Whole-Foods, Plant-Based Diet: A Detailed Beginner's Guide
A whole food, plant based (WFPB) diet is one that consists mostly of unprocessed plant foods like fruits, veggies, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds. But what exactly do you shop for, and how do you plan it efficiently? This article gives you all the answers you're looking for.
This type of diet excludes meat, eggs, dairy products, sugar, refined grains, and oils derived from plants such as soybean oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower seed oil, etc.
People who eat WFPB focus on real foods, rather than highly processed junk foods. They also emphasize plant proteins over animal proteins.
There are many benefits to eating this way.
For example, you'll lose weight because there's no room for empty calories;
You'll feel better because you're eliminating inflammatory compounds called free radicals.
You'll sleep better because you won't be waking up every night due to hunger pangs.
You'll look younger because the anti-inflammatory properties of plant foods help prevent wrinkles.
You'll live longer because cancer risk goes down, cardiovascular disease risk goes down, diabetes risk goes down, and obesity risk goes down.
You'll improve your gut microbiome by reducing intake of antibiotics and other chemicals found in animal products.
Eating a whole food, plant-based diet is easy once you learn what to eat and how much.
You don't have to count calories or measure portions. Just make sure you're getting enough of the various food groups listed in this article, and you'll get enough protein, healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
What Is a Whole-Foods, Plant-Based Diet?
A wholefoods, plant-based diet emphasizes fresh fruit and vegetables over processed foods. It excludes meat, dairy, eggs, and processed foods.
The WFPB diet focuses primarily on eating real food, which includes vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, beans, leguminous vegetables such as soybeans and peas, and whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, oats, barley, bulgur wheat, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, teff, corn, sorghum, and wild rice.
These foods are often eaten raw, steamed, roasted, boiled, baked, sautéed, or stir fried. They can be served alone or combined together in one meal.
Some people also choose to eliminate gluten from their diets because they may be allergic or sensitive to it.
What Are the Scientifically Proven Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet?
A study found that adopting a plant-based diet improves insulin sensitivity and beta cell health.
This is important because people with Type 2 diabetes are often diagnosed later in life due to lack of symptoms.
In addition to improving insulin sensitivity, eating a plant-based diet reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
One reason why is that it increases satiety.
Another benefit is that it boosts your metabolism.
A third factor is that it lowers cholesterol.
Eating a plant-based diet also decreases inflammation, which contributes to cardiovascular diseases like atherosclerosis.
A Complete Plant-Based Diet Food List
If you want to eat a plant-based diet, it’s important to understand what exactly that entails.
A vegan lifestyle involved avoid using or eating anything that came from an animal. This includes meat, fish and seafood, dairy products, eggs, honey, leather, wool, silk, and gelatin.
Vegetarian diets may include dairy products but exclude meat.
However, a whole foods, plant-based diet excludes all animal foods and processed foods, including only healthy whole plant foods.
Our mentor Dr. Michael Greger has created the Daily Dozen Checklist with top 10 healthy foods groups, beverages and exercise to achieve your optimal health and longevity.
The word "fruit" is derived from the Latin word frui meaning "to enjoy".
This definition is fitting because fruits are delicious, nutritious treats that we eat to satisfy our taste buds.
Some of the world's best known fruits include mangoes, papayas, avocados, pineapples, kiwis, cherries, plums, peaches, pears, nectarines, apricots, and grapes.
And don't forget about the tropical fruits that grow in warmer climates around the globe. These include mangos, guavas, star fruits, passion fruits, lychee, rambutans, durians, sapodilla, jackfruit, custard apple, and breadfruit.
In addition to being delicious, plant foods like fruits contain important nutrients that help keep you healthy and reduce risk of heart disease..
Vitamin A helps protect against night blindness.
Vitamin B6 keeps bones strong.
Vitamin K promotes blood clotting.
Fiber provides bulk and aids digestion, while potassium prevents muscle cramps and regulates heart rhythm.
Antioxidants fight free radicals that damage cells and DNA, and flavonoids provide anti-inflammatory properties.
Finally, fruits are packed full of water, making them hydrating and refreshing. Plus, they're low in calories and high in natural sugars, making them great for weight loss.
