vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds
- Eliminate refined, processed foods
- When possible, buy organic and/or locally grown food
WFPB does not necessarily refer to vegan or vegetarian diets, as some people whose diets are comprised mostly of plants do still consume small amounts of animal products.
What should you eat if you want to move to a WFPB way of eating?
The list is endless! Just take a look around the produce section of your local grocery store and you’ll get an idea of how many options are available to you.
Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, whole grains, quinoa (see our list of plant foods here – What to Eat on a Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet)
The list of benefits associated with WFPB eating is voluminous.
Research shows that eating more plants can provide a wide range of health benefits, including…
1. Healthy weight loss. Plant-based diets often lead to weight loss, even without exercise or calorie counting. Replacing high-fat foods with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes naturally reduces calorie intake. Oh, and people who lose weight on WFPB diets are better at keeping the weight off.
2. Lower BMI. Research shows that people who follow plant-based diets tend to have lower body mass indexes than those on omnivorous diets.
3. Reduced risk of developing certain cancers
4. Improved heart health and lower risk of developing heart disease. Plant-based diets have been proven to prevent and reverse heart disease, improve cholesterol, and lower blood pressure.
5. Reduced risk of stroke
6. Better brain health. Saturated fat and trans fat—found in dairy products, meat, and fried foods—can increase the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive conditions. A plant-based diet avoids these foods and is rich in antioxidants, folate, and vitamin E, which may offer a protective effect. Plant-based diets have a higher number of plant compounds and antioxidants, which have been shown to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and reverse cognitive deficits.
7. Less risk of cognitive decline and neurodegenerative disease
8. Reduced risk of developing (and reversal of) Type 2 diabetes. Plant-based diets prevent, manage, and reverse type 2 diabetes. Plant-based diets lower body weight, improve insulin function and increase beta-cells’ ability to regulate blood sugar, which helps reverse symptoms associated with type 2 diabetes.
9. Improved vision
10. Lower risk of age-related macular degeneration (a leading cause of blindness in older people)
11. Reduced risk of developing cataracts
12. Better digestion and gut health
13. Whole plant foods contain antioxidants
14. Enhanced immune function
15. Aid in the management of rheumatoid arthritis and reduction (or elimination) of symptoms
16. May protect the lungs. Evidence suggests that fruit and vegetables high in antioxidants like vitamin C, β-carotene, or flavonoids could play a protective role against COPD.
17. Prevention of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and prevention of CKD progression
18. Better overall health and reduced cause-specific and all-cause mortality
19. Contain beneficial bioactive phytochemicals. This includes carotenoids, fiber, flavonoids, and soy isoflavones.
20. Less inflammation
21. High fiber content. Your digestive system appreciates this!
22. More energy. Whole plant foods are clean sources of carbohydrate and contain fiber – these qualities can provide stable, lasting energy throughout the day.
23. Clearer skin. Plant-based foods are loaded with healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that can improve skin health and clarity.
24. Better hydration. Many fruits and vegetables contain a lot of water and enhance hydration.
25. Convenience. Plant foods like fruit, nuts, and seeds are easy to carry with you as healthful snacks – no preparation necessary!
26. Plant foods taste great. Tomatoes with fresh basil and garlic. A sweet potato with a little salt and pepper. A smoothie made with frozen berries and mango. A little nut butter with an apple. How can anyone say plant foods are “boring”?
27. Lots of variety. Fruits and vegetables come in an abundance of flavors and textures – there is always something new to try.
28. Cheaper grocery bills. Many people think that going plant-based is expensive, but that’s actually not true. YES, vegan “meat” and “cheese” alternatives CAN be quite expensive, but the good news is that it is not necessary to consume those foods. In fact, the pillars of a healthful plant-based diet are fresh produce, whole grains, some nuts and seeds, tofu, quinoa, beans, and lentils are all VERY inexpensive foods.
29. Fewer medical expenses. Several studies have shown that vegans and vegetarians have lower healthcare costs because they typically maintain a healthier weight and suffer from less chronic disease.
30. Improved mental health. Higher intake of fresh fruits and vegetables is correlated with better mental health and more happiness and life satisfaction.
Do you incorporate a lot of plants in your diet?
Can you think of more benefits to plant-based eating? If so, please share them in the comments!
~ Lisa & Jeff, Plant-Based for 30
Want to join our January challenge? Click here for details: Plant-Based Challenge for January 2020
Subscribe to our email newsletter and get these free resources:
Phytonutrient cheat sheet
Fruits and vegetables: This is what your grandma never taught you
Resources for this article