Why whole-food plant based and not just plant based?
Since I launched the new index to show the list of only whole-food plant-based recipes on my blog, I wanted to talk a little about why recognizing the whole-food part is important. It is really easy to start thinking that as long as it’s “vegan” or “plant-based” that it must be healthy. To some degree that can be true, but not always.
When you are looking at two recipes and you see the ingredients side by side, the vegan (plant based) one will most likely have less fat and will not contain any cholesterol since the only dietary cholesterol you can consume comes from animal products. So if it’s already plant-based, why worry about it being whole food? No matter what diet you are on, or what you consider to be healthy or not, I’m sure we can all agree that processed ingredients are not healthy. Processed products are stripped of nutrients and fiber, some more than others, and those products have additives in them as well like “natural” flavors, or “natural” colors. Which that discussion will be for another post.
What sets whole-food plant-based aside from plant-based?
Basically, something can be considered “plant-based” or “vegan” and still be loaded with chemicals, genetically modified ingredients, and additives.
So what do you need to look out for?
Read the Ingredient List – Is It Overly Processed?
Basically with whole-food plant-based meals it means that you are not using anything overly processed. I try to have as much whole food as possible, but I don’t get carried away. For example, use whole grain flours and not white flour. Even though flour is processed, the fiber and nutrients will be there in the whole grain flour vs. the white flour which is overly processed. Read the ingredient list. Make sure the product is free of any added flavors or colors. Those are usually chemicals or ingredients that have been stripped of nutrients.
Vegan “Cheese” and “Meat”Products
What you really need to look out for the most is how much vegan “cheese” and “meat” products you use and buy. They are usually the culprits of genetically modified soy. As well as textured vegetable protein (which is soy), and soy isolates which are made with toxic chemicals and are harmful in large quantities. To keep things in perspective, I try to not buy these products at all, mainly because of my allergy to soy. But every once and a while those frozen soy fish fillets call to me. I view these products as a treat, and not every day or every week products that I consume.
Now there are some great vegan products out there that I don’t mind buying that are not overly processed. Like Amy’s Organics canned soups, or Field Roast products. You can read and understand every ingredient that is put into their products. Now for Gardein, Lightlife, and Garden Burger – watch out for most of their products. They are the more highly processed products, and as you know, are the easiest to find. I’m only using a few examples, but you can start to see the difference.
How Much Oil Is Used?
The other thing to watch out for when trying to be as whole-food plant-based as you can is to watch the amount of oil in your food. Look at your salad dressings. Is it more oil or more vinegar, spices, and juices? When you start cooking – is oil one of your first ingredients? Oil is fat in processed form. I always try to find cold-pressed oil since cold-press preserves nutrients and flavor. Also, when I make something that calls for oil, I either half the amount or I see if it’s really needed at all.
You’d be surprised at how much oil you can reduce in your food. I try to be as oil-free as possible, but like with everything else, I don’t become obsessed with it. When I can easily not use oil or use it, I don’t. For instance, if a meal starts off with onions or mushrooms in a skillet, they make their own juices and will not burn if you keep the heat at a lower heat at the start. Once you start adding in more vegetables you can easily cook without starting with oil.
Why I like Whole-Food Plant Based Meals More
If you read the post on why I became plant-based, you’ll remember I did it for my health. I originally was whole-food plant-based, and with my allergy to soy, I had to make almost every meal. It got tiresome, and with time I started to incorporate more oil, more processed products, and became more lazy. I went from having energy, glowing skin, and hard-core sleep fests to low energy, dull skin, and having nights I would toss and turn. There are other factors that helped or harmed both like stress, coffee, etc. But my eating habits definitely helped or harmed my quality of life.
Staying as close to a whole-foods plant-based diet for most of my meals each week helps me to function better. I sleep better, I drink more water, my digestion issues are barely there if at all, my skin and eyes become clearer, I have more sustained energy, and I’m more motivated. It helps me to focus on being healthy in every aspect of my life.
You Need Balance
With everything there is balance. Like I had said before, there are times when I have a night and have a soy fish filet sandwich, or James and I will have our own BBQ sausages and frozen tater tots. There are times I fry up a grilled cheese with processed cheese and earth balance butter, which is processed fat. But I try to stay as whole-food plant-based, and with little oil and processed ingredients I can without going crazy. So if you are new to being plant-based/vegan or have been and noticed that you have started to get off track and started to get lazy like I do many times, try to remember the points I’ve talked about here. Stay balanced and stay healthy!