An alternative title …. The FACTS I Wish Someone Had Told Me Years Ago About Whole Food Plant Based Nutrition !
As a counselor, health coach, writer, and musician, I want to get the message out to everyone on the planet about how healthy whole food plant based nutrition can be. So here is a video that uses humor and music to get the message across, followed by some actual scientific evidence.
“Spice” by Peggy Hustad
There are a lot of myths being promoted about nutrition, like the myth that all fats and sugars are bad, the myth that all carbs are bad, and the myths that you only can get certain nutrients from animal products or processed foods and drinks rather than from the healthier and more natural sources of whole food plant based nutrition.
Here are just some of the micronutrients and macronutrients that you can get from whole food plant based sources, rather than from animal products and processed foods and drinks. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals and macronutrients are fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.
There is a misperception that dairy is the only source of calcium, but there are many types of whole food plant based options that contain significant levels of calcium, without the many disadvantages of dairy.
Whole food plant based nutrition provides a healthy source of carbohydrates, which include fiber, starches, and sugar. Although carbs have a bad reputation sometimes, the type of carbohydrates that are less healthy are refined and processed carbohydrates, like white bread, refined sugars, and highly processed snack foods like chips and cookies. Complex carbohydrates from whole plant based foods are essential for good health for many reasons, listed in this article below and in the information specific to fiber, starches, and healthy types of sugar.
The processed food industry sells products that contain electrolytes, often with additives such as artificial colors and flavors, preservatives, stabilizers, artificial sweeteners, and sugar. Electrolytes include elements like calcium and potassium and can be found in many whole food plant based options, which are nutrient dense and naturally healthy.
Our bodies need certain types of fats, but animal products contain unhealthy saturated fat and fried, baked, and processed foods can have harmful trans fat and saturated fat. Whole food plant based options are more likely to contain healthy unsaturated fats like Omega 3 fatty acids. And getting Omega 3 fatty acids from plants like chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, and flaxseeds is much healthier than from fish, which contains saturated fat and other harmful substances
Animal products are low in fiber and plant based foods are high in both soluble and insoluble fiber. Among the many benefits, fiber is essential for eliminating dietary fat and cholesterol and excess hormones like cortisol and estrogen.
Here is more information about the importance of plant based fiber in your diet
Because heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are linked to consumption of animal products which tend to contain heme iron, the healthier type of iron is non heme iron, from whole foods like “whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and green leafy vegetables”. These whole food sources of non heme iron “can be paired at the same meal with vitamin C rich foods such as citrus, bell peppers, broccoli, and tropical fruits to boost iron absorption”
Information from Nutrition Facts web site, such as this article about plant based sources of iron https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/iron
Also called phytochemicals or antioxidants, phytonutrients are compounds produced by plants that provide health benefits to the body
Some animal products are actually classified as carcinogens by the World Health Organization, including red meat and processed meat. Animal products, including dairy, have been linked to several types of cancer. Plant based foods can actually reduce the chances of developing cancer and have a higher level of antioxidants.
For more information about carotenoids, flavonoids, isoflavones, and other types of phytonutrients, here is an article from the USDA National Agricultural Library
There is an inaccurate and harmful belief that the only source of protein is from animal products. The truth is that we can get all of our protein from plants …. and plants are where animals get their nutrients from, directly or indirectly. Several types of plant based foods are sources of complete protein, which provides all of the essential amino acids, including soy and amaranth. If you try to consume a variety of at least 30 different types of plant based foods in a week, the combination of different types of foods provides all of the essential amino acids.
One type of protein is collagen and there is a lot of interest in collagen supplements as a way to reduce the signs of aging. There are several plant based foods that increase the production of collagen, so there is no need for animal based collagen.
Starches are a type of carbohydrate and according to Dr. Thomas Campbell, we should fill half of our plates with starchy whole foods like potatoes and half of your plate with non starchy fruits and vegetables.
Dr. Thomas Campbell is the Medical Director of the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies
Also, Dr. John McDougall explains that “the human diet is based on starches. The more rice, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and beans you eat, the trimmer and healthier you will be …. and with those same food choices, you will help save the Planet Earth too.”
Glucose is “one of the most important forms of sugar used by the body for energy. All other carbohydrates, including other sugars, are converted into glucose during the digestion of food.”
Other than dairy products, which have many disadvantages, animal products are not good sources for the production of glucose. Plants are an efficient and healthy source for the production of glucose, which our brains and bodies need for fuel.
Here is an article about complex carbohydrates from plants providing glucose for the brain, which talks about “the real paleo diet” of plant based food like starches
Put more plants on your plate
As you can see, there is no reason to consume animal products. You can go directly to the source for healthy, whole food plant based nutrition. The main nutrient that a person needs if they are not consuming animal products is vitamin B 12, which can be obtained from sources like fortified cereals, soy drinks, and vegan vitamin B 12 supplements. Also, be sure to get enough iodine, selenium, vitamin D, and zinc because those nutrients may be lower for those who are fully vegan. A list has been provided at the end of this article of whole food plant based sources of various mirconutrients and macronutrients.
