Whole Food Plant Based Diet - What is it? And Why is it so Vital?

Updated: Feb 4

What do we mean by a Whole Food Plant Based Diet? To answer this, it's important to make the distinction between foods that present in their original form when picked, plucked or harvested, and those foods that have undergone a change that involves either the removal of nutrients or the addition of nutrients or other substances such that the end product is no longer recognisable as that which it originated from. We generally use the term "Wholefoods" to describe the first category and "Processed Foods" for the second category.

A Whole Food Plant Based Diet, for our purposes, consists largely of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds. There are certain other categories of food that we incorporate in our diet from time to time that are not wholefoods in the strictest sense of the definition, for example Miso, a fermented soy product that we regularly use as a condiment for adding a savoury ‘umami’ flavour to dressings and soups. Other examples are nut and seed butters (eg. almond butter, tahini) where the raw nut or seed has been roasted and then ground until acquiring a smooth and runny consistency, though we do sometimes consume these in their ‘raw’ form when we can find them or when we are able to make our own. These foods are generally termed as ‘minimally processed’ and we prefer to use these more sparingly in our diet.

It may come as a surprise to hear that we don’t consume any oils, even in dressings. We prefer to use chia seeds, flaxseeds or hemp seeds instead, which are rich in omega 3 fats and other important nutrients and lend themselves very well to dressings. This way, we are using the whole food version with the fibre intact. Think about it, when using olive oil or sunflower oil, for example, in terms of macronutrients, all you get is 100% fat, with no fibre. Empty calories. Is this what nature intended? Why not eat whole olives or sunflower seeds? Nowhere in the plant kingdom do we find a root, leaf, seed, nut, legume or grain that consists of 100% fat and nothing else. It will always contain protein, carbohydrates, fat and fibre in differing ratios depending on the plant. In this way, by adopting a way of eating that is based on a variety of wholefoods, we can ensure we are getting everything our bodies need to thrive and flourish.

A characteristic of the modern Western diet (perhaps we should now call it the modern global diet, since diets around the world have become largely homogeneous) is the preponderance of highly refined and ultra processed foods which contain large amounts of unhealthy fats, sugar, salt and additives and little or no fibre