We recommend eating at least 3 fruits a day. Ideally, at the start of every meal. This can help you get maximum benefit of preventing chronic diseases.
So next time you reach into the fridge for something to snack on, remember that fruits are just as much fun to eat as they are to look at. Try one today!
Did you know berries are the healthiest fruits?
Berries contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
They help fight cancer and heart disease.
And, they're delicious.
Here are some of our favorite berries:
1. Blueberries - These small red berries are packed with vitamin C and fiber.
2. Blackberries - These juicy little fruit are loaded with vitamin K, potassium, copper, manganese and folate.
3. Raspberries - This sweet berry contains anthocyanins, which give it a deep purple color.
4. Strawberries - These bright red berries provide vitamin C, folic acid and fiber.
5. Cranberries - These tart berries are rich in vitamin A, calcium, iron, magnesium and fiber.
6. Goji Berries - Also known as wolfberries, gojis are high in protein and fiber.
6. Amla or Indian Gooseberries - These are the highest antioxidant berries in the world! An excellent source of anti-cancer tannins too.
Green Leafy Vegetables
There are many different kinds of vegetable out there.
Did you know green leafy vegetables are the healthiest of all vegetables?
They're also very tasty.
Here are some examples of these superfoods:
1. Coriander Leaves - They are high in natural nitrates, which can help lower blood pressure.
2. Spinach - This leafy green has more than twice the amount of iron found in beef per calorie.
3. Lettuce - Lettuce is so much more than a salad ingredient. It's also a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, fiber and minerals such as iron, zinc, phosphorus and potassium.
4. Kale - This dark green veggie is loaded with vitamins A and K, plus lots of other nutrients.
5. Romaine Lettuce - This green leafy vegetable is a good source of vitamin K, folate, fiber, calcium and iron.
6. Swiss Chard - This leafy green vegetable is loaded with vitamins A, C and K, and is also a good source of iron, folate and fiber.
7. Mustard Greens - This leafy green is a good source of vitamins A and K, and is especially high in folate.
8. Bok Choy - This leafy green veggie is a good source of Vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B12, folate, fiber & iron.
9. Amaranthus Leaves - This leafy green contains more than three times the amount of iron found in spinach.
10. Watercress - This leafy green provides more than half of the daily value of vitamin K.
11. Celery - This crunchy veggie is a good source of folate, vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C and fiber.
Cruciferous vegetables are the most powerful anti-cancer vegetables.
They are a must-have for any plant-based eating pattern.
The cruciferous vegetable family includes broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, bok choy, kohlrabi, arugula, radishes, rutabaga, turnips, collard greens, mustard greens, Chinese cabbages, etc.
They contain compounds called glucosinolates, which help prevent cancer.
There is no debate that vegetables are good for health!
There are many vegetables that you could grow yourself or buy fresh form local farmers markets.
Some people choose to grow herbs such as basil, mint, oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage, chives, parsley, cilantro, dill, and others.
You can find seeds online on the Urban Mali Network website.
If you want to start growing tomatoes, there are several varieties out there. Tomatoes come in different colors, shapes, sizes, and flavors. They are easy to grow and require little maintenance. Most tomato plants produce fruit within three months.
You can also try growing bell peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, radishes, lettuce, onions, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, beans and cauliflower.
We recommend two servings of other vegetables daily for maximum benefit.
Nuts and Seeds
A handful of nuts or seeds will give you all the essential fatty acids your body needs.
Walnuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and macadamia nuts are some examples of nuts and seeds.
These foods are rich in omega 3s, protein, antioxidants, fiber, healthy fats, and minerals like magnesium, manganese, copper, selenium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, and iron.
These foods are very filling and satiating and can even help to regulate your cholesterol levels.
The best time to eat nuts is as a topping on other dishes, because they boost absorption of the fat soluble nutrients from other foods.
Flaxseed powder is an excellent way to get your essential fatty acid intake and Omega 3s.
It has been shown to reduce inflammation, improve blood sugar regulation, and lower cholesterol.
