Eating More Plant-Based Foods
If you are considering making the transition to a whole foods, plant-based (WFPB) diet this Action Sheet is for you! Created for the individual, it is focused on great sources of information, ways to broaden your knowledge, tips for engaging with others and steps for initiating change.
Provides ideas for quick and easy options for WFPB breakfasts and snacks, as well as tips for flavouring meals.
When you are new to a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) lifestyle, shopping for groceries may seem difficult, especially if some of the ingredients or products are unfamiliar. This info sheet outlines many common food products found in WFPB recipes – most of which can be purchased at chain grocery stores.
Traditional family favorites can easily be transformed into delicious WFPB meals using this list of plant-based substitutions for non-WFPB items like meat, eggs, dairy, and oils. A little ingredient substitution goes a long way.
Why no oil? Eating meals that contain no oil can have positive health benefits, especially for people struggling with type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Cooking plant-based meals that contain no oil may seem daunting at first. This Info Sheet has been crafted to help you make this adjustment seamlessly.
It can be incredible to learn that a whole food, plant-based diet can both improve your health and save you money. Check out these ideas for low-cost healthy food shopping and consider what works best for you.
Disclaimer: The information shared by PlantPure Communities (PPC) is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you are on medication and are changing to a whole food, plant-based diet, you should discuss with your healthcare provider the changes that you are making in your diet and how these changes may require an adjustment in medication dosage. It is important that you work with your doctor to monitor your condition and medication dosage during your change of dietary practices.
Q: Where do you get your protein? How do you get enough protein?
A: This is probably the most commonly asked question, so much so that it warrants an entire info sheet on the topic. The bottom line: there is far more protein in beans and greens than sirloin, almost no Americans are protein deficient; and rather than focusing on protein, we should be focusing on fiber. See PPC’s Info Sheet: Where Do You Get Your Protein? for more detailed answers and links to great statistics, tables and other resources on this subject.
Q: Do you only eat veggies? Isn’t this diet restrictive?
A: A whole food, plant-based diet is far more than swiss chard, kale and carrots. A combination of foods help create delicious meals: greens and veggies, healthy starches such as sweet potatoes, whole grains like brown rice, quinoa and millet, and legumes such as black beans, chickpeas and lentils. There are an enormous rainbow of whole foods, spices and herbs available to you when you are designing whole food, plant-based meals – it is anything but restrictive!
Q: Will a plant-based diet make you weak? Can you still build muscle?
A: Professional athletes such as Venus Williams, and Carl Lewis, endurance athletes such as Brendan Brazier, Rich Roll and Rip Esselstyn as well as bodybuilders like Robert Cheeke and Korin Sutton and more, all have one thing in common – a plant-based diet. Check out the list of resources below to find out how athletes thrive on a whole foods, plant-based diet. Check out the following resources for more answers: Whole Foods for Optimum Health – In this article, Brendan Brazier, former professional endurance athlete, explains how he maximized his athletic performance while eating a whole foods, plant-based (WFPB) diet. Building Your Own High Performance Body – This post in the McDougall Newsletter offers information to debunk the myth that a plant-based diet will make you weak. How to Build Muscle on a Plant-based Diet – This article by former bodybuilder, Robert Cheeke, explains how to build muscle on a plant-based diet. How to Build Muscle and be Your Plant-Based Personal Best – In this article, Robert Cheeke describes how his muscle gains improved when he adopted a whole foods, plant-based diet and cut the supplements. No Whey, Man. Il’l Pass on the Protein Powder – Robert Cheeke discusses why you should pass on the Whey protein powder, and how you can achieve your fitness and strength goals on a whole food, plant-based diet. Former NFL Football Player Goes Plant-Based – Chris Manderino, lifelong athlete and former NFL player, explains his story of discovering a whole foods, plant-based diet. Other athletes/bodybuilders: endurance athlete Rich Roll and bodybuilder Torre Washington.
