WHAT IS A WHOLE FOOD PLANT BASED DIET
Whole plant foods are: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. These are at the core of a nutritious and balanced diet.
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The history of the term Whole Food Plant Based diet goes back to the early 1980’s.
It was Dr. T. Colin Campbell who came up with the term during his work as a member of the NIH research grant review committee. Being the only member with lab-based research experience about the role of nutrition in the development of human cancer, he was asked to articulate the nutrition that appeared to play a crucial role in cancer.
The word vegetarian was not a very popular term within the scientific community. It was also not a word that seemed accurate. Vegetarians may still consume dairy, eggs and fish, which was not in line with the nutritional evidence that was accumulating (namely to avoid all animal foods).
At the time, Dr. Colin Campbell was unaware of the word vegan and so that was not part of the consideration.
But, it was the taboo in the world of science relating to the word vegetarian that required him to come up with a neutral word: Plant-based. Not much later the word whole was added to clarify that non-whole plant-based foods (ie supplements and refined plant foods such as white flour and oil) do not promote health. This is the reason why Dr. T. Colin Campbell doesn’t think the word vegan is accurate, as vegans may still consume too much processed (plant) foods.
Thus the term whole food plant based emerged, or WFPB in short.
Two elements: Whole food and plant-based
The term whole food plant based diet consist of two elements.
The most important aspect is to eat plant-based foods, which automatically excludes any animal products, so no meat, fish, cheese, milk, eggs, etc.
The term whole food is added to clarify that the focus is on eating whole plant foods and avoiding/minimizing unwhole (processed) plant foods.
A simple example is wheat. Whole wheat, as the name itself implies, is a whole food. White flour is not. White flour is a processed plant-based food. Another example is olives (whole plant food) and olive oil (processed plant food).
Processed plant foods are not considered healthy foods, since they are largely stripped of nutrients (fiber, vitamins, minerals etc) and in many cases appear to have a negative impact on our health. They are best avoided, or at least minimized.
Vegetable oils are perhaps the most dangerous processed plant food. Diabetes and heart disease, two of our leading killers, are both strongly linked to the consumption of vegetable oils.
There are some processed plant foods that are relatively harmless, neutral or even slightly beneficial. Think of plant milks and white rice, for example. To create a healthy, balanced and nutritious meal, it is best to minimize them or to eat them in combination with whole plant foods.
Whole Food Plant Based diet: Minor differences, but the core is the same
Within the whole food plant based community, there are some minor differences in approach. In general, it is safe to say that there is a guiding principle that is agreed upon: Maximize the intake of whole plant foods.
For specific approaches, read the evidence-based dietary recommendations of Dr. T Colin Campbell, Dr. Greger, Dr. McDougall and Dr. Esselstyn.
You’ll find that they agree on about 95-98%, while there are minor and insignificant differences which make up approximately 2-5% of their dietary recommendations.
Again, let’s keep it simple by recognizing the main principle of maximizing the intake of whole, plant foods.
The closer we get to a WFPB diet, the healthier we will be.
— Dr. Campbell
When you transition to a Whole Food Plant Based lifestyle, all sorts of challenges appear on the path. If you are really serious about this, you may need to give up some of your favorite foods and flavors and try to replace them for new ones. You may feel limited at first, but you’ll be surprised by the variety of new foods and flavors. To help you get started, we’ve put together a list of 5 simple food tips.