We recommend at least one tablespoon of flaxseed powder daily for optimal health.
A healthy diet includes whole grain products such as brown rice, red rice, millets, whole wheat, oats, quinoa, barley, buckwheat, cornmeal, amaranthus seeds or rajgira, teff, sorghum or jowar.
They contain fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients, B vitamins, iron, zinc, magnesium, selenium, potassium, copper, calcium, phosphorus, manganese, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, folic acid, and vitamin D.
They are also a source of complete protein.
Herbs and Spices
Fresh herbs give a better taste than dried ones. They contain more antioxidants than fruits and vegetables.
And there are many ways you can use them in cooking.
Spice blends like garam masala or rasam powder can give you an amazing variety of flavors. They're healthier when ground up rather than whole because they release their antioxidants easier this way.
Dried spices like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, coriander, cumin, fennel seeds, turmeric and ginger can lose some of their flavor over time. If you want to preserve their flavor, store them in airtight containers away from heat and light.
You can grind dried spices into flour for dishes such as Indian breads, cookies, muffins, pancakes, waffles, biscuits, cakes, pies, pasta, rice, couscous, pizza dough, crackers, hummus, dips, sauces, soups and stews.
The healthiest spice is turmeric , which contains curcumin, a powerful antioxidant that helps fight cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer's, and other diseases.
We recommend using at least 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder in your cooking everyday.
Plant-based Healthy Alternatives
When you're starting your vegan diet, you'll want to make sure you don't feel deprived.
Transitioning to a whole-food, plant-based diet isn't easy, especially if you've been eating meat and dairy for most of your life.
You might start craving things that used to satisfy you. This is normal.
There are healthy alternatives that won't break the bank or your diet.
Here are some tips to help you ease into a healthier way of living.
If you're transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle, it's important to do so gradually.
First, try incorporating more whole foods into your daily routine.
For example, swap out your morning latte for a smoothie made with almond milk.
Or skip the cheese pizza and opt for a salad topped with grilled tofu.
Find Your Grocery Store
One of the best places to begin shopping for plant-based products is your local grocery store.
Many stores offer a wide variety of options ranging from tofu to seitan to tempeh.
Some even carry pre-made meals such as burritos and wraps.
Just remember to check labels carefully because some brands contain animal products.
Farm Fresh Bangalore is a fantastic online WFPB Grocery store. Have you checked it out yet?
Explore New Foods
Once you've found your favorite grocery store, it's time to explore the world of plant-based cuisine.
Try making homemade hummus, guacamole, salsa, or pesto.
Experiment with different types of beans, nuts, seeds, grains, and vegetables. They're all great sources of protein and fiber.
And don't forget about fruits and veggies. Veggies like kale, broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, and onions are packed with nutrients and antioxidants.
And fruits like apples, bananas, berries, pears, peaches, oranges, plums, and melons provide vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Plant-based Dairy Alternatives
The dairy industry is one of the most controversial industries out there. There are many ethical issues surrounding it, including animal cruelty and environmental destruction.
But what about plant-based alternatives? They're becoming increasingly popular, especially among vegans and vegetarians. Here are some of our favorites.
- Almond Milk - This creamy drink is full of protein, fiber, calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin B6, zinc, copper, manganese, phosphorus, iron, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, folate, pantothenic acid, selenium, and vitamin E. Plus, it's low in fat and cholesterol.You can make it yourself with just almond butter and water.
- Hemp Milk - Hemp milk is high in dietary fiber, protein, omega fatty acids, antioxidants, and essential amino acids. You can find it in cartons, powder form, and even in ice cream.
- Peanut Butter - Peanut butter is packed with nutrients like protein, fiber, monounsaturated fats, and vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and E. It's also high in energy and contains no trans fats. It's perfect for snacking, making sandwiches, dipping veggies, or adding to oatmeal. Make sure to get one without refined sugar though. If you don't eat peanuts, try sunflower seed butter instead.
- Rice Milk - Rice milk is made from rice flour mixed with water and cooked. It's high in protein, fiber, and iron. It's also low in cholesterol. You can add cinnamon or vanilla extract to give it flavor.