Q: Is a plant-based diet expensive?
A: There are many “health foods” such as green juice powders, superfoods, exotic fruits, supplements, and trendy specialty items that give healthy eating an expensive name. However, a well-balanced, nutritious plant-based diet can be cost effective. Staple-foods such as oats, brown rice, (dry) beans, lentils, and other grains and legumes are very cheap when considering price per serving ($0.29/ serving Rolled Oats and $0.21/ serving Brown Rice from Amazon). These items are even cheaper when you buy them in bulk, and because they stay fresh and store well in your pantry, you can keep them for months on hand. Fresh produce, such as fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens, will cost slightly more per serving. Try to buy your produce in season, and locally or from a farmer’s market when possible, to reduce costs. Plan your meals accordingly and use produce when it is fresh, because minimizing food waste will also save you money. Frozen fruits and vegetables may be cheaper, especially in the off-season, so stock your freezer with these convenient and healthy options (check for no added salt or sugar). A study conducted by Miriam Hospital and the Rhode Island Community Food Bank found a plant-based diet “showed annual savings of nearly $750 per person” compared to “the most economical recommendations for healthy eating from the USDA”. The plant-based diet also provided “significantly more serving of vegetables, fruits and whole grains”. Similarly, Dr. McDougall recommends eating lots of starchy foods – potatoes, grains, and legumes, as they are “inherently inexpensive.” Check out McDougall’s newsletter for more cost saving tips, such as buying in bulk, shopping at warehouse supermarkets, make food at home instead of eating out, and more! To minimize your weekly grocery budget, here is a great guide on how to spend $50 dollars a week on healthy plant-based foods from all sections of the grocery store. Check out this article for tips on how to eat a plant-based diet on as little as $5/ day.
Q: I hate vegetables; doesn’t a plant based diet taste like cardboard?
A: Throw away your image of rubbery canned green beans and replace that with a rainbow of fresh, crisp, and vibrant plant foods bursting with flavor. You may have heard your grandparents say “eat the rainbow”, and no, they were not talking about Skittles. Instead, they are referring to a simple healthy eating trick – eat as many natural colors as possible with your meals. Fruits and veggies are naturally colorful, which is largely due to the type of nutrients found in them. An easy way to create a healthy meal, is to add as many different colors to your plate as possible! As you begin to eliminate processed foods with added sugar, salt, and oils, you may find that vegetables you once thought you hated, actually taste pretty good. Human bodies are designed to eat lots of plants, and given the chance, your taste buds will adjust. There are many ways to cook vegetables. Experiment with steaming, blanching, sautéing with water or veggie broth, baking, and mashing among others. You can also enhance the natural flavors in vegetables by adding various vinegars, oil-free dressings, hot sauces, and spices. Start by eating the fruits and vegetables you do like, and slowly add in new types and varieties. You might just surprise yourself!
Q: Is a plant-based diet extreme?
A: “The Western diet guarantees that a half-a-million people in the U.S. each year will have the front half of their body divided, their heart exposed, and then veins taken from their leg and sewed on their heart…some people would call that extreme.” – Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD
Q: Why no oil?
A: As explained by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., MD, “oil contains no fiber, no minerals and is 100% fat calories. Both the mono unsaturated and saturated fat contained in oils is harmful to the endothelium, the innermost lining of the artery, and that injury is the gateway to vascular disease.” Check out these resources for more answers: Olive Oil is Not Healthy – In this 11 minute video Michael Klaper explains the many negative health effects of olive oil. No Oil! Not Even Olive Oil – In this 4 minute video Dr. Esselstyn explains of why oil is detrimental to the inner lining of our arteries. Making Heart Attacks History: Caldwell Esselstyn at TEDXCambridge 2011 – In this 14 minute video Dr. Esselstyn explains how he was able to reverse heart disease in patients consuming an oil-free whole food, plant-based diet. Why Olive Oil Isn’t a Health Food – In this article and 3:30 minute video, Dr. Greger, MD, explains why oils are not health foods, despite what mainstream media portrays. Is Coconut Oil Healthy or Hazardous? – In this article Matthew Lederman, MD, debunks the hype around coconut oil, and explains how it is hazardous to our health.
