The first thing that comes to mind when some people hear about a whole-food plant-based diet (WFPD) is that it’s vegetarian or vegan, but this is not always the case. A registered dietitian, Jillian Kubala, wrote on Healthline that WFPD is more of a lifestyle.
She said a plant-based diet depends on how much an individual wants to include animal-based products in their diet. Curious? follow on for 3 Key Benefits of a Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet!
A whole-food plant-based diet is a type of diet that emphasizes the consumption of whole-food in its natural form that has not gone through any processing. WFPD also emphasizes reducing the intake of processed foods and animal-based products.
WFPD includes fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, nuts, and whole grains like – whole wheat, oats, brown rice, barley, popcorn, quinoa, and wild rice. There is another type of grain known as refined grains. The difference between whole grains and refined grains is that:
Whole grains contain all the natural parts of a grain, including the bran, the endosperm and the germ.
- The bran is the hard, outermost layer of the grain. It contains fibre, minerals and antioxidants.
- The endosperm is the middle layer of the grain. This layer contains carbohydrates.
- The germ is the innermost layer of the grain. This layer contains vitamins, minerals, proteins and plant compounds.
While all these parts of grain make up the whole grain, refined grains have been stripped of the bran and the germ layers leaving only the endosperm, which is mostly carbohydrates. Examples of refined grains are white rice, white flour, white bread, and white pasta.
Many studies have shown the importance of a whole-foods plant-based diet to heart health and the body’s overall well-being, and there is no doubt that refined foods have been stripped of healthy nutrients with a high glycemic index that spikes blood sugar and cause some other health issues including bloating.
Benefits of a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet
High in Fibre
Dietary fibre is called roughage and this are indigestible carbohydrates.
Dietary fibre is grouped by its water solubility: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre dissolves in water, and are obtained from fruits and vegetables, while insoluble fibre cannot dissolve in water and is obtained from cereals and whole grains (Barber, Kabisch, Pfeiffer, & Weickert, 2020).
Dietary fibre promotes the growth of good gut bacteria, also known as gut flora. The human body has a mutual relationship with gut flora. The body provides food and a conducive environment for good gut bacteria, while good gut bacteria helps the body digest fibre and provides nutrients that benefit the body (Gunnars, 2023).
Gut flora feeds on the fibre we consume from foods and digests these fibres, producing nutrients like short-chain fatty acids, which serve as the primary source of nutrition for the cells in the colon and promote colon health.
Short-chain fatty acid reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases, digestive disorders, type- 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and other conditions (Brown, 2021).
A WFPD diet has high-fibre content which aids digestion and prevents constipation. Foods that are high in fibre make you feel fuller, which is essential in preventing us from overeating.
Low in Sugar
A whole food plant-based diet helps reduce our consumption of added sugar because they are lower in sugar than other refined foods. Consuming too much sugar can increase a person’s risk of type-2 diabetes, obesity, fatty liver disease, and heart disease.
Fruits also contain sugar, but they also contain water and fibre, which benefits the body making fruits a more healthier option than other foods or drinks containing refined sugar. This is why it is better to eat whole fruits with their pulp or turn it into a smoothie; that way, you are sure that you are getting all the nutrients from the fruit and not just sheer sugar.
Juices squeezed from 100% natural fruits are not to be substituted for whole fruits because they have been stripped of other nutrients like fibre which is, as mentioned, highly beneficial to health.
Good for Skin Health
Whole food, plant-based diets and skin health have been an area of interest for most researchers for decades, and they have studied the relationship between diet and dermatological conditions, including aging.
Inflammation causes many dermatological conditions and hastens aging. With age, the skin experiences an internal aging process resulting from loss of cell function. However, external factors like exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, smoking, pollution, inadequate sleep, and poor diet also contribute to this aging process (Barber, Kabisch, Pfeiffer, & Weickert, 2020).
A study on a whole-food plant-based diet in preventing or reversing skin aging shows that the WFPD contains essential vitamins like vitamins A, C, and E, which help remove harmful cancer-causing organisms and toxins that cause cell aging from our bloodstream (Barber, Kabisch, Pfeiffