WHOLE FOOD PLANT BASED DIET(WFPB):
As a foodie who has been in the restaurant world for almost 20 years, I was accustomed to dining out, and preparing/thoroughly enjoying, three course gourmet meals on a regular basis. Once I began to focus on body awareness, and really tune in to how certain foods made me feel after eating them, I realized that the payoff for the microseconds of mouth pleasure that I experienced from eating those foods, was not equally proportionate to the physical discomfort and emotional swings that I would endure after.
3 years ago, I stopped eating meat(I still eat seafood/Pescatarian) and have eliminated the consumption of almost all processed foods. After making this major dietary shift, I haven’t felt that I am depriving myself of the enjoyment that I experience from food and my energy levels have been off the charts since I started implementing these changes. I also was a candidate for statins over the last decade but after eliminating meat, my cholesterol levels plummeted fortifying my decision to stay the path. Over time, I continue to gravitate towards a whole food plant-based diet, with very limited dairy and gluten intake, using anti-inflammatory supplements, and a near 100% detox of processed sugars.
At the core, the consumption of healthful food is the foundation for vibrancy in every facet of our lives. For most, there are challenges to adopt a healthier diet due to convenience and lack of knowledge. Because of these two perceived hurdles, I spent some time documenting my process.
This is a longer read, and my intent in making these posts is to pass along what has been my experience as a result of adopting these dietary changes, some research to back it up, and in subsequent posts, alternative food products that I have sourced that have been outstanding in providing healthier ingredients, with zero sacrifice in taste.
If your current eating habits aren’t residing at a Level 10, and this inspires you to explore other health forward options, then awesome. If you are happy/unhappy with where you reside but don’t have the motivation to make a change, then hopefully your reading this will at least open you up to other future possibilities.
WHOLE FOOD PLANT-BASED DIET(WFPB):
Although I still eat seafood, over time, I have moved towards a more WFPB diet which focuses on minimally processed foods, specifically plants, which has been a catalyst in my noticeably spiked energy levels, optimal health, and overall sense of well-being. Foods that are in my shopping cart include vegetables, fruits, oats, gluten free whole grains, legumes, and seeds and nuts. Not included are refined foods, foods with added processed sugars, white flour, and processed oils. Essentially, I always look for foods with the least possible ingredients and especially ones that I can pronounce.
- Weight Loss – The high fiber of a WFPB coupled with the exclusion of processed foods, is a winning combo for weight loss.
- Heart Healthy – Coronary heart disease is virtually absent in cultures that eat plant-based diets.
- Cancer Risk Reduced – Studies show a 22% lower risk for colorectal cancer. Pescatarians have a 43% reduced risk of colorectal cancer.
- Slows Cognitive Decline – Prevents Alzheimer’s disease as well as a 20% reduction of risk of developing cognitive decline/dementia.
- Diabetes Risk Reduced – 34% lower compared to those following a non-plant-based diet.
MEAT OF THE MATTER:
- 25% of all meat consumed is processed(hot dogs, bacon, sausage, deli meats).
- Although it is a good source of protein, most Americans eat more than 1.5 times the daily requirement and meat is high in saturated fat and cholesterol.
- Excess meat consumption can lead to heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity, certain cancer, and earlier death.
- Meat has health risks because of high saturated fat, cholesterol content, carcinogenic compounds in processed meats, and L-carnitine in red meat that promotes plaque buildup in the arteries.
- Animal feed contains antibiotics, arsenical drugs, and rendered animal carcasses.
MYTHS DISPELLED ABOUT A PLANT-BASED DIET:
- I won’t get enough protein from WFPB – We can get all our necessary protein intake from plants, except for vitamin B12 and D. Meanwhile animal fat is high in saturated fat, trans fat, and dietary cholesterol, which are the top 3 risk factors in elevating heart disease, the No. 1 killer in the United States.
- Plant-based diets are high in carbs – All carbs are not created equal. Mother nature gives us complex carbs which is what our bodies need for energy as well as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. WFPB such as fruit, veggies, and gluten free whole grains are also high in protein and fiber, which helps slow the digestion of carbs, so you won’t experience a sudden spike in blood sugar followed by a crash.
- Eating plant-based will leave you hungry all the time – WFPB is not just salads. Calories come from tubers(sweet potatoes, artichokes, ginger, jicama), gluten free whole grains(brown rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth, and buckwheat), and legumes. On the other hand, the SAD (Standard American Diet) – is typically rich in processed and artificially sweetened foods, salt, red meat, and dairy – high in calories, and low in nutrients which causes you to feel hungry, and eat a lot more to quell hunger pangs.
- But eating chicken is still ok just not red meat – A serving of chicken contains just as much cholesterol as red meat and eggs contain 3x that amount. Grilled chicken contains PhIP which may contribute to cancer. Chicken are pumped full of antibiotics and fed arsenic which leaves our bodies vulnerable for superbugs to enter as well as making them highly toxic to humans and cause dementia and other neurological problems.
- Eating grilled lean animal meat ok – When you expose animal derived food that is high in fat and protein to high heat, they form AGEs(advanced glycation end products), that are toxins that accelerate the aging process causing oxidative stress and inflammation that contribute to cataracts, macular generation of the eye, Alzheimer’s, and damage to the bones, heart, kidney, and liver.
PLANT-BASED MEAT ALTERNATIVES/PROCESSED FOODS:
There is a transition period when your body detoxes from meat that you will still have cravings. In the last 2 years, plant-based meat alternatives have taken the market by storm with the front-runners being Impossible and Beyond. Making a move from eating meat to one of these products is a step in the right direction, as it seemingly takes a little time for one to lose the craving/taste for meat once you begin to make the shift. I have questioned if these products were any better for you than other processed foods, because after I consumed them, my digestive system and overall body feel were both out of alignment.