Q: Don’t you need the calcium in cow’s milk for strong bones?
A: Contrary to the dairy industry’s marketing campaign, reviews of the scientific literature have concluded that extra dietary calcium during childhood does not build strong bones. In fact, according to a meta-analysis,“populations that consume the most cow’s milk and other dairy products have among the highest rates of osteoporosis and hip fracture in later life,” Check out these resources for more answers: How to Get Calcium Without Dairy – In this article, Thomas Campbell, MD, explains how to obtain adequate calcium without consuming dairy, and how you can avoid the negative health outcomes associated with animal-based calcium sources. Alkaline Diets, Animal Protein and Calcium Loss – In this 5:26 minute video Dr. Greger, MD, addresses the decades-old dogma that the acid-forming quality of animal protein leads to bone loss. Is Milk Good for Our Bones? – In this 3:53 minute video, Dr. Greger explains that galactose in milk may explain why milk consumption is associated with significantly higher risk of hip fractures, cancer, and premature death.
Q: Will you become deficient in iron without eating meat?
A: Check out these resources for answers: The Safety of Heme vs. Non Heme Iron – In this 4:27 minute video, Dr. Greger explains how heme iron, the type found predominantly in blood and muscle, is absorbed better than the non-heme iron that predominates in plants, but may increase the risk of cancer, stroke, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome. How to Enhance Mineral Absorption – In this article, Dr. Greger explains how to enhance iron absorption by consuming Vitamin-C rich foods. Risk with Iron Supplements – In this 2:50 minute video Dr. Greger explains that iron is a double-edged sword. If we don’t absorb enough, we risk anemia; but if absorb too much, we may increase our risk of cancer, heart disease, and a number of inflammatory conditions. Because the human body has no mechanism to rid itself of excess iron, one should choose plant-based (non-heme) sources, over which our body has some control.
Q: Isn’t soy bad for women who have had breast cancer or are at risk for breast cancer? Is too much soy a bad thing?
A: Check out these resources for answers: BRCA Breast Cancer Genes and Soy – In this 5 minute video, Dr. Greger explains that one reason why soy consumption is associated with improved survival and lower recurrence rates in breast cancer patients may be because soy phytonutrients appear to improve the expression of tumor-suppressing BRCA genes. Soy and Your Health – In this article, by Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), they address the benefits of soy in areas such as cancer prevention, thyroid function, fertility and more. Soy is Beneficial to Your Health – In this PCRM blog post Dr. Neal Barnard explains how soy is beneficial in reducing breast cancer risk. Animalistic Plant Proteins – In this 1:30 minute video, Dr. Greger explains that while animal proteins increase levels of the cancer-promoting growth hormone IGF-1, and most plant proteins bring levels down, “high quality” plant proteins, such as soy, may not significantly affect levels in either direction. This, however, may depend on the quantity consumed.
Q: Isn’t soy bad for male hormones?
A: Check out these resources for answers: Soy Hormones & Male Infertility – In this 1 minute video, Dr. Greger explains that soy consumption does not decrease male fertility, and in fact, may do the opposite. Soy Consumption Decreases Risk for Prostate Cancer – In this 6:29 minute video Dr. Greger explains the research behind how soy decreases the risk for prostate cancer.
Q: What do you mean that it is mostly the fat that is the problem with my Type II diabetes? Isn’t it the carbs and sugar?
