WFPB Basics: What Exactly is a WFPB Diet, and What Can I Eat?

Published January 22nd, 2020 by Shofmann

You’re probably here because you’ve heard about the incredible health benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet, either from a doctor or a friend or family member. Weight loss, heart health benefits, diabetes reversal and more - who wouldn’t want to get in on the action? However, if you’re new to this way of eating, you might be wondering: what is a whole-food, plant-based (WFPB) diet? How does it differ from a regular plant-based or vegan diet? And what can I eat on a WFPB diet? Am I consigned to a life of raw kale, or can I eat the hearty, satisfying meals I’ve always loved?

Well, this blog is for all the newbies, and anyone else who wants a quick and easy refresher on the basics of a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle! (newsflash: raw kale is NOT a requirement).

What is a Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet?

A whole-food, plant-based diet is a diet composed of a variety of whole and minimally-processed plant foods - this means plant-based foods in the closest possible form to their natural state. In their unprocessed form, plants are packed with vitamins and minerals essential for good health, loaded with phytonutrients and antioxidants that help fight inflammation and disease, and full of fiber, which feeds the good bacteria in our guts and helps rid our bodies of toxins and waste. However, while whole plant foods are extremely nutrient-dense, they aren’t calorie-dense, so a WFPB diet allows you to eat abundantly and get all the nutrients you need while lowering your risk for some of our most common chronic diseases, including heart disease and diabetes (more on that in a later blog post). An abundance of colors in plant foods also indicates a variety of different nutrients - so, eating the rainbow (as long as the colors are natural and not artificial!) is key to health and longevity!

On a WFPB diet, you’ll naturally get about 80% of your calories from complex carbohydrates, 10% of your calories from protein, and 10% of your calories from fat. Unlike many common diet myths would have you believe, carbs in and of themselves are not the enemy! Simple carbohydrates, like those found in refined grain products (i.e. white breads, white pastas and pastries) should be avoided, as they are mostly devoid of nutrients and packed with calories, but  complex carbohydrates, which are the carbohydrates found in whole plant foods, are rich in fiber, which expands in the stomach, filling you up faster and keeping you full longer. 

Protein is an equally misunderstood nutrient - while many people are concerned about whether they will get enough protein on a plant-based diet, people with on plant-based diets get plenty of protein from natural plant sources - on average, they get 70% more than they need! Lastly, the low amount of fat in a whole-food, plant-based diet helps control caloric intake (fat has 9 calories per gram, versus 4 calories per gram of carbohydrates and 4 calories per gram of protein) under control and your arteries clear. In summary, a whole-food, plant-based diet provides the optimal nutrient distribution to keep you full of fiber, full of energy, and set you up for long-term health!

What Can I Eat on a Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet?

Staple foods on a WFPB diet include:

  • Fruits, such as mangoes, bananas, and berries

  • Non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli, carrots, spinach and kale (yes, kale :) )

  • Beans and legumes, such as lentils, green peas, soybeans and black beans

  • Whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, barley and millet

  • Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, walnuts, ground flaxseeds, and chia seeds

  • Herbs and spices, including basil, thyme, cumin, chili powder, and cinnamon

A WFPB diet also includes some minimally-processed plant foods in moderation, including:

  • Plant-based “milks” such as almond milk, oat milk and rice milk

  • Soy products such as tofu and tempeh, and other minimally-processed soybeans (i.e. soy curls)

  • Whole-grain breads and pastas

  • Condiments, such as minimally-processed sauces, vinegars, and mustards to help spice up your food 

A WFPB diet avoids animal products, including meat, dairy, fish, and eggs, and highly processed and refined plant products, including added cooking oils, white breads and pastas, sugary drinks, and processed, and packaged foods. The elimination of these refined plant products is what distinguishes a WFPB diet from a regular vegan diet - while vegan diets eliminate all animal-derived products, they may still include many processed plant foods that do not promote optimal health.

As you can see, a whole-food, plant-based diet contains all the ingredients you need to make hearty, satisfying dishes (or you can just eat raw kale - it’s up to you!)! Make your favorite meals, including hearty chilis, pasta with meatballs, and more - check out our recipe section for ideas, and check out our weekly ordering menu for this week’s whole-food, plant-based products for sale!

Whole-Food, Plant-Based Resources

The more knowledge we have about how our food impacts our health, the more empowered we are to make healthy choices - check out some of our favorite resources about the benefits of a WFPB diet:

Center for Nutrition Studies

Dr. Esselstyn’s Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Program

The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine

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