What is a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet?

This nutrition-rich lifestyle is based on eating foods derived mostly from minimally-processed plants.

You can find these “super foodsin  local markets, roadside markets and the food and produce departments in the supermarket.

As our diet is fast resembling that of developing nations ours has become a diet that is ultra-processed. This means the nutrition consumed contains chemicals and food derivatives such as emulsifiers, additional sugars, glazers, flavor enhancers and coloring. You can also call this ‘fake food,’ which is no exaggeration.

These are additives are added to increase the marketability, profitability, flavor, sweetness and shelf life of the food without adding nutritional value.

These ‘fake foods’ are scientifically-proven to increase the incidence of chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and obesity.

Real, ‘whole foods’ are the opposite. They are fresh and untouched by chemical and preservatives (non-GMO).  They don’t have artificial coloring, something to make them taste differently nor do they contain preservatives to give them a longer shelf life.

Whole plant-based foods have minimal interference between being harvested and being eaten.

Plant-based whole foods can be identified into four main categories:

Legumes (beans)
Whole Grains

Legumes are beans of all sorts, kidney beans, pinto beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas. They provide the protein for the plant-based diet. So let’s bust this myth: Protein does NOT equal MEAT. Beans and other legumes can provide all the protein requirement for a healthy diet.

Vegetables include non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, Efo, Ugwu, spinach, tomatoes, beets, kale and cabbage. Add to this group your peppers and onions. These veggies, onions and peppers provide the bulk of this healthy plan-derived diet. They help fill you up with lots of healthy fiber keeping you regular and at the expense of very few calories.

The other subgroup of vegetables are the starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, while baking potatoes, yams, other tubers and squash which are also healthy when minimally-processed and eaten in moderate portions.

Fruits serve as filling snacks and desserts with natural sweetness, fiber, and lots of antioxidants. Remember, eating an orange is far better than drinking chemically-processed orange juice.

Whole grains are brown rice, wild rice, whole wheat, oats, barley, quinoa and so on. In this group, one might say white bread is made from wheat, but it is not made from the whole wheat grain; rather it is a highly processed derivative of wheat with added sugar. Skip it!

What are the health benefits?

Plants contain biologically active substances such as polyphenols and carotenoids which are natural antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, anti atherosclerotic and anti-cancer.

This has been known for ages. Hippocrates said let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food, he was referring to plants which were the primary source of medicine in his time.

Plants also contain lots of fiber which prevents constipation, diverticular disease and helps to regulate the release of consumed sugar into the system. Fiber is what gives plants their frame and allows them to stand up.

Animals have skeletons for this function and their flesh does not contain fiber. Vitamins and micronutrients also abound in plants.

Animal based diets, contrarily, have been shown to be associated with inflammation, insulin resistance, high cholesterol and growth factors related to aging and certain cancers.

Red meat and processed meats have been classified by WHO as a carcinogens related to colon cancer. There is also evidence linking red meat consumption with pancreatic and prostate cancer.

How do we find these foods in Nigeria?

With our agrarian culture in Nigeria, plant based foods abound. The Whole foods concept is that these foods are best when eaten after minimal processing.

Watch this YouTube video of Dr. Sowemimo talking about Whole foods plant based diet.

What is GMO?

GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. Certain crops and salmon have been genetically modified to help them prevent the harmful effects of herbicides and plant infestation.

However there has been blowback as to the potentially harmful effects of genetic modification itself and human consumption of these products

Learn the weight loss and healthy diet top athletes like Tom Brady and tennis superstar Venus Williams are eating for optimal health and vitality. Venus credits it with helping her recover after being diagnosed with a chronic inflammatory disease.

Three months ago, I started on a whole food plant-based diet and was surprised to lose 25 pounds in the process.

A typical meal plan could be:

* Breakfast features oatmeal or a veggie sandwich with grilled onions, tomatoes and zucchini on Ezekiel bread.

* Lunch includes a plentiful plate piled high with assorted fresh vegetables, such as kale with grilled broccoli, tomatoes,  along with chickpeas for protein and a few roasted potatoes.

* Dinner would include sauteed brussel sprouts, onions, peppers and tomatoes with quinoa, peas and grilled plantain.

Many people think you’ll lose strength and simply fade away on a plant based diet. But consider that gorillas, rhinos, elephants and horses only eat a plant based diet.

Here are 3 take-home points:

1. Plants provide all the macro and micronutrients needed for a healthy, weight normalizing diet.

2.  As opposed to an animal-based diet, which generally promotes inflammation, a plant-based diet reduces inflammation, allowing the body to heal and return to a normal state of health and weight.

3. Remember, what you don’t eat is as important as what you do eat. So while you are boosting your plant-based foods to decrease inflammation, also decrease animal meat consumption to less than 5% or 1 meal a week.

Article written by Dr. Seun Sowemimo, Bariatric Surgeon.

Article formatted by Dr. Onuoha.

Photo by Nadine Primeau on Unsplash

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