- Soya curds - Soya curds is made by fermenting soya milk overnight. It's high in protein, iron, and calcium. You can use them in place of regular yogurt or sour cream in a variety of foods, from curd rice to raita. This may be the healthiest curds to consume on a whole-food, plant-based diet.
- Tofu - Tofu is made from soybeans that have been soaked, ground, cooked, strained, coagulated and pressed into blocks. It has a mild taste and is very versatile. Try using it as an egg substitute in baked goods, make a stir fry, or try it as a paneer substitute in your favorite gravies. Or, if you want something more simple, try tofu scramble!
Plant-based Egg Alternatives
Eggs are high in cholesterol and animal protein. They have been linked with various diseases from food poisoning to cancer to coronary artery disease. Eggs are also loaded with saturated fat and calories.
So how do we replace them? Well, there are plenty of options.
Avocado - Avocados contain healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. They're also rich in fiber and protein. Add avocado slices to salads, sandwiches, wraps, and desserts.
Chia Seeds - These tiny seeds are packed with protein, fiber, and omega 3 fatty acids. Mix chia seeds with juice or water and let sit until thickened. Use this mixture as a replacement for eggs in baking recipes.
Flax Seeds - Flax seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids. They're also great for heart health because they help lower LDL cholesterol. Whisk 1 tbsp flaxseed powder with 3 tbsp water to make a 'flax egg'. This can replace one egg in baking and comes with several health benefits.
Tofu - Like eggs, tofu is a good source of protein. However, unlike eggs, tofu is associated with better health outcomes, blood sugar levels, lower risk of coronary heart disease, and lower body weights.
Plant-based Meat Alternatives
A growing number of people are turning away from meat because it contributes to climate change, animal cruelty, and land degradation.
But plant-based meats aren't just another way to eat less red meat; they're actually less harmful.
Here are some of our favorites:
Tempeh - Tempeh is fermented soybean cake that's often used as a meat alternative. It's high in fiber, protein, and other essential nutrients. It's also gluten free and vegan.
Seitan - Seitan is made from wheat gluten and is often used as a meat substitute. It's high in iron, protein, and fiber. It's also gluten-free and vegan, but it not a whole food.
Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) - TVP is made from defatted soy flour and water. It's high in both protein and fiber. It's commonly used as a meat substitute in vegetarian dishes. Although it is processed, it may not be harmful to health.
Meatless Meats - There are many different types of plant-based meat substitutes out there. Some are made from vegetables like mushrooms and tempeh while others are made from legumes like soya beans and peas. Most of these are heavily processed, but great to use as transition foods while adopting a whole-foods, plant-based diet.
Mushrooms - Mushrooms are a great meat substitute because they're low in calories, high in fiber, and full of antioxidants. They're also easy to cook and add flavor to any dish.
Raw Jackfruit - Raw jackfruit has a texture similar to chicken and it has been used traditionally as a meat substitute in India for centuries. It's high in protein and fiber. It can be cubed and added to curries, stews, soups, and stir fries.
Yam - Yam is a root vegetable native to Africa and Asia. It has a texture similar to fish and is a traditional mock meat. It's high in vitamin C and potassium. You can use yams as a meat substitute in savory dishes like fish curries, lasagna, and stir fries.
Date sugar and homemade date syrup have been around since olden times.
They are healthier alternatives to white sugar because they do not cause a blood sugar spike like regular sugar does.
Whole food sweeteners such as date sugar, date syrup, fruits and dry fruits, and even some exceptions like blackstrap molasses are better options then sugar, jaggery and honey.
These natural sweeteners offer many benefits including being rich in minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.
Fruit and dry fruit contains fiber, which prevents a blood sugar spike and making it a great option for people watching their weight.
Condiments and Sauces
Apart from salt and high-salted condiments, other condiment and sauces may actually be good for you. Here are some reasons why:
1. Tomato Sauce
Tomatoes contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that helps protect against heart disease and cancer. They also contain potassium, vitamin A, folate, and fiber. Make tomato sauce at home and avoid packaged convenience foods like tomato sauce if it contains preservatives or is packaged in an aluminium can.
