Plant-Based Nutrition Primer

Why switch to a whole foods plant-based diet?

WFPB is not just another diet; it’s is a way of eating that you can follow for your whole life.
Eating an unprocessed diet high in fiber and nutrients is a sustainable long-term strategy that can keep you thin and healthy without having to struggle.

You won’t have to fight your appetite or go hungry.
When I first thought about going off processed foods, I was afraid even to try. I thought I would be miserable and hungry all the time and miss all those processed treats.

I had tried in the past, to go on a healthy diet, but I always felt deprived and had intense cravings and eventually went back to eating more processed foods than I wanted to. That was before I learned about eating high volume calorie dilute foods first.

Eating an unprocessed diet high in fiber and nutrients is a sustainable long-term strategy that can keep you thin and healthy without having to struggle. You won’t have to fight your appetite or go hungry.

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The first secret to plant-based eating: taste perception

But the truth is that real foods taste delicious once your taste buds adjust to the new flavors. I am more satisfied eating real food than I was eating processed foods as long as I eat enough high-fiber foods to feel full.

Now, it may not taste great at first because you might be used to highly salted, processed foods. Real food might even taste kind of bland and boring at first.

The secret is that you grow fresh new tastebuds every three weeks! So all you have to do is preserver for a few weeks to have a whole new experience of food.

The Second Secret: Volumetrics

If you’re used to the “portion-control” mentality, you may have to change that mindset because plant foods are low in calories but high in fiber and nutrients. You have to eat a high volume of food to get enough calories. Calorie density is much higher in processed foods so you may have a hard time believing you can eat heaping plates of food without gaining weight when you first start eating a plant-based diet.

When I got started with whole foods, I thought I still needed to eat tiny portions. Eating small portions of calorie-dilute whole foods leads to hunger, and binging on processed junk and it was totally unnecessary.

Whole grains, non-starchy veggies, fruits, beans, and starchy veggies are much higher in fiber and lower in calories than processed foods. You get to eat as much as you like and feel satisfied with a fraction of the calories.

Only 3 high-calorie items to look out for on a whole-foods plant-strong diet if you need to lose weight

  1. Concentrated fats: nuts, seeds, and avocados are easy to overeat because they are very high in calories. You need healthy fats, but only about tablespoon per day will give you all the extra fat you need. Most fruits veggies grains and beans have some fat in them naturally. Adding a lot of fat to your diet isn’t necessary unless you are an elite athlete or a growing child.
  2. Dried fruits: dates, figs, prunes raisins, and even apples and bananas must be used sparingly, or you can pack on the calories quickly. Fresh fruit has a fraction of the calories of dried fruit because water and fiber are intact and fill you up before you can overeat on them.
  3. Ground whole-grain flour products. Even whole grains can pack on the calories when you bake them up into bread, cakes, tortillas, cookies, etc. this breaks down the fiber and can create insulin resistance by flooding the body with too much sugar at one time.

Once you know what foods to eat and how to prepare them, you will be amazed at how satisfied you feel, and how effortlessly you lose weight.

You never have to fight your natural appetite again!

Humans are naturally designed to eat 3 to 5 pounds of food per day.
When we don’t eat enough bulk and fiber, we feel hungry. On the Standard American Diet of high fat low fiber food-like-substances, we instinctively keep looking for more food to satisfy our natural desire to feel full.

Isn’t it a relief to realize you’re not broken?

If you have the urge to eat big plates of food every day, three times a day, you’re normal!

Have you ever had trouble with late-night snacking after being “good” all day long? 

(I sure have!)

One reason you may have trouble controlling your desire to eat in the evening is because of your natural urge to eat until you are physically full. We are not designed to eat tiny Weight-Watcher-sized-portions of processed low-fiber, low-nutrient foods.

It isn’t possible to eat the processed foods we grew up on without becoming fat and/or sick eventually. SAD foods have been stripped of their nutrients. We may stay thin for many years on this unhealthy food but end up with many other health issues. (That’s what happened to me)

SAD food leaves you hungry and fat

Did you know that most overweight people are malnourished? Many fat people are legitimately hungry all the time. Years of dieting on low nutrient, processed foods leaves you ravenous. A great example is the TV show Biggest Loser. So many people gained all the weight back once the show was over. part of the reason was nutrient-poor diets.

