I’ve been a vegan or vegetarian most of my adult life. However, I can’t say that I’ve always been a healthy eater. My journey to healthier eating has been a gradual process. Although my knowledge base of nutrition and health has broadened over the years, I continue to realize how much I still continue to learn. The path towards developing a healthier lifestyle is a journey, not a destination. And, it’s never about perfection, instead its about progress. As I’ve grown older, I’ve made progress. I realize the more sensible approach to eating well involves a balanced and healthy relationship between food and life.
Eating a healthy diet and developing a healthy lifestyle sound great, but what exactly does a “healthy diet” look like? The short answer is that it’s a little complicated. The research isn’t always black and white. What we do know with certainty is that eating a wide variety of whole, plant-based foods has significant health benefits. If you’re ready to take control of your health, it’s time to consider a whole-food, plant-based diet. The medical community agrees.
Food really is medicinal
The medical community has paid more attention to the importance of lifestyle when discussing health. The field of what is known as Lifestyle Medicine—lifestyle as treatment, not just prevention—is growing exponentially. We often think of advances in medicine as expensive state-of-the-art technologies, but what we’re learning is that changes to one’s diet and lifestyle can make powerful and significant improvements to our health. Research suggests that a whole-food, plant-based (WFPB) diet can possibly prevent, halt or even reverse heart disease and diabetes.
The best kept secret in medicine is that, given the right conditions, the body actually tries to heal itself. Simple (yet powerful) changes in diet and lifestyle can be effective in reducing disease risks and science is undeniably clear that nutrition as medicine is one of the best investments we can make to our health and well-being. Yet, in a world of highly processed foods filled with too much animal protein, sodium, and other ingredients many of us don’t recognize and/or often can’t pronounce, it’s a challenge to know what we’re really putting into our body when we eat.
A Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet vs Veganism
A whole-food, plant-based diet is one comprised of whole or minimally processed plants such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. It mostly focuses on the foods that should be added to ones diet while avoiding animal-derived foods and processed foods. A major tenet behind a WFPB diet is that the processing of foods depletes them of vital nutrients which are instead supposed to nourish. However, a diet that focuses on whole, plant-based and minimally processed foods does not necessarily mean a vegan diet.
In contrast to a WFPB diet, a vegan diet is much more about what it excludes—animal proteins or animal-based foods—than what it adds. It’s important to note that a vegan diet can contain highly processed foods, including meat and cheese substitutes as well as junk foods like chips, cookies and candies. For many vegans, their choices encompass a philosophical approach to life that goes beyond food. It’s an opposition to all forms of animal abuse and exploitation believing that animals should not be treated as commodities in any way. This includes not wearing animal skin and fur, not using animal-based products in their households and rejecting any products of any kind which have been tested on animals.
Regardless of the diet you choose to follow, it would be great if more vegans (and vegetarians) embraced a WFPD diet and more WFPB eaters to embrace a vegan lifestyle. The key is to strive for a balanced and healthy relationship between food and life. Remember, a healthy diet and lifestyle is a journey, not a destination.
For more resources (research, videos, and articles) about the benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet, visit Dr. Michael Greger’s wildly successful website, Nutritionfacts.org.