Something came to my attention this week – something that I had never quite clued together before about the plant based diet, and I kind of had a eureka moment. I have been living this lifestyle for almost 3 years now and thought I knew pretty much all I needed to know about it, but alas, I’d been ignorant on something kind of important.
I have recently been hearing the term ‘whole foods’ plant based diet batted about (probably only in the last few months, and is a term that has also been abbreviated as WFPB) and I assumed it was the same diet I had been eating myself, but I was wrong. I mean, it makes perfect and obvious sense really – whole foods means ‘whole foods’; in other words anything that hasn’t been processed or refined, but the issue is, I had personally not been taking into account oils or other so called healthy fats into this equasion.
The problem with oil on a WFBD
Sure, I eat lots of whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and all that other basic plant based jazz, but I also use oil in my cooking and on my food. Only the healthier plant based oils of course such as olive, coconut and flax; but these are not ‘technically’ whole foods as they have been extracted from their original and whole source. I don’t know why I didn’t twig this before, but I didn’t.
Not that I plan on changing so fast as I just don’t know what I’d do without my dark chocolate, not to mention eating meals with no fat. It would surely mean a whole of cooking and I guess I’m just not ready for that yet. But, I will cut back now I have been made aware that these extra fats may not be doing me so much good after all.
Fat soluble nutrients
The potential problem that I see with fat free meals is the issue of nutrient absorption. Certain vitamins and minerals in your food need fats for your body to be able to utilise and absorb them. These include the vitamins A, D, E and K that can found abundantly on the plant based diet when attention is paid to correct food combining.
A lot of these nutrients do already come in a fatty package of either nuts, seeds, coconut or avocados, therefore it’s not always a problem; and these are whole foods, so all good right? But some of them, especially the D and K don’t always come naturally with fats, therefore if you have a fat-free meal containing them then you may not absorb their nutrition fully.
So, moral of the story is, it’s probably a good idea to be eating some fat (even if it’s a tiny amount) just to help with nutrient absorption, and you can do this in the form of the ‘whole food’ fat containing foods of nuts, seeds, coconuts and avocados.
What are the whole food plant based diet benefits?
Of course, due to the super high amounts of antioxidants that naturally occur in the whole foods plant diet it stands to reason that it can be one of the healthiest diets on the planet. Contrary to popular belief by some, you can live a perfectly healthy and happy life eating just plant foods – I’ve done it for years and look and feel better than ever. Fact! Benefits you may feel from this amazing lifestyle include:-
- Increased energy
- Higher immunity
- Beautiful, glowing skin
- More stable mood and hormones; including less PMS
- More clarity of mind
- Sounder sleep
- Weight loss (or sometimes weight gain depending on how you’re going about things. Please read how not to put on weight whilst eating plant based if you are having this particular problem).
- A feeling of being ‘lighter’
- More enthusiasm and confidence to live out your dreams – yes, a healthy body really does boost your confidence in this way.
- Higher fitness levels. This is probably only the case if you actually do regular exercise, but when you do, you may notice that you can get fitter quicker, can train for longer periods, and recover faster through the eating of anti inflammatory plant foods. You only need to look at the recent influx of vegan athletes and body builders if you want to see testaments to this. The old mode of thinking is definitely changing as we see more and more examples of people taking their health and fitness to another level completely.
What about protein?
If you’re a beginner to whole foods plant based then you must take the time to understand your plant macronutrient groups in order to put together nutritionally complete meals. This is the only way to ensure you are getting all the nutrients you need to avoid losing that muscle mass that is such a crucial part of health.
Obtaining enough protein from your plant based foods is a BIG factor in this, as it will help keep your muscle mass high (whether you’re an exerciser or not) and is vital to the functioning of a healthy body. Increased muscle mass can also have the following benefits:-
- FASTER METABOLISM – Muscle is metabolic and needs calories just to maintain itself (unlike fat). This means the more you have, the more calories you will naturally burn, even when at rest. Brilliant huh?
- PHYSICAL STRENGTH – For obvious reasons, physical strength is a plus for every aspect of daily living and help you to move around and exercise to keep your fitness levels to where they should be.
- BETTER SKIN – Muscle definition can keep your skin looking more youthful all over your body as it tightens up baggy skin and reduces the appearance of cellulite.
- ORGAN FUNCTION – Studies show that muscle mass helps with organ and endocrine function in a way that was previously unknown. The endocrine system regulates tissue function, development and growth, the reproductive system, sleep and metabolism – that’s how important it is!