Research: The four main ingredients in a Beyond Burger are water, pea protein isolate, canola oil and coconut oil bound together my many other artificial ingredients that help preserve the patty. Impossible is made out of textured wheat protein, coconut oil, and potato protein with kanjac and xanthan gum, and several other vitamins.
Although the result of these ingredients is a delicious plant-based meat alternative, both of these products are far from healthy. A Beyond Burger contains 31% of you daily suggested fat intake, 25% saturated fat, and 16% of your sodium. That is literally just the patty which doesn’t take into account a bun or any other toppings.
The healthiest plant-based meat substitutes include mushrooms, tempeh, seitan, jackfruit, lentils, beans, and chickpeas.
Below is what you will find in my shopping cart:
NUTS PULSES AND GRAINS:
- In general nuts are super high in fiber which serves as prebiotics for healthy gut bacteria, lowers oxidative stress and blood pressure, reduces inflammation linked to heart disease/stroke(especially those with diabetes or kidney disease), and decreases fasting blood sugar leading to weight loss.
- Almonds – Helps with cholesterol levels. Rich in magnesium, vitamin E, iron, calcium, fiber, and riboflavin. Promote weight loss as your body doesn’t absorb all the calories from the nut. Raise (good) HDL cholesterol and reduce LDL.
- Raw Macadamia Nuts – 80% of fat is monosaturated which lowers LDL and prevents heart disease. One of the few foods that contain palmitoleic acid which improves fat metabolism and reduce stored body fat. It is an antioxidant powerhouse that slows aging and is also rich in fiber.
- Sprouted Walnuts– have greater capacity to fight unstable molecules that cause cell damage and disease.
- Brazil Nuts – one of the most healthful nuts on the planet that is rich in protein and carbs, and an excellent source of vitamin B-1, vitamin E, magnesium, and zinc. Also has the highest selenium of any food, which is vital for maintaining thyroid function. The Perfect Health Diet book says to eat three a day.
- Pistachios – lower triglycerides in obese people.
- Hazelnuts/Pecans – good source of plant protein and contain monosaturated fats that reduce the risk for heart disease.
- Lentils – very healthy pulse.
- Rolled Oats/Quick Oats/Old Fashioned Oatmeal – Rich in carbs, vitamin B, omega 3 fatty acids, folate, potassium, as well as soluble fiber which slows digestion and stabilizes levels of blood glucose. Helps lower cholesterol. (Instant Oatmeal increases risk of diabetes, intestinal lockage, and impaired digestion).
GREENS, FRUITS, AND BERRIES
- Goji Berries – protects your eyes, provides immune support, protects against cancer, promotes healthy skin, stabilizes blood sugar, improves depression, anxiety, and sleep, and prevents liver damage.
- Broccoli– rich in calcium, potassium, folate, vitamin C, beta-carotene(antioxidant), phytonutrients (compounds that reduce heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers). A single serving can provide 150% of recommended vit C daily intake and the ingredient sulforaphane has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory qualities. Eating raw or steamed is the best.
- Apples – excellent source of antioxidants, which combat free radicals (damaging substances generated by the body that cause aging and some diseases). Studies found older women experienced a 23% drop in LDL and 4% increase in HDL in 6 months.
- Kale- contains vitamin C and high levels pf vitamin K (778% of the recommended daily intake).
- Beets- great source of fiber, folate (vitamin B9), manganese, potassium, iron, and vitamin C. Beetroots and beetroot juice have been associated with numerous health benefits, including improved blood flow, lower blood pressure, and increased exercise performance.
- Brussels/Cabbage/Cauliflower/Collard Greens/Radishes/Turnips– excellent source of fiber, vitamins, and indoles, thiocyanates, and nitriles which may prevent against some kinds of cancer.
- Legumes (Kidney Beans, Black Beans, Garbanzo, Red Beans, Soybeans, Peas)– excellent source of fiber, folate, and plant-based protein that help reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Asparagus – very good source of fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells.
- Tomatoes – high in Vitamin C and lycopene which reduces the risk of prostate cancer.
- Blueberries – rich in fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. Helps slow down cognitive decline, curb obesity, and reduce the risk of hypertension by 10% because of the bioactive compounds, anthocyanins.
- Avocados– rich in healthy fats, vitamin B, K, and E, have a high fiber content, and regular consumption lowers blood cholesterol levels. Studies also show they can stop oral cancer cell or destroy some precancerous cells.
- Spinach– lower risk of type 2 diabetes, rich in vitamins A, B6, C, E, and K, selenium, niacin, zinc, phosphorous, copper, folic acid, potassium, calcium, manganese, betaine, and iron.
- Sweet Potatoes – rich in dietary fiber, vitamin A, C, B6, potassium, protein, and complex carbohydrates.
- Almond and Coconut Flour– lower risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and strokes.
- Avocado Oil – reduces cholesterol and improves heart health, high in lutein which benefits the eyes, enhances absorption of other nutrients, reduces symptoms of arthritis and neutralizes free radicals.
As with the cessation of any deeply ingrained habit, physiologically and psychologically, your body and mind will continue to have cravings. In my experience, time and distance helped to reduce my powerful desire to continue to eat meat, and resulted in the produce section of any grocery story to be more bright and vibrant than I had ever noticed before…similar to my daily disposition.