2. Balsamic Vinegar & other Vinegars
Balsamic vinegar and other vinegars contain acetic acid, which is known to help reduce the risk of diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity when consumed with meals.
Mustard contains sulfur compounds that help protect against cancer.
4. Miso Paste
Miso paste is fermented soybean paste that adds umami flavors to your food. Although it's high in salt, the soya bean phytochemicals appear to protect you from the harmful effects of the salt.
A Whole-Foods, Plant-Based Shopping List
With the vegan movement spreading globally and Indian cuisine rooted in Plant foods, there are plenty of healthy vegetarian alternatives out there. Here is a list of what you'll need to stock up your kitchen to eat healthfully.
1. Pulses & Legumes
Beans are packed full of fiber and protein. They're also inexpensive and easy to cook. Try toor dal, moong dal, urad dal, chana dal, black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, chickpeas, lentils, white beans, chana or garbanzo beans, soybeans, adzuki beans, etc.
2. Whole Grains
Grains like brown rice, red rice, black rice, whole wheat, oats, barley, millet, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, teff, cornmeal, couscous, bulgur wheat, farro, wild rice, and others are great sources of complex carbohydrates, fiber and B vitamins. All grains except wheat, rye and barley are gluten-free, making them ideal for people with celiac disease.
3. Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, etc., contain essential fatty acids and antioxidants. They're also easy to store.
Flaxseeds are the healthiest seeds. Flaxseed powder can be stored up to a month outside, and even longer in the fridge.
Vegetables include little gourd, pumpkin, okra, beans, carrot, potato, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, spinach, kale, collards, bok choi, brussels sprouts, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, zucchini, summer squash, winter squash, eggplants, potatoes, turnips, radishes, rutabaga, sweet potato, yams, etc. These vegetables are low in calories and rich in nutrients. Cruciferous vegetables are protect you strongly from cancer.
Green leafy vegetables like palak, amaranthus leaves, chakotha, paruppu keerai, coriander leaves, basale, lettuce, endive, arugula, watercress, mustard greens, chicory, purslane, beet greens, etc. are the healthiest vegetables.
Fruits like apples, oranges, bananas, berries, grapes, melons, pineapples, papayas, mangoes, kiwis, watermelon, plums, figs, dates, raisins, apricots, cherries, pears, nectarines, persimmons, guavas, etc. are naturally sweet and provide important minerals and vitamins.
Berries like amla, strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries, goji berries, etc. are loaded with antioxidants and are the healthiest fruits.
Herbs like coriander, mint, curry leaves, gongura, basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, bay leaves, marjoram, mint, cilantro, parsley, tarragon, chives, fennel, lovage, lavender, lemon balm, etc. add a burst of flavor to dishes and can help prevent chronic illnesses.
Spices like chili powder, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, mace, aniseed, saffron, pepper, mustard seed, fenugreek, poppy seeds, etc. add flavor and aroma to dishes and should be a part of any grocery list.
The Bottom Line
A healthy diet is one that includes all these ten food groups.
It's not just about counting calories. A balanced diet has many different components, including proteins, fats, carbs, and other nutrients. The good news is, if you plan your diet around these 10 healthy foods, you don't need to count any of these nutrients.
Farm Fresh Bangalore is the best Whole-Foods, Plant-Based online grocery store. They offer a wide range of products at affordable prices. Their goal is to make it easier for everyone to live healthier by providing access to high quality, organic produce, plant-based meats, dairy alternatives, natural beauty care products, eco-friendly cleaning supplies, and more!
They offer Economic Monthly Packages that are optimised for your family's nutrition, containing all the above ten food groups in the recommended quantities. Now you don't need to spend hours planning your grocery shopping anymore! You can let them do it for you.
Have you checked out the Plant-based Diet Masterclass yet? There, you can learn more about adopting plant-based eating patterns for your family's better health.
Every single product you can find on SampoornaAhara.com is made using whole plant foods, because we care about your health and want to give you the best possible start to your day. We hope you enjoy our website and thank you for visiting us today.
Dr. Achyuthan Eswar
Co-founder, SampoornaAhara.com & NutritionScience.in