There are many diets out there, each purporting to offer the best way to sustained weight loss. Here, lets talk about a Wholefoods, Plant Based Vegan diet.
What is a Wholefoods, Plant Based diet ? A Wholefoods, Plant Based diet consists of eating only plants i.e. Vegetables, Seeds, Nuts, Legumes and Pulses, Grains and Fruits. It is possible to find and eat ‘Vegan Junkfood’ and therefore it is for this reason that we advocate eating Wholefoods only, i.e. foods should be free from refined sugar and flour and as far as possible other foods should not be highly processed; this includes consuming refined vegetables oils. Vegetable oils tend to be very nutrient sparse foods, but they are very calorie dense – this makes it very difficult for the body to send the right signals to stop eating food when we have had enough calories.
If we look carefully it is easy to see that where we consume more animal products i.e. meat and processed meat, fish, dairy including milk and cheese it is more difficult to lose weight. We can also see that consuming these types of foods tends to be associated with all sorts of chronic diseases including many types of cancer, obesity, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, hypertension, inflammatory diseases and so on. In countries where diets are high in animal products and/or foods that are highly processed levels of obesity are at epidemic proportions.
Similarly, where fresh fruits and vegetables are introduced into the diet supported by green leafy vegetables, different types of grains, legumes and pulses, seeds and nuts people tend to ‘feel lighter’, have more energy and will naturally lose weight. As we lose weight and have this feeling of more energy we will feel more inclined to exercise which further promotes sustainable weight loss.
Weight loss is something that can be better sustained when our overall long term health is in tip top condition. Why move away from animal based foods ?:
– Animal based foods tend to elevate blood cholesterol levels.
– Animal based foods tend to promote the formation of heart disease.
– Consuming animal based foods over the long term is linked to the formation of Osteoporosis.
– Consuming animal based foods is associated with the formation of Alzheimer’s disease, kidney stones and many other chronic diseases including cancer.
– Animal based foods are high in dietary fat which makes it difficult to manage your overall weight.
– Animal based foods promote inflammation in the body, eventually leading to chronic disease.
Why move towards a plant based diet, free from processed foods and refined sugar ?:
– A plant based diet which is adequately varied will naturally contain enough protein.
– A plant based diet is high in dietary fibre, which is essential for good health. We will feel fuller for longer, which means we need to eat less ultimately.
– A plant based diet tends to be nutrient dense.
– A plant based diet is naturally anti-inflammatory.
– A plant based diet is low in dietary fat, making it easy to manage weight loss.
– A plant based diet, free from processed foods will more likely contain foods which are low G.I. (Glycemic Index) – this is important for people who suffer from diabetes. Further, since the diet naturally contains very little dietary fat, this makes insulin resistance much more unlikely.
– A plant based diet, naturally contains many anti-oxidants; these are important agents in the fight against cancer.
– Refined sugar is not a natural product, consuming refined sugar will eventually result in weight gain and a weakened immune system. Cutting out refined sugar from the diet makes it easier to manage diseases such as obesity and diabetes.
– Avoiding refined oils reduces the amount of calories that we intake; this means that we can concentrate on getting these calories from the right kinds of foods, i.e. fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and legumes. These types of foods are nutrient dense and calorie sparse.
For many of us, unless we are already vegetarian it can be difficult to make the switch to a Wholefoods, Plant Based vegan diet. For some people it is easy when they already know how to cook and combine ingredients, making them more flavoursome with different types of nutritious and delicious herbs and spices. For others, it might take a bit longer, even if motivated by the desire to lose and keep off weight.
So, if you are making the switch to a Wholefoods, Plant Based diet free from processed foods and refined sugar here are some steps to help you get started:
– Start buying different kinds of herbs and spices, these are good for you in themselves and will help you to flavour your food.
– Stop buying foods with refined ingredients e.g. white bread, sweeties (snacks, desserts, chocolates). Don’t worry – it is still possible to enjoy good snacks, just cut out the ones that are awfully bad for us.
– Start buying and eating more fruit – if you can, try and buy different kinds of fruit each week.
– Plan to eat lots of green leafy vegetables EVERY DAY. Examples include broccoli, cabbage, spinach, kale, turnip greens, collard greens, chard.
– Introduce nuts into your diet. Try and eat a handful of nuts EVERY DAY. Examples include cashew, peanut, hazel, almond, pistachio, walnut, chestnut, macademia, pine. Of course, if you have a nut allergy then these are to be avoided.
– Instead of buying cows milk and related products such as cheese and yoghurt, start replacing these with plant based milks. There are lots of options available these days including : almond milk, oat milk, soya milk, cashew milk.
– Aim to eat approximately 10 different kinds of fruit and vegetables each day. Buy and use a Vegan recipe book. Try and find one that advocates a Wholefoods diet.
– Start buying and cooking with whole grains e.g. brown rice, quinoa, bulgur wheat, millet, freekeh, barley, cous cous, buckwheat.
– Porridge is a great way to start the day, you can enhance the taste by adding fresh / frozen berries, a sprinkling of seeds (sunflower, linseed, chia), dates, banana. If you want to sweeten this, try adding maple syrup or agave syrup.
– Learn how to cook with pulses and beans. Pulses are naturally high in iron and fibre, and are a great source of natural protein.
– As you stop buying animal based products like meat and fish, you could try experimenting with products like Tofu and Tempeh. Most major supermarkets nowadays have lots of ‘Vegan’ options if you still want to try something with similar textures as you are used to.
For some people it may not be possible to cut out animal products immediately – if you find it difficult. Start by choosing 1 Vegan day per week, and as you feel more comfortable increase the number of days each week that you are completely plant based. You will actually find that the more ‘plant based’ you become the larger portions you can eat (but you will not need to worry about calories so much provided you are not adding oil).
– Find and join a cooking class. Find a teacher who understands how to cook and balance Wholefoods, Plant Based meals.
– Avoid buying and consuming fizzy drinks, these tend to be laden with refined sugars; do not buy alternatives which use artificial sweetners. If you really like sweet fizzy drinks, learn how to make your own Kombucha.
We know that it can take some time to introduce change into your life, and like all good change – this is something that happens slowly over time. Take your time to learn about adopting a Wholefoods, Plant Based diet in a way that is right for you and your body. You will feel the benefits, your body will feel lighter and in your own way, you will be making choices that are least harmful for other sentient beings and the environment.