Whole Food Plant-Based Diet

Updated: Nov 12, 2020

A pattern of eating that optimizes the intake of plant-based whole foods, while reducing or eliminating the intake of ultra-processed and animal-based foods.



This pattern is focused on eating from these food groups: whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds along with herbs and spices. Plant-based foods are high in fiber, rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients, low in calories and saturated fats and free of cholesterol.


Food groups and nutrients to limit or to eliminate on WFPB diet include meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products, eggs, most processed oils, refined grains, added sugars, saturated fats and cholesterol.


Blue Zones, the five regions around the world where on average people live much longer and have the highest number of centenarians on average, all eat different forms of plant-based diets. Individuals in these regions consume 90-100% of calories from plant-based whole foods. Even the well-studied Mediterranean diet is a plant-based diet where at least 90% of calories come from plant-based whole foods.


If you are not ready to go fully plant-based, don’t be dissuaded to start eating plant-based. The more plant rich whole foods you eat, the more benefits you get from the diet so aim to incorporate as many plant-based whole foods as you can while focusing on minimizing intake of animal products and ultra-processed foods.


People who eat plant-based diets have lower risk of various diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, cancer, obesity and more.

Now even large health organizations are advising to shift towards eating plant-based. The new Canadian Food Guide has taken dairy out as a category and recommends water as choice of drink while having half of the plate be filled with fruits and vegetables, a quarter with whole grains and the other quarter with protein while suggesting,

"Choose protein foods that come from plants more often".

The Eat-Lancet Report by the peer reviewed journal The Lancet also recommends shifting towards eating plant-based and incorporating diversity of plant-based foods. The World Health Organization advocates for focusing your diet on fruit, vegetables, legumes (e.g. lentils and beans), nuts and whole grains while limiting saturated fats, refined sugars and salt intake.


American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada released a position statement on vegetarian diets including a complete plant-based diet:

"A vegetarian, including vegan, diet can meet current recommendations for all of these nutrients. In some cases, use of fortified foods or supplements can be helpful in meeting recommendations for individual nutrients. Well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence. Vegetarian diets offer a number of nutritional benefits, including lower levels of saturated fat, cholesterol, and animal protein as well as higher levels of carbohydrates, fiber, magnesium, potassium, folate, and antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and phytochemicals. Vegetarians have been reported to have lower body mass indices than nonvegetarians, as well as lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease; vegetarians also show lower blood cholesterol levels; lower blood pressure; and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer."

References:

  1. Orlich MJ, Singh PN, Sabaté J, Jaceldo-Siegl K, Fan J, Knutsen S, Beeson WL, Fraser GE. Vegetarian dietary patterns and mortality in Adventist Health Study 2. JAMA Intern Med. 2013 Jul 8;173(13):1230-8.

  2. Dinu M, Abbate R, Gensini GF, Casini A, Sofi F. Vegetarian, vegan diets and multiple health outcomes: A systematic review with meta-analysis of observational studies. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2017 Nov 22;57(17):3640-3649.

  3. Kim H, Caulfield LE, Garcia-Larsen V, Steffen LM, Coresh J, Rebholz CM. Plant-Based Diets Are Associated With a Lower Risk of Incident Cardiovascular Disease, Cardiovascular Disease Mortality, and All-Cause Mortality in a General Population of Middle-Aged Adults. J Am Heart Assoc. 2019 Aug 20;8(16):e012865.

  4. Qian F, Liu G, Hu FB, Bhupathiraju SN, Sun Q. Association Between Plant-Based Dietary Patterns and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. 2019 Jul 22;179(10):1335–44.

  5. Satija A, Bhupathiraju SN, Spiegelman D, Chiuve SE, Manson JE, Willett W, Rexrode KM, Rimm EB, Hu FB. Healthful and Unhealthful Plant-Based Diets and the Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in U.S. Adults. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2017 Jul 25;70(4):411-422.

  6. Satija A, Hu FB. Plant-based diets and cardiovascular health. Trends Cardiovasc Med. 2018 Oct;28(7):437-441.

  7. McMacken M, Shah S. A plant-based diet for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. J Geriatr Cardiol. 2017 May;14(5):342-354.

  8. Satija A, Malik V, Rimm EB, Sacks F, Willett W, Hu FB. Changes in intake of plant-based diets and weight change: results from 3 prospective cohort studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 2019 Sep 1;110(3):574-582.

  9. Song M, Fung TT, Hu FB, Willett WC, Longo VD, Chan AT, Giovannucci EL. Association of Animal and Plant Protein Intake With All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality. JAMA Intern Med. 2016 Oct 1;176(10):1453-1463.

  10. Huang J, Liao LM, Weinstein SJ, Sinha R, Graubard BI, Albanes D. Association Between Plant and Animal Protein Intake and Overall and Cause-Specific Mortality. JAMA Intern Med. 2020 Sep 1;180(9):1173-1184.

  11. Buettner D. The Blue Zones, 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest. National Geographic Books; 2012.

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Medical Disclaimer

The information on this website is not intended to be medical advice and is intended to be information only. Always seek the advice of a healthcare professional for any medical condition or before starting a new nutrition program. Information here is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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