Exploring A Whole Foods, Plant-Based Diet

By Dr. Brian Bernier, ND

Firstly, let’s start with a simple definition. A Whole Foods, Plant-based Diet is a diet that consists of unrefined and unprocessed plant-based food. The main food groups of a whole foods plant-based diet are: Vegetables (including roots), Fruits, Legumes, Grains, Nuts/Seeds, Spices and Superfoods.


Research has shown a whole-foods, plant-based diets helps to reduce the occurrence of and may help the reversal of several diseases that are influenced by diet. These can include Type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, certain cancers and many more. Here is a list of foods to consider in each category to assist in your transition to a whole foods plant-based diet:


Vegetables: Squash, zucchini, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, potatoes, arugula, beets, artichoke, asparagus, mushrooms, tomatoes, onion, peppers, cucumber, onions, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, eggplant, okra, turnips, celery, yucca and more.


Fruit: bananas, apples, plums, grapes, oranges, pears, cherries, berries, melons, pineapple, kiwi, avocado, papaya, persimmon, mango, jackfruit, dragonfruit, apricots, pomegranates and more.


Legumes: black beans, pinto beans, chickpeas, lentils, mung beans, navy beans, split beans, alfalfa, field peas and more.


Grains: Brown rice, barley, wild rice, quinoa, amaranth, whole oats, whole wheat and more.


Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, cashews, sesame seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, oils such as olive and avocado.


Spices: turmeric, black pepper, oregano, basil, cumin, rosemary, cilantro, bay leaf, cinnamon, parsley, garlic, cayenne, ginger, sage and more.


Superfoods: Spirulina, Wheatgrass, Djon Djon, Chondrus Gracilaria (a type of seamoss), Moringa and more.  

If a whole foods plant-based diet is very different from your current diet, here is a brief guide on transitioning with a list of foods to consider.

Before eliminating, start by substituting and including. Find a number of foods to eat that you enjoy from the list above. Highlight them and purchase them next time you go grocery shopping. Everyday try to incorporate a few of them into your diet. As that becomes easier, begin adding more. As you add more, naturally you will begin to eat less of foods that do not fall within these categories.


Healthy snacking:

Oftentimes, we consume a lot of nutritional empty calories in snacking. Instead of snacking on chips, try purchasing a small bag of brazil nuts. Dried fruit is often highly processed, so if you want something sweeter than nuts as a snack, go for fruit such as grapes, oranges, or a couple of apples.


Less packaging, the better.

If buying food from packages, even if it appears to be healthy, it might contain a lot of processed ingredients. Veggie burgers are a good example of this. In order to more effectively transition to this diet, a majority of your purchases (approximately 70%) should come from the produce section in the grocery store.


Refined foods and canned:

While it may be a taste transition, you want to avoid the heavily refined foods. This means using brown, unrefined sugar instead of white sugar. The same goes for whole grain flour. Foods processed in cans are also something you want to avoid as not only are they usually robbed of nutritious value in the canning process, but can leach toxic chemicals like BPA into your food.

THE BIGGEST MISTAKE PEOPLE MAKE! 

The greatest error I see in people attempting to eat more plant-based and whole food is a lack of attention to serving size. Instead of eating just a palmful of carrots and broccoli, you will need to eat heaping handfuls of vegetables. Unlike with processed food, too much of a whole food is hard to achieve and should not be a concern. Eating too little will make you feel hungry not long after your meal. It also fails to quell cravings.
EAT MORE OF THE GOOD STUFF!


Cook your food!

A common error I see people make when transitioning from a conventional meat and potatoes diet is deciding they want to jump in and eat raw! While there are numerous benefits to include certain foods raw into your diet, this needs to be done with caution and appropriately. For the vast majority of people, it is simply better to stick to cooking plant-based meals rather than trying to jump into the fad of juicing kale and whatever other vegetable in the morning and eating salads and raw food all day. Cooking is a science. Cooking is analogous to heating elements over a Bunsen burner in a chemistry course, but where you get to taste the product of your chemical mixtures afterwards. The only food we should focus on eating raw are fruits. 

*For plate formation and more tips concerning whole foods, visit here: https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/

As you transition into this diet, speak with your healthcare provider to get tips and advice on adjustments of food group quantities. It is always important to be aware of macronutrient content and making sure YOUR individual needs are met.

If you don’t have a health provider that can assist in your transition, please contact Aayu Clinics, we would love to help you in your journey and achieve your goals of a healthier life!

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