- INCREASED IMMUNITY – Muscle contains immune cells and is intrinsically connected to the immune system.
Whole foods plant based diet beginner’s guide
If you’re just starting out on a plant based diet, then putting a meal together with all the macronutrients required is very important. You can find an abundance of delicious recipes online or in social media groups, so you should never be short of exciting new meal ideas.
I actually LOVE my food more now I only eat mostly whole foods. This may sound strange considering I have seemingly cut out some large food groups, but this it’s so totally and unequivocally true. You will find that once you’re eating foods in their whole and natural state your taste buds will come alive in a way they never have before. You will appreciate food for the life giving nutrition that it gives you, rather than loading up on junk or high sugar foods that actually deaden your taste buds (and your body for that matter).
Whole foods plant based diet foods lists:-
- Wholegrain rice
- Wholegrain pasta
- Potatoes – sweet, white, red and purple.
- Squashes of all kinds
- Certain wholewheat breads.
- Pearl barley
- Root veggies such as carrot, beetroot and parsnip.
- Dried fruits of all kinds – saltanas, currents, raisins, apricots, dates, goji berries, cranberries, mulberries, apple rings, prunes, blueberries. Just remember to always buy with no added sugar, oils, sulphates or preservatives as many will have these added. Always read labels; the only thing on there should be the name of the fruit itself.
- Fresh fruits – The highest carb fresh fruits are usually your tropical fruits of pineapple, mango, banana, papaya and grapes – these are naturally high in fruit sugars that will fill you up for longer. Medium sugar fruits consist of apples, peas, kiwis, passion fruit, cherries, oranges and other citrus fruits. Low sugar fruits usually come in the form of berries such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants.
- Soy and whole soy products such as tofu, tempeh, seitan and edamame beans.
- Pulses – such as lentils, beans of all kinds, chickpeas, peas.
- Nuts of all kinds – unsalted and unroasted are best.
- Seeds of all kinds- again, unsalted and unroasted are best.
- Plant based protein powders – These can come in very handy for those times when you’re unable to meet your protein targets, or if you are in training or exercising a lot then you will probably need one of these. There are many new plant proteins available; and as different sources may contain different amino acid profiles it’s good to do your research first. Check out these highly recommended and researched brands for yourself to see which will suit your needs best.
- Nuts of all kinds – Pecans, Brazils, walnuts, macademia, almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts.
- Seeds of all kinds – Pumpkin, sunflower, chia, flax (linseed), poppy, flax, hemp seeds.
- Peanut butter and other nut butters – be sure to check labels for no added sugars or oils, of which they are notorious for. A little added salt is ok if you prefer saltiness.
(Why they are so important for the WFBP diet)
One thing you really need to eat a lot of on a healthy and whole plant diet is your green leafy veggies (and all other vegetables too of course for variation, but leafy should be eaten daily. They are SO darn healthy and contain such huge amounts of nutrients, including high amounts of vitamins such as A, C, K, folate and calcium, not to mention fiber – ALL of which are vital to the proper functioning of your immune system; for strong teeth and bones; and the formation of red blood cells.
Try to eat at least 1-2 portions of the leafy greens per day (preferable lightly steamed to keep their nutrients as in tact as possible) and then unlimited of the others. As your body gets more used to them you should tolerate them well, even if they make you gassy at first.
Don’t forget to eat some of the fats from the ‘fats list’ with these for bio-availability of key nutrients!
- Swiss chard (green leafy)
- Kale (green leafy)
- Savoy cabbage (green leafy)
- Brussel sprouts (green leafy)
- Spinach (green leafy)
- Pak choy (green leafy)
- Rocket (green leafy)
- All green salad vegetables and leaves (green leafy)
- Green beans
- Sugar-snap peas
Green superfood powders – If you find it hard to get enough vegetables in you (especially the green, leafy kind) then you should consider a powerful green superfood shot everyday for added reassurance. These are ‘whole foods’ just powdered up and usually freeze-dried at the peak of their nutrition at harvest. You may not technically need these, but OMG they give you the most amazing , glowing skin. Seriously; people will notice! They usually come in the form of spirulina, moringa, barleygrass, wheatgrass, blue-green algaes, or best of all buy a blend, that way you are getting the best of everything.
Warning:- Be careful not to use any seaweed based superfoods if you have a fast heart rate, as it may give you palpitations. Or, if you find seaweed gives you palpitations then you should stop taking it.
