It's time for this article. My goodness, the term whole foods, plant-based, has appeared so often within the articles on S&P. This article explores whole foods from a space of health; we will be taking a deeper dive into the environmental factors in an upcoming article.
But before we can even go into the health benefits of a plant-based diet, it's essential to discuss what plant-based means in the first place! Chile, there are SOOOO many definitions out there.
But after investigating via books, docuseries, documentaries, and articles, at S&P, we stand by plant-based meaning...
A diet focused on foods from plants. That means a diet rich in (90-100%*):
Although a plant-based diet calls for a reduction of meat, dairy, and seafood consumption, it doesn't mean vegan (NO meat, eggs, seafood, dairy, honey), vegetarian (NO meat & seafood), gluten-free (No gluten). Here is the tricky thing; vegans can have a plant-based diet, but not everyone with a plant-based diet is vegan.
*When looking at longevity, Blue Zones considers a plant-based diet those that eat between 95-100% foods derived from plants
Whole Foods, Plant-Based
Now, this is where marketing/advertising/capitalism/consumerism enters the conversation. "Plant-based" labels have become interchangeable with "vegan" - meaning food that doesn't harm animals (milking, killing, replacing honey with a sugar substitute, etc.). And so now, plant-based folks can eat a diet high in processed foods. In fact, it's easy to quickly adapt to a "plant-based" lifestyle without ever eating unprocessed plants. It's incredibly expensive 💳, but it's totally possible. Which is where the title whole foods, plant-based comes in. A diet rich in whole foods means that you are focusing on eating minimally processed plant-based foods.
I am in love with this infographic from Forks over Knives:
S&P and Whole-Foods, Plant-Based
We want S&P to be a safe space, and so due to the privilege displayed and shaming that often occurs when preaching a food philosophy, we will resist vilifying entire food groups. For those that cannot see the privilege nor the shaming, let's say:
As a guardian of four (without adequate transportation), you only have $20 and live in an urban food desert. You go to your local store after a long day of work. There you have the option of 200 chicken nuggets for $10 (that will last your family two weeks) or an assortment of produce for $15 that will spoil in the next two days (because in a food desert, you're already getting fresh food on its last leg)... then you go on social media where folks (in their perfectly clean tiny homes and quirky but trendy fashion) discuss their "outrage and disgust" at guardians that "poison" their kids with "crap" like "breaded chicken that contains traces of..."
For those that are like...but there is always bulk beans and rice and canned/frozen veggies? 🤔 Let's take a moment to remember the skill level, time, and attention it takes to make raw/fresh ingredients edible and delicious in a world where homecooked foods compete with large manufacturing companies and food science geniuses.
With that said, there is no denying the research that shows how critical a plant-based diet is to longevity and the reduction of many diseases and ailments. Some of these include:
lowered blood pressure
prevention of type 2 diabetes
a healthier heart
lower BMI, longer life
decrease the risk of cancer
reduce age-related mental deterioration
reduce the risk of stroke.
And it doesn't have to look like assimilation; you can be plant-based and eat culturally appropriate foods. Nonetheless, having plant-forward meals along with the reduction of animal protein, sugar, and processed foods is no doubt the goal. If your immediate response is to go vegan or cut out an entire food group, one time for the one time, solely for health reasons, I'd really ask you to do your research. Vegan diets and exclusionary diets can also have health risks and need supplement considerations.
While creating my own list of plant-based living suggestions, I ran across this list from Harvard Medical School and it doesn't contain shaming, overly expensive suggestions, cultural biases, nothing is deemed "evil," and it's relatively easy to implement. 🙌🏾 We've got a winner. Here is the list from HMS's What is a plant-based diet and why should you try it?
Eat lots of vegetables. Fill half your plate with vegetables at lunch and dinner. Make sure you include plenty of colors in choosing your vegetables. Enjoy vegetables as a snack with hummus, salsa, or guacamole.
Change the way you think about meat. Have smaller amounts. Use it as a garnish instead of a centerpiece.
Choose good fats. Fats in olive oil, olives, nuts and nut butters, seeds, and avocados are particularly healthy choices.
Cook a vegetarian meal at least one night a week. Build these meals around beans, whole grains, and vegetables.
Include whole grains for breakfast. Start with oatmeal, quinoa, buckwheat, or barley. Then add some nuts or seeds along with fresh fruit.
Go for greens. Try a variety of green leafy vegetables such as kale, collards, Swiss chard, spinach, and other greens each day. Steam, grill, braise, or stir-fry to preserve their flavor and nutrients.
Build a meal around a salad. Fill a bowl with salad greens such as romaine, spinach, Bibb, or red leafy greens. Add an assortment of other vegetables along with fresh herbs, beans, peas, or tofu.
Eat fruit for dessert. A ripe, juicy peach, a refreshing slice of watermelon, or a crisp apple will satisfy your craving for a sweet bite after a meal.
Well, there you have it - the rundown on a whole-food, plant-based diet from the health and longevity perspective.
Here's to eating well. Shalom, Friends!