Once you start eating nutrient-dense plant foods, your appetite will naturally even out and you will lose weight without even trying.

No matter how you measure it and weigh it and ration it, you can’t stay healthy and slim on refined foods.

No matter when you eat it or how long you fast between meals, or how much you chew those fatty, sugary processed foods, it just doesn’t work in the long run. Your body wants fiber and high-nutrient plant foods.

No wonder most of us have a hard time with our weight!

Most foods on the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.), meat, dairy, and white bread, are 1000 to 2400 calories per pound! We would need to eat about 6000 to 8000 calories per day to eat the three to five pounds a day we naturally want to eat and feel full.

Many plant foods are under 500 calories per pound so as long as you eat the right foods you can be satisfied at every meal while still eating a low-calorie diet of around 2000 to 3000 calories per day!

When you eat most of your calories from low-calorie, high-fiber plants you don’t have to count calories or limit yourself. Your metabolism will gradually normalize because plants take energy to digest. Your metabolism will heal naturally.

3.Natural prebiotics and probiotics

When you eat S.A.D. (Standard American Diet) it kills off your natural gut bacteria and fosters an overgrowth of toxic bacteria.

Gut imbalance leads to all kinds of problems, including weight gain, prediabetes, metabolic syndrome, and more. Eating a diet high in processed foods can destroy your natural happy hormones like serotonin, and dopamine, leaving you sad and tired and in pain from inflammation. 

Your gut bacteria are like a second brain. Once you start eating lots of raw and cooked whole-plant-foods you are feeding the beneficial bacteria and this can help you heal a host of symptoms from depression to type 2 diabetes.

4. Don’t fear the right kinds of Carbs

Whole rolled oats banana peach muffins. Get the recipe with my free guide

We have been taught that all “carbs” are bad for us. But refined carbohydrates found in processed foods are much different from whole plant foods. A Hostess Twinkie is much different than a sweet potato, which is rich in fiber and nutrients, with the skin still on it

Yes, they’re both carbohydrate-rich foods. That’s the only thing similar about a processed carb and a whole-food carbohydrate, the basic chemical makeup. A twinkie has had all the phytonutrients, and fiber removed. All that is left in a twinkie is processed sugar and fat and chemicals.

Starch is the foundation for the healthiest human diet according to long-term studies. We have been misled to fear all carbs when we should be concerned only with refined carbohydrates which are indeed poison to all living beings!

I am deadly serious about refined carbs.

Flour and sugar contribute to heart disease, diabetes and related death than anything else we are doing besides overeating on animal fat and protein. What we eat harms us more than genetics, more than toxins in the air, and more than normal aging.

We have evolved to eat raw and cooked whole, high-fiber starches. Think squash, yams potatoes, and whole grains. We are not designed to eat refined white powdered carbs that predominate in western culture.

 We have a predominance of ptyalin in our saliva for breaking down starchy foods. Other primates rely on leafy greens for their main source of calories.

get the free WFPB guide

Isn’t a vegetarian diet good enough?

A vegetarian diet made up of whole foods and predominantly plants is an improvement over the SAD diet. But most vegetarians eat a lot of dairy products. Dairy is one of the most unhealthy foods on the planet unless you’re a baby cow!

Many autoimmune disorders, allergies, hormonal imbalances, and cancers have been traced back to the consumption of dairy.

But the meat and dairy industry pay for studies that tell us these foods are healthy. Our food is entangled with the sickness care industry and big pharma.

Government standards for nutrition and health are often paid for by those who have financial ties to animal agriculture. This causes pressure to continue pushing higher fat and ketogenic diets on consumers.

Is there a perfect diet for humans?

There is a lot of confusion about what is good for humans to eat. But most experts who are not tangled up in the meat industry agree that natural whole-foods high in fiber, including lots of veggies and some fruit, is the best diet for us humans.

‘We Have No Data To Show We Need Animal Products’

~ Danielle MD Belardo Cardiolgoist

Most healthy diets have a lot of leafy greens and other veggies when the season allows for them. Healthy diets don’t have a lot of packaged foods or refined foods. At first, it can be a challenge to prepare or find the right foods. But with the right knowledge, you can easily transform your diet and your health. There are so many great recipe guides and starter guides for going plant-strong you won’t have far to look. (See my list at the end of the article or check out my resource page.)

