A whole foods plant based diet (WFPBD) is based on primarily fruits, vegetables, whole grains, tubers, and legumes in a whole or minimally processed state. It excludes or significantly minimizes animal-based foods; meat (red meat, pork, chicken, turkey, fish, etc.), dairy (cow/goat milk, cheese, ice cream, etc.) and eggs. The avoidance of processed foods is critical. The juices, sodas, candies, donuts, pastries, etc. have been created mainly for pleasure with very little regard for nutrition. As the profits for the powerful American food companies rise, there is a direct correlation to the growth in the amount of money our country is spending on disease (not to mention the loss of the local farmers).
The WFPBD (better if considered a lifestyle) has been found to have the best health outcomes based on observational studies such as those presented in “The China Study” by Dr. Colin Campbell.
To highlight this diet it will be helpful to discuss the common dietary types – Vegan, Vegetarian, Herbivore, Omnivore and Carnivore – and contrast.
True vegans follows a lifestyle that removes animal products from both their plates and their bodies/environment (i.e. leather, fur, wool and silk are not worn/used). Products that are tested on animals, such as some cosmetics, are not used. Even products that come from insects such as honey and beeswax are generally not considered vegan or suitable for vegans. This is a politics and personal belief and not based on nutrition measures alone.
While a plant-based meal would qualify as vegan, a person who follows a whole foods plant-based diet (WFPBD) is not necessarily following a vegan lifestyle. For example, someone could follow a plant-based diet but still wear leather and have no moral issue with hunting or killing animals for food – and consume small amounts of animal protein.
On the flip side, something that is vegan may not be plant-based. For example, an Oreo cookie is an acceptable vegan food. It doesn’t contain any animal products. However it’s not plant-based. An Oreo doesn’t resemble a plant. It’s a plant fragment at best and extremely processed. Very unhealthy but OK if you are a vegan.
You could live on French fries, white bread, Twizzlers, Oreos and soda and still be vegan, but you wouldn’t be plant-based or following a plant-based diet. In fact, you could be vegan and never eat anything that looks like or resembles a plant. Take a look at vegan junk food such as faux cheese and imitation meat, for example. They may be vegan, but they’re not plant-based. When it comes to food, “Plant-based” refers to whole foods — beans, grains, fruits and vegetables, not processed foods that were once whole foods.
Of course, you don’t have to be either/or. You can be a plant-based vegan or a vegan who follows a plant-based diet (I know many people who do) — but not every person who is plant-based is a vegan and not every vegan follows a plant-based diet.
Vegetarianism is the practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat – red meat, poultry, seafood and the flesh of any other animal; it may also include abstention from by-products of animal slaughter.
Like vegans, vegetarians choose eating restrictions for different reasons – not all nutritional. Many object to eating meat out of respect for sentient life. Such ethical motivations have been codified under various religious beliefs, along with animal rights. Other motivations for vegetarianism are health-related, political, environmental, cultural, aesthetic or economic. There are varieties of the diet as well: an ovo-vegetarian diet includes eggs but not dairy products, a lacto-vegetarian diet includes dairy products but not eggs, and an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet includes both eggs and dairy products.
Similar to the vegan the vegetarian diet can be full of processed foods that have terrible health effects. Again you can be a vegetarian that follows a WFPBD or a person on a WFPBD who’s food is consistent with vegetarianism but I do not like labels. A person who follows a WFPBD has the highest likelihood of healthy outcomes.
An herbivore is an animal that gets its energy from eating plants, and only plants. Examples are cows, deer, elk, buffalo, horse, zebra, beaver, giraffe, rhinoceros, rabbit, etc. Herbivores need a lot of energy to stay alive. Many of them, like cows and sheep, eat all day long.
An omnivore, meaning ‘all-eater’, is an animal that can derive its energy and nutrients from a diet consisting of a variety of food sources that may include plants, animals, algae, fungi and select bacteria. Omnivores are often opportunistic, general feeders which lack carnivore or herbivore specializations for acquiring or processing food, but which nevertheless consume both animal protein and vegetation. Omnivores can also eat parts of plants, but generally only the fruits and vegetables produced by fruit-bearing plants.
Various mammals are omnivorous in the wild, including humans, chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas, pigs, badgers, bears, opossums, skunks, sloths, squirrels, raccoons, chipmunks, mice, and rats.
A carnivore is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of animal tissue, whether through predation or scavenging. Animals that depend solely on animal flesh for their nutrient requirements are considered obligate carnivores while those that also consume non-animal food are considered facultative carnivores. Omnivores also consume both animal and non-animal food, and apart from the more general definition, there is no clearly defined ratio of plant to animal material that would distinguish a facultative carnivore from an omnivore. A carnivore that sits at the top of the food chain is an apex predator.
EAT PLANTS – THE MORE INTACT, THE BETTER: The closer you can get the plant as it exists in nature the better. Natural, plant-based foods provide all the essential nutrients needed for a well-balanced and healthy diet, as there are no nutrients found in animal-based foods that are not abundantly available in plant foods (with the exception of vitamin B12). THE FULL PACKAGE!
AVOID OVERLY PROCESSED FOODS: Although many processed foods can come from plants the extraction, modification and concentration of sugar and/or oil creates an unnatural product. The perfect balance of nutrients in the whole plant has been destroyed and many refined products are “fortified” with man made vitamins to improve their marketing. AVOID!
AVOID PRESERVATIVES AND ADDITIVES: If a food doesn’t naturally decompose it is not a natural food. Stopping the “rotting” of food is good for shelf life but bad for health. GOOD FOOD DOESN’T LAST FOREVER!
ELIMINATE DAIRY: The production of milk is a marvelous biological event that is designed to allow the mammalian infant to survive and grow. Once that individual can eat the food adults of that species eats the mother stops feeding and lactation (production of milk) ceases. A calf is born weighing 60 lbs. and will weigh about 600 lbs. by the time it is weaned. COW’S MILK, GREAT FOR COW BABIES, BAD FOR HUMANS (YOUNG AND OLD)!
DON’T WORRY ABOUT PROTEIN DEFICIENCY WITH A PLANT DIET: Some of the largest land animals are herbivores (see examples under Herbivores). Spinach has more protein per calorie than red meat. American’s protein consumption is approximately 30-35% (of total calories consumed) and only need 6-8%. PLANTS HAVE IT ALL!
The Ideal Diet for Humans
There is no limit to the opinions and beliefs regarding what we should eat. Opinions and beliefs are not necessarily the truth. And, the truth is that nobody can tell you what the best diet is because –
WE DIDN’T BUILD US!
Again, the diet that helps homo sapien (humans) stay healthy and limit chronic disease is the whole foods plant based diet with minimal to no animal protein (including chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, milk, beef, pork, fish) and even less – i.e. NO – processed foods. This is what science tells us – not allowing our desires and belief to weigh in.