A: According to a PCRM article, written by Dr. Neal Barnard, MD, “because blood sugar levels are high in diabetes, a common notion has held that eating sugar somehow triggers the disease process. The American Diabetes Association and Diabetes UK have labeled this notion a “myth,” as has the Joslin Diabetes Center, which wrote, “Diabetes is not caused by eating too much sugar.” Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. Type 2 diabetes—the most common form of the disease—is caused by insulin resistance and pancreatic failure. Sugar can play an aiding and abetting role in diabetes, but the idea that “eating sugar causes diabetes” is simplistic and interferes with efforts to help the public understand the actual causes of the disease and how to protect themselves and their families.”In Japan, China, and other Asian countries, the transition from traditional carbohydrate-rich (e.g., rice-based) diets to lower-carbohydrate Westernized eating habits emphasizing meats, dairy products, and fried foods has been accompanied by a major increase in diabetes prevalence. Similarly, in the United States, a meat-based (omnivorous) diet is associated with a high prevalence of diabetes, compared with dietary patterns emphasizing plant-derived foods.” Check out these resources for more answers: Forks Over Knives – Dr. Neal Barnard on Diabetes – In this 2:34 minute video Dr. Neal Barnard explains how carbohydrates are not the issue with diabetes, fat is. Diabetes and the Fat Connection – In this 5 minute video Dr. Greger discusses how the “twin vicious cycles” explain how the buildup of fat in the cells of our muscles, liver, and pancreas causes type 2 diabetes, which explains why dietary recommendations for diabetics encourage a reduction in fat intake.
Q: Will eating a high carb, low fat plant-based diet make you gain weight?
A: According to Dr. John McDougall, MD, “A widely held belief is that the sugars in starches are readily converted into fat and then stored unattractively in the abdomen, hips, and buttock. Incorrect! And there is no disagreement about the truth among scientists or their published scientific research. After eating, the complex carbohydrates found in starches, such as rice, are digested into simple sugars in the intestine and then absorbed into the bloodstream where they are transported to trillions of cells in the body in order to provide for energy. Carbohydrates (sugars) consumed in excess of the body’s daily needs can be stored (invisibly) as glycogen in the muscles and liver. The total storage capacity for glycogen is about two pounds. Carbohydrates consumed in excess of our need and beyond our limited storage capacity are not readily stored as body fat. Instead, these excess carbohydrate calories are burned off as heat (a process known as facultative dietary thermogenesis) or used in physical movements not associated with exercise.” Check out these resources for more answers: Fat or Carbs: What is Worse? – In this blog post Dr. McDougall, MD, responds to an article which concluded that consuming fat is better for your health than carbs. People – Not Their Words – Tell “The Carbohydrate Story” – In this newsletter Dr. McDougall explains how many of the healthiest and trimmest populations in the world consume a diet primarily made up of carbohydrates. People Passionate about Starches Are Healthy and Beautiful – In this newsletter piece, Dr. McDougall explains how the body utilizes healthy carbohydrates vs. fat, and how the process dietary thermogenesis of carbohydrates helps keep people slim.
Q: You take vitamin supplements, so you are all set – right?
A: Wrong, the answer is plants, not pills, to obtain our vitamins and minerals. According to Dr. McDougall, MD, “people are looking for a magic bullet to offset all their destructive habits and fix the resulting bad health. One superficial solution for 70% of people in the USA is to take supplements of vitamins and mineral blends. These concentrated mixtures enter our bodies by way of pills, nutrition bars, “health” drinks, and cereals. “Vitamania” intoxicates the modern world. Vitamin manufactures do not improve upon nature’s design. Vitamins and minerals are found in natural packages called fruits and vegetables. These nutrient-rich foods have been under development for hundreds of millions of years. Their interactions with living animals have been tested and proven correct over eons of successful living. Possibly thinking they are smarter than Nature (God), lab technicians now take selected nutrients from their original environments, isolate and concentrate them, package them in capsules, and then sell them to us with claims that these “new and improved” potions are necessary for good health. At best the results are medications, and at worst, they are poisons.”
Q: But what about the cheese!? I could never give it up.