Other disadvantages of animal products
Animal products often contain contaminants such as antibiotics, growth factor hormones, unhealthy bacteria, TMAO, heavy metals, mercury, parasites, and microplastics. Animal products cause inflammation, which is linked to several chronic diseases, plus they can reduce immune system health.
While consuming animal products can increase inflammation in the body, plant based foods actually reduce inflammation in many ways.
Here is an article about whole food plant based nutrition reducing inflammation
Immune system health
Here is an interview of Dr. Robynne Chutkan by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine about how plant based nutrition reduces inflammation and increases immune system health.
As Dr. Chutkan explains, “To optimize our immune system we really have to optimize our gut health”
Endorsements of whole food plant based nutrition
A whole food plant based diet is endorsed and recommended by the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, the American College of Cardiology, the American Diabetes Association, the American Institute for Cancer Research, and the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists.
American College of Lifestyle Medicine statement
“ACLM recommends an eating plan that is based predominantly on a variety of minimally processed vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Eating more unrefined, plant based foods is an important strategy in prevention of chronic disease, management of chronic conditions, and promotion of overall health”
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics statement
“It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes. Plant-based diets are more environmentally sustainable than diets rich in animal products because they use fewer natural resources and are associated with much less environmental damage. Vegetarians and vegans are at reduced risk of certain health conditions, including ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer, and obesity. Low intake of saturated fat and high intakes of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, soy products, nuts, and seeds, all rich in fiber and phytochemicals, are characteristics of vegetarian and vegan diets that produce lower total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and better serum glucose control. These factors contribute to reduction of chronic disease. Vegans need reliable sources of vitamin B-12, such as fortified foods or supplements.”
Whole food plant based meals
There are some great resources about whole food plant based nutrition on the American College of Lifestyle Medicine web site, including one that is a PDF 21 day Jump Start Guide and a sample cookbook of whole food plant based meals, which you can find by clicking on this link
Films about whole food plant based nutrition
Also, there are some evidence based and truly compelling movies about whole food plant based nutrition for health and peak performance called “Forks Over Knives” and “The Game Changers” that are an entertaining way to learn more as well.
Summary of many of the advantages of whole food plant based nutrition
Consistently consuming whole plant based foods and drinks can reduce inflammation, is nutrient dense and provides healing antioxidants, is a great source of glucose for optimal brain health, and increases immune system function. In general, whole food plant based nutrition is better for human health, peak performance, recovery from illness and injury, food security, social justice for workers, the diversity and welfare of all animals, the health and safety of communities, sustainable use of resources like land and fresh water, and the health of our environment.
Plant based sources of essential nutrients
Selenium – Oats, beans, Brazil nuts, brown rice, whole wheat bread
From the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements web site at https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Selenium-HealthProfessional
Protein – Legumes (beans, lentils, peas, peanuts), nuts, seeds, soy foods (tempeh, tofu)
Omega-3 fats – Seeds (chia, flax, hemp), leafy green vegetables, microalgae, soybeans and soy foods, walnuts, wheat germ, supplement
Fiber – Vegetables, fruits (especially berries, papayas, pears, dried fruits), avocados, legumes (beans, lentils, peas), nuts, seeds, whole grains
Calcium – Low-oxalate leafy greens (bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, collard, dandelion, le, watercress), calcium-set tofu, almonds, almond butter, fortified plant milks, sesame seeds, tahini, figs, blackstrap molasses
Iodine – Sea vegetables (e.g., arame, dulse, nori, wa me), iodized salt, supplement if necessary
Iron – Legumes (beans, lentils, peas, peanuts), leafy greens, soybeans and soy foods, quinoa, potatoes, dried fruit, dark chocolate, tahini, seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower), sea vegetables (dulse, nori)
Zinc – Legumes (beans, lentils, peas, peanuts), soy foods, nuts, seeds, oats
Choline – Legumes (beans, lentils, peas, peanuts), bananas, broccoli, oats, oranges, quinoa, soy foods
Folate – Leafy green vegetables, almonds, asparagus, avocado, beets, enriched grains (breads, pasta, rice), oranges, quinoa, nutritional yeast
Vitamin B12 – Fortified foods (nutritional yeast, plant milks), supplement
Vitamin C – Fruits (especially berries, citrus, cantaloupe, kiwifruit, mango, papaya, pineapple), leafy green vegetables, potatoes, peas, bell peppers, chili peppers, tomatoes
Vitamin D – Sun, fortified milks, supplement if deficient
Vitamin K – Leafy green vegetables, sea vegetables, asparagus, avocado, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, lentils, peas, natto (a traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans)
From the article “Plant-based nutrition for healthcare professionals: implementing diet as a primary modality in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease” at the web site https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5466942