HERBS AND SPICES
All herbs and spices are permitted on the whole foods plant based diet; not only are they permitted, but they offer all sorts of nutrition and antioxidants making them absolutely amazing and wholly underestimated. You will more than likely find that once you start this healthy way of eating you will be using all kinds of herbs and spices to liven up your foods to help bring your taste buds alive. Use fresh, dried or frozen, it doesn’t really matter
TOP TIP:- Fresh and frozen should always go in in the last few minuets of cooking to really keep that zing of fresh flavour in there.
Dressing ingredients for salad and vegetables:-
To liven up your lunches and dinners you can make all kinds of delicious dressings from plant foods. My favorite for a salad is a fat free lemon, balsamic and cider vinegar dressing; but you can make your own versions of dressings from the following wholesome foods:-
- Apple cider vinegar with the ‘Mother’.
- Balsamic vinegar
- Fresh herbs – good ones for a dressing are corinader, mint and basil (maybe not all together).
- Fresh garlic
- Tamari sauce
- Smooth nut butters
- Seasonings such as salt and pepper.
You can go ahead and experiment with flavours, as they all go pretty well together. It’s a good idea to pick one creamy base such as avocado, nut butter or tahini and add a citrus fruit with herbs and spices, OR go for a vinegar base with citrus fruits, herbs and spices.
Word of advice, don’t put a vinegar with anything creamy like avocado, nut butter or tahini as I find that it just doesn’t work and can curdle.
If you would to see even more amazing results with this super healthful lifestyle then you won’t want to be filling your body with chemical-ridden tap water. Either switch to a water filter; or use some other kind of clean water system (buying plastic bottled water just isn’t environmentally friendly; glass is better). You can then just refill your own water bottle to take about with you.
Trust me, you will notice another level of clear skin when you keep the water you put in your body as pure as possible (at least 80% of the time anyway).
YOUR PLANT BASED MEAL PLAN POINTS
- Make sure you always keep your foods as mixed up as possible for a good array of plant powered nutrition.
- Having carbohydrates, protein and a little fat at main meals will help keep you satiated and FULL until your next meal. It will also help to keep blood sugar on an even keel, thus stopping you from snacking or craving carbs or sugary snacks.
- Go for at least 7-10 portions of fruits and vegetables a day (honestly, it may sound hard at first, but as a plant based eater you will probably find you often go way beyond that anyway).
- Plan your meals for the week and THEN go shopping; this way you won’t come unstuck for something to cook.
- Batch cook – this makes your life so much easier, especially if you’re the only one in the household eating plant based. Doing this means you can freeze portions of soups, stews, chillis, or whatever other tasty meal you have prepared ready for another time.
- Make your evening meal also the next day’s lunch. This works well with chillis as you can change things up and have a jacket spud instead of rice with it.
- Try to cook your veggies for as little a time as possible to keep nutrients intact.
- Eat LOTS of raw stuff like salads, vegetable crudites (make your own humus or guacamole), fresh fruits, yummy raw desserts etc. Raw foods are full of pure nutrition and life-giving enzymes; even a couple of days on a raw food detox makes such a difference to how you feel, and can also be the perfect weight-loss boost.
- Buy as much organic and local produce as possible (or, at least as much as you can afford) to keep pesticide and fertiliser exposure to a minimum. Don’t forget you’re going to be eating a LOT of these foods on a plant based diet, so it makes sense to try and eat as clean as possible. If nothing else, be sure to wash you fruits and veggies thoroughly. You can even soak them in a big bowl of water with a little vinegar added for a few minutes to help neutralise any chemical residues, then wash again thoroughly. There is also a list of fruits and vegetables that contain the least and most pesticides called ‘The dirty dozen and clean 15’ which shows you which foods you should definitely buy organic if you can, and which you can get away with. Read it here.
There’s no doubt about it, the plant based diet can change your life – it did mine. Once you have an understanding of your basic plant food groups and a few favorite go-to recipes under your belt you will find things will get easier and you’ll never look back.
And THEN when you start to look and feel great you will have yet another impetus to carry on, OR maybe even convince family and friends to give it a go too. In fact, scrub that. You won’t even need to convince anyone; people will just notice the change in your appearance and personality and will ask you why you look so well and seem so happy, and of course you can tell them and not feel like you’re preaching!
Thank you for using Zestforever for your source of information about the plant based diet. It is much appreciated! I thoroughly research and practice what I preach to bring you the most up to date, science based information in the industry. I’m also more than happy to answer any questions you may have in the comments thread below this post.
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