Just getting started? You came to the right place!
What to Eat and What to Avoid:
The first thing you need to do when switching over to a Whole Food Plant Based diet is to understand what you can and cannot eat. Let’s go over some of the basics:
You CAN eat any Plant-Based Foods in their whole form. Here are the categories with a few examples of each. To see a more complete list, check out this article. The main thing is to know that you won’t be lacking on flavor or choices. There are plenty of recipes for lasagna, chili, pizza, burgers, desserts, etc.… this is definitely not a boring way to eat, and the food is so fresh and whole, it tastes so much better and is satisfying as well.
- Roots – like beet, potato and carrot.
- Bulbs – such as onion, garlic and water chestnut.
- Stems – like celery, rhubarb and asparagus.
- Greens – not limited to Romaine lettuce, bok choy, arugula, spinach and kale.
- Flowers – such as cauliflower, broccoli and artichoke.
- Fruits – so many, including tomato, orange, watermelon, apples and bananas.
- Mushrooms – like portobello, white button and shiitake.
- Nuts – including but not limited to pecan, cashew, walnuts and almonds.
- Legumes – like cannellini beans, peas, lentils and black beans.
- Whole Grains – such as 100% whole wheat, brown rice, rye, farro and quinoa.
You can eat any of these whole, unrefined plant-based foods you want, making sure you get a wide variety and stay balanced doing so. Check out the Greger’s Daily Dozen app in the tool section to help stay balanced in both Micro & Macro nutrients, as well as protein and essential vitamins.
Weight Loss Caveat
You do want to be sure to watch portion sizes especially if you are trying to lose weight. Many people will tell you that you can eat as much as you want every day but take it from someone who lost 50 pounds doing this, there is still a solid science behind weight loss. You simply can’t consume more calories than you burn daily and still lose weight. Find out more about how I lost weight on WFPB here.
So what foods should we avoid on a Whole Food Plant Based diet?
You should eliminate all animal-based Foods. These foods include:
- Dairy – eliminate all cheese, milk, and yogurt products. Why? Dairy consumption is not necessary for bone health like we have been raised to think. It is also associated with autoimmune diseases, diabetes, and cancers of the prostate and breast. Dairy protein (casein) promotes growth hormones which increases tumor growth. Are you worried about getting enough calcium for strong bones? You can get plenty without consuming dairy. All the previous links will take you to super articles at nutritionstudies.org which is where I got my Whole Food Plant Based nutrition certificate. Here is another great article by Kris Carr on dairy consumption as well.
- Eggs – chicken eggs, duck eggs and egg products such as mayonnaise. Why? By avoiding eggs and consuming more plant-based foods, you will not only decrease your intake of cholesterol, saturated fat, and animal protein, but also increase your intake of protective fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. Be smart! Skip the eggs and enjoy better health! Learn more about What’s wrong with eggs here.
- Fish & Seafood – including but not limited to tuna, swordfish, and shrimp. Why? According to nutrisionstudies.org, while fish may be a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids they are also packaged along with several other harmful substances to human health. The most harmful of these being saturated fat. Additionally, cholesterol, polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxins, and mercury are other harmful substances that can be found in fish and seafood. Find out more reasons to avoid fish in your diet by reading this article at nutritionstudies.org. And this great article about fish oil supplements by Dr. Greger.
Meat – all meats such as steak, hamburger, chicken and pork. Why? Animal based proteins are associated with disease. Too much protein in our diet increases carcinogens and is correlated with the health risks for all chronic diseases including coronary artery diseases, diabetes and obesity. The Recommended Daily Allowance for protein is 10% of calories, though most people tend to eat twice that. The main way we consume too much protein is by eating too many animal food products as well as the use of isolated protein in processed foods. Animal foods have no fiber, while whole plant foods are packed with fiber, which fill you up, keep you regular, and maintain regulated nutrients into the body.
Avoid Refined & Processed Foods – Why? There is a strong correlation between refined foods and many diseases – sweets, pastries and processed foods like pastas and certain breads and flours lack their original fiber, vitamins and minerals. These processed foods convert to sugars in the blood, increasing the risk for insulin resistance, colon cancer, vascular disease and obesity.
Avoid/Eliminate Oil – Why? This is a big one and sometimes the hardest for anyone to understand or to give up yet it is the most crucial of all foods to eliminate. Oil and butter, even the finest olive oil, is 100% fat, calorically-dense (4,000 calories per pound) and nutrient-poor. As Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. MD explains, oil injures the endothelium, the innermost lining of the artery, and that injury is the gateway to vascular disease. For those with known heart disease, even adding a little oil can have a negative impact on heart health. So, NO OIL. I know this goes against a lot of other advice out there about so-called good fats. It doesn’t matter whether it’s olive oil, corn oil, coconut oil, canola oil, or any other kind. Avoid ALL oil.
- For more information on foods to avoid click here.
Do you need to take supplements?
- Vitamin B12 – B12 is the only vitamin that can’t be sufficiently absorbed from a Whole Food Plant Based diet. The reason may actually surprise you. It’s not because animals are the only source of B12. Vitamin B12 is actually not made by either plants or animals, it is made by bacteria! Animals eat dirt and water contaminated with the B12 bacteria and it accumulates in their muscle tissues. The B12 is then passed on to us when we eat animal products. Due to modern sanitization techniques, we rarely get the chance to consume this vital bacteria on our own.
- Since B12 is very important for the development and protection of nerve cells, as well as red blood cells and DNA production, every plant-based doctor that I follow recommends taking a Vitamin B12 supplement. It is the healthiest and most reliable way to be sure you are consuming the right amount.
- Check with your doctor about the correct dose for you, but the most recent research suggests 2500 mcg as chewable, liquid or under the tongue once a week for the average adult.
- What does Vitamin B12 deficiency look like? Some symptoms are weakness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, gastrointestinal issues, anemia, and nervous system dysfunction.
- So I tell every person that transitions over to a plant based diet that they need to take their B12!
- Iron – Plant based foods are actually considered to be better sources of iron than animal foods because they come packed full of tons of beneficial nutrients including the iron enhancing nutrient, Vitamin C. When compared calorie to calorie, many plant foods contain higher amounts of iron than animal foods.
- What is iron exactly? It is a mineral in our blood that carries oxygen through the blood.
- Heme-iron is blood-based iron. It is found in animal foods. Heme iron is more easily and readily absorbed but, is believed to not be as beneficial as many people believe because our body does not have a way to excrete excess iron.
- Non-heme iron is plant iron. This iron can be considered a better source of iron because you won’t over consume the iron, and you get so much added nutrition with every bite.
- Some plant based foods containing Non-heme iron are: kidney beans, black beans, soy beans, spinach, raisins, cashews, oatmeal, cabbage and tomato juice.
- So, as long as you are eating a well-balanced plant based diet such as recommended in the Daily Dozen app, you should not need to take extra iron supplements, unless you have had a condition that your doctor has prescribed iron for.
Last But Not Least, Drink Water
Water carries nutrients, oxygen and electrolytes throughout the body for all its vital work, including nerve signaling, muscular movement and toxin removal. Signs of not drinking enough water include fatigue, fluid retention and constipation. Many people are walking around with sore muscles because they are dehydrated and get diagnosed with things that also cause muscle soreness like Fibromyalgia. Try drinking more water and see if that soreness doesn’t go away. Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
These are just the basics to get started on Whole Food Plant Based eating. I know you are going to love this lifestyle and start to feel better really soon! Look at the rest of the site and keep checking back for more information weekly.