Is a Whole Food Plant Based Diet Healthy?
Unlike other diets that restrict calories, a WFPB approach allows you to eat ad libitum without counting. It also results in healthy, sustained weight loss.
A whole food plant based diet is high in fiber, antioxidants and heart-healthy fats. Try replacing refined foods with unpolished grains like brown rice, quinoa and unprocessed millets (ragi, jowar, foxtail). Avoid processed foods.
1. It’s good for the environment
A plant based diet isn’t just good for you, but the planet as well. It reduces environmental impact by reducing demand for meat and dairy. These products use a lot of land and water and produce a large amount of greenhouse gases.
Eating a WFPB diet can help you avoid heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and type 2 diabetes. It can also improve your mental health and may even aid in preventing or reversing depression.
In addition, a plant-based diet can help prevent animal cruelty. While you can still enjoy eggs, cheese and yogurt, it is recommended to switch to soy milks or nut milks. You can get protein from beans and vegetables, and calcium, iron, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12 from fortified cereals, dark green leafy vegetables and mushrooms.
2. It’s good for your heart
A whole food plant based diet reduces your risk of heart disease by removing foods that contain saturated fat, cholesterol and excessive salt. It’s also full of fiber which helps control blood sugar and blood pressure, and lowers the risk of diabetes.
The plant-based diet contains plenty of healthy, unsaturated fats (like olive oil and avocado) as well as omega-3 fatty acids from nuts and seeds. These can help prevent and treat heart disease by reducing inflammation, lowering blood cholesterol and blood sugar and supporting proper circulation. In fact, a plant-based diet has been shown to prevent, control and even reverse heart disease.
3. It’s good for your bones
A healthy plant based diet is rich in calcium, iron, cholesterol-lowering soluble fibre and omega 3 fatty acids. It includes adequate amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts. It also incorporates fortified foods and drinks, like milk and fortified cereals.
It is important to consume sufficient protein, especially for bone health. A nutrient dense whole food plant based diet can help achieve this by eating legumes, tofu, mushrooms, dark leafy vegetables and fortified cereals.
A plant based diet is also low in fat. This can be beneficial for your bones because excess fat puts a lot of stress on your joints. It can also be helpful in maintaining a healthy weight, which can reduce your risk for post-menopausal breast, ovarian and uterine cancers and esophageal and colorectal cancers.
4. It’s good for your brain
A whole food plant based diet can help to improve brain function by increasing the production of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, which is important for nerve cell growth, and also helps with memory and learning. A plant based diet also reduces inflammation that crosses the blood-brain barrier, which can cause depression, fatigue and anxiety.
Eating a predominately plant based diet can lower high blood pressure by improving heart health, reducing inflammation and lowering cholesterol. This can prevent, halt and in many cases reverse our number one killer – heart disease.
A plant based diet includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. These foods are naturally high in protein, vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and antioxidants. They are low in fat and can help with long term weight management by allowing our natural satiety signals to work.
5. It’s good for your skin
A whole food plant-based diet has been linked to improved skin health. The vitamins, minerals and antioxidants found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts help to protect the skin against acne and premature ageing. They also support good digestion and bowel movement.
A plant-based diet contains plenty of calcium, vitamin D and zinc and can be enriched with iron, folic acid, fibre and vitamin B12 from a variety of sources. Tomatoes, for example, contain the antioxidant lycopene which has been shown to reduce sun damage and reduce the risk of skin cancer.
The switch to a plant-based diet can feel daunting but the key is to make small changes gradually. Start by choosing one day a week to go meat-free, and add in more plants like mushrooms, dark leafy greens, beans and fortified cereals.