A: There is a scientific reason why cheese may be one of the hardest foods to give up. Check out this article by Dr. Neal Barnard on “Why It’s so Hard to Give Up Cheese.” If you are looking for cheese alternatives, try a few of these!
- Cream cheese: Try Tofutti, a soy-based substitute, or spread a fresh avocado on your bagel instead.
- Ricotta cheese: Blend up firm tofu (drained). This tastes great in lasagna!
- Parmesan cheese: You can buy commercially available brands such as Galaxy Foods, or you can make your own in minutes.
- Nutritional yeast adds a cheesy taste to sauces, pizza, and casseroles.
- Add baked seasoned tofu slices to sandwiches, or bite-sized chunks to salads.
Q: What about your Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids? Fish oil?
A: According to the Center for Nutrition Studies, “omega-6 is linoleic acid (LA) which is pro-inflammatory. Omega-3 is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). There is a very delicate balance going on inside our bodies between these two, to heal, and keep us in homeostasis. Both omega-6’s and omega-3’s have important healing properties among their vital functions which include cell membrane structure, and nutrient absorption, temperature regulation, organ protection, vitamin transport and storage, and cell membrane signaling. Omega-6 fatty acids tend to promote inflammation, needed for whenever we have an injury or breach of structure inside. Omega-3’s tend to be anti-inflammatory. This natural balance allows for overcoming inflammation when needed, but also keeps inflammation from being chronic. But today’s typical diet supplies a whole lot more of omega-6 than omega-3—a ratio of omega-6 excess to omega-3 deficit. This encourages chronic inflammation, as seen in our nation’s leading killer diseases – all chronic inflammatory diseases. Animal fats and vegetable oils (corn, safflower, soybean, cottonseed, sesame, sunflower) are high in omega-6 fatty acids. Flax seeds, soybeans, tofu, walnuts, wheat germ and dark leafy greens are great sources of ALA (O3s).” Check out these resources for more answers: To Take or Not to Take Fish Oil – In this article, Dr. T. Colin Campbell explains why fish oil supplements are not necessary for good health. Essential Facts About Fats – In this article, Alan Goldhamer, D.C., lays down all the facts you need to know about fats. Should We Take EPA & DHA Omega-3 For Our Heart? – In this 4:22 minute video, Dr. Michael Greger, explains the best way to fulfill the omega-3 essential fat requirements – whole plant foods.
Q: What about the Paleo and Ketogenic diets? Aren’t they healthy?
A: Check out these resources for answers: The Paleo Diet: What’s the Story? – In this article, Micaela Karlsen, MSPH, provides an overview on the Paleo Diet and explains its health implications. High Protein Diets of Masai and Inuit – In this article, Thomas Campbell, MD, reviews the high animal protein diets of the Masai and Inuit populations. Paleolithic Lessons – In this 2:25 minute video Dr. Greger, MD, offers an evolutionary argument for a plant-based diet in contrast to “Paleo” fad diets. The Problem With the Paleo Diet Argument – In this 5:40 minute video Dr. Greger explains that while the Paleolithic period represents the last two million years of human evolution. Our bodies evolved to eat primarily plants during the first 90% of our time on Earth. Paleo Diet May Negate Benefits of Exercise – In this 6 minute video Dr. Greger explains how the deleterious effects of a Paleolithic diet appear to undermine the positive effects of a Crossfit-based high-intensity circuit training exercise program.
Check out this comprehensive list of films exploring topics related to the whole food, plant-based lifestyle.
In Drs. Douglas Lisle and Alan Goldhamer’s book, “The Pleasure Trap,” the authors offer unique insights into the factors that make us susceptible to dietary and lifestyle excesses, and present ways to restore the biological processes designed by nature to keep us running at maximum efficiency and vitality.
Ellen Jaffe Jones’ book “Eat Vegan on $4 a day” is another great resource that speaks to the benefits of a WFPB diet as well as a game plan for the budget conscious.
Visit the Key Resources page for more!