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What is a “Whole food plant based diet”


A whole food plant-based diet consists of eating mainly or completely from the food groups fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes (pulses), nuts and seeds. This encompasses a huge variety of nature’s most nutritious and filling foods with endless options for meals. “Whole food” refers to the food being in its natural state or minimally altered or processed. “Plant based” refers to the fact that the foods come exclusively or mainly from plants. People eating this diet eat minimal or no foods which are derived from animals (meat, dairy, eggs chicken or fish), due to the harms to health they have been shown to cause.

Evidence shows that eating a diet of foods which come from minimally processed plant origin is optimal to prevent and treat our most common diseases. Peer reviewed scientific studies show heart disease and diabetes can be reversed, weight can be normalised, and some cancers can be put into remission, while others can be slowed by eating such a diet. This also applies to many other of our most common diseases and conditions, such as menstrual problems, acne and sinus problems.

It’s not just a ‘vegan’ diet

Vegan refers to a diet which involves no animal products but does not tell you anything about the quality of the foods in the diet. Oreo cookies, processed soy mock meats, vegan pastries, and fizzy drinks are vegan but not particularly healthy. The key term is ‘whole food’ i.e. minimally processed. Processing removes fibre, minerals, vitamins, phytonutrients (the hundreds of beneficial plant molecules such as beta carotene and anthocyanins) and water leaving a food which is far less nutritious. Cooking is fine – in fact many healthy plant based foods cannot be eaten without cooking e.g. grains and starches.

A whole food plant based diet may be vegan, or some people may eat a little animal product foods. In general the less animal foods the healthier the diet is.

It’s not a ‘diet’ diet 

Eating a WFPB diet means you can eat pretty much freely from the plant food groups, without restricting portion sizes or counting calories. This is because the foods are relatively high in bulk and lower in calories than a typical western diet so the body’s natural satiety mechanism of a full stomach limits how many calories one eats. Animal product foods, and processed foods, are relatively high in calories meaning to feel full one often eats more calories than the body needs. You only need to eat a few more calories each day to put on weight.

Will I be deficient in any nutrients?

No! You will have an abundance of essential vitamins, minerals, macro and micro nutrients, a lot more often more than a person on a standard western diet. You don’t have to plan meals carefully as plant based foods are so packed with essential healthy nutrients they give the body all it needs. The only qualifier to that is B12 vitamin – we used to get enough of this from our plant foods but since they are so carefully washed these days, if you are eating an entirely plant based diet it is recommended to take one 2500mcg tablet week. This is very cheap to buy.

What is the food like? What do I cook?

Amazing! There are an endless variety of delicious dishes you can make for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Most people eating a WFPB diet find they are eating a much wider variety of foods than they were previously, and that it gives them renewed interest in meal preparation and cooking. You can make plant based versions of just about any usual meal, including European and ethnic dishes, or completely different combinations. “Buddha bowls” are very popular – throwing together foods from the different food groups to make a hearty tasty meal. The food can be as complicated or as simple as you wish to make it, and can be equally healthy.

Will it be expensive?

Absolutely not! Whole, plant based foods are the cheapest found in the shops. Grains, pulses, fruits and vegetables can be extremely cheap to buy, often reducing food bills. you can buy a lot of them in bulk and store for when you need them.

More information:

Find out more on the Whole Food Plant-Based – New Zealand Information & Marketplace website.