Blue zone studies of longevity point to plant-Based Diets

Blue Zones are places where people routinely live to be 100 years old or older. Blue zone people eat a plant-strong diet, with very small amounts of animal products, if any. Everything they eat is fresh, local, natural, and pesticide-free.

The majority of their calories come from starchy, filling carbohydrate plant-foods like potatoes, yams, or a staple grain like rice, wheat, or corn.

Blue Zone people only eat animal products about 4 to 6 times a month if at all. Meat is used for flavoring, as a condiment on top of their regular plant foods. They wouldn’t think of eating a big slab of meat or fish 3 times a day.

In long-term 7th Day Adventist Studies on nutrition, scientists have found that those members who eat the least amount of animal product have the best health.

The Eskimos eat a high-fat diet of mostly marine life, and they are not one of the blue zone groups. In fact, Inuit groups are not a long-lived or overly healthy group.

Although humans can live on just about any diet they can only really thrive if they’re eating their optimal diet.

Blue Zone people tend to have cleaner air and water conditions than the average person. Bluezoners often have soil that is still rich in minerals. Bluezoners rarely need supplements or medications.

Blue zone people don’t need to go to doctors or rush to the gym to exercise because they are moderately physically active throughout their day, gardening or herding animals or strolling long distances.

Bluezoners have stresses just like we do, but they also have tight-knit, long-term relationships with groups of friends and family that all live locally.

They are often connected to a place and to their ancestral land. They are content and know what to expect out of life and what their role is in their community.

Finances and weather and crop-yield may be unpredictable for blue zone people just as they are for the rest of the world, but family and community are not.

We need to work on more than our nutrition for a balanced life, but it’s a great place to start.

How much fat, protein, and carbohydrates do we need?

In “first world” culture there are debates over whether humans should eat meat, fish, grains, dairy, starches, fruits, sugars, fats, or proteins, and how much of each type of nutrient we should have.

Paleo or Ancestral diet experts insist that it is natural and healthy to eat lots of red meat, eggs and some fish 3 times a day plus a nice high-fat high protein snack or two between all those meals.

The ketogenic diet crowd use lots of eggs, bacon, and high cholesterol animal fats, and very few starchy veggies or grains. This keeps insulin levels down but can cause long term damage to their health.

What Keto dieters don’t understand is that high fiber starches actually help digestion and normalize insulin sensitivity, while diets high in fats can destroy insulin sensitivity. The low carb crowd lumps all carbohydrates together and confuse the issue.

Only refined carbohydrates are damaging to insulin levels. Fruits and whole veggies, and whole grains are not dangerous for diabetics or people who need to lose weight. High-fat diets increase insulin resistance and can lead to diabetes, metabolic syndrome and more.

Tubers and squash and gluten-free whole grains can be filling and satisfying and full of nutrients without causing irritation to the gut lining. Whole grains are often healthful to eat and do not cause problems once people have built up their natural gut lining by eating a diet high in plants and phytonutrients.

get the free WFPB guide

Should humans be vegan?

Many experts say that we should not eat any animal products. Studies have found that the less animal products we eat the fewer diseases we get.

The devastation of our planet due to animal agriculture is rapidly ruining life on planet earth for all the species who inhabit the planet.

Vegan advocates recommend taking an algae-based EFA supplement instead of fish oil because it is hard to get truly untainted fish oil and the environmental factor for ocean foods is way too costly for us to continue these practices.

Dr. McDougall and T. Collin Campbell who wrote The China Study, suggest a high starch vegan diet or close to a vegan diet, low in fats and oils.

Calories from meat may have helped us become human… Now meat is killing us slowly

According to Catching Fire by Richard Wrangham, we evolved to live in many climates, not just the tropical areas with plentiful year-round plant foods like other primates.

Meat-eating was part of our development, along with grinding, pounding, fermenting and cooking foods. Wrangham compared the smaller mouth, jaw, and digestive tract of humans with the structure of other primates. Other primates have larger mouths, jaws and digestive tracts than us. Most primates have to spend 6 to10 hours per day gathering, chewing, and digesting raw leafy greens.

Humans are able to spend a much shorter time on chewing. Digestion takes far less energy because we process our foods in so many different ways before eating them.

Even raw foodist-humans do a lot of grinding and blending and have artificially high levels of calorie-rich nuts, seeds, and fresh and dried fruits so that they do not need to eat continually.

Eating cooked food and wild game helped us become humans. But wild game with a low percentage of fat is no longer available to most humans.

Herding culture, and most recently, factory farming have changed the way animal meat is generated. The impact of factory farming on the climate is the top cause of greenhouse gases. Working conditions for millions of humans is unbearable due to these practices for meat and dairy, not to mention the fate of the animals who are treated unkindly. The reason we don’t hear about animal agriculture’s damage to our planet and our health is money: subsidies on animal agriculture.

Herding culture and most recently, factory farming have changed the way animal meat is generated. Factory farming is responsible for a full 50% of greenhouse gases. Factory farming is not only causing methane. When you account for transportation of animals and final product, water use, ocean dead zones, and cutting of rainforest, fertilizer, electrical energy spent to grow feed for 50 billion farm animals per year it adds up.

Working conditions for millions of humans is unbearable due to these practices for meat and dairy, not to mention the fate of the animals who are treated unkindly. All this unhappiness filters down into our lives as fundamentally kind and caring beings.

Grass-fed, cage-free, cruelty-free

Grass-fed meat is not optimal for our health because of the high-fat content of domesticated animals. Grass-fed and free-range animal products are not a viable answer to our factory farming pollution because our planet does not have enough land to feed all the humans on grass-fed animals even if it were the healthiest option.

Ocean farming the way it is done now is also unsustainable. The destruction of ocean habitat is rapidly depleting our oceans of crucial oxygen giving algae which give us 40% of your breathable air. Bren Smith has another answer to the madness with vertical ocean farming.

Is“cultured meat” or“lab meat” the answer?

Lab-grown meat, dairy, and eggs hold a lot of promise for helping to end climate change while still catering to those who do not choose to transition to a plant-based diet as well as those who want to eat these products for special occasions.

Another bonus to cultured meat products is that leather, wool, silk, and other animal products will soon follow. Growing leather in a lab will take up much less land and water resources once the technique is perfected.

Lab meat will be leaner and healthier than factory-farmed meat. Lab meat will be free from antibiotics and pathogens. A Meat-based diet will never be as healthy as a whole-foods plant-based diet.

Go plant-strong

It is going to be individual, but a predominantly plant-based diet free of processed food works best for most humans. After eating a diet of processed foods you may have to ease into higher fiber plants gradually.

You may base your diet on starchy plants with greens and beans and some meats. Or you may find you can tolerate some whole grains. Or you may decide not to eat any animal products at all and choose to supplement Vitamin D, B12, and an EPA-DHA supplement, all of which can be found in vegan versions.

Or you might find that a higher portion of fat works well for you, or that some dairy is fine for you. Find out what food intolerances you have and then put together the optimal whole foods diet for yourself.

It worth the effort to transition

Once you get used to eating a plant-strong diet of whole-foods they begin to taste great, and you forget you ever liked processed foods.

But at first, the new foods may not taste great compared with the artificial flavors you are used to.

It could take a month or two or even longer for your taste buds and gut flora to get with the program and stop craving the old junk foods. But you will be so glad you went through the rough times to start feeling more vibrant and happier than you ever knew was possible!

As Michael Pollen says; “Eat food, mostly plants, not too much.” I would add, try to get pesticide-free food when you can, and eat food in as close to its whole form as is possible.

Eat real foods instead of extractions

  • Eat olives instead of olive oil.
  • Eat nuts instead of nut oils and nut butter.
  • Eat steel-cut oats instead of rolled instant oats.
  • Try going without salt or cutting down on salt and see how amazing food tastes.
  • Stay away from flour, sugar, and other refined foods as much as possible.

I know that all sounds crazy when you are used to pizza and ice cream or lots of soy sauce on everything like I was, but you will be amazed once you actually try it.

Some great places to start learning about a plant-based diet

Check out my FAQ page, and Resources Page for lots of suggestions to get started and here are a few more…

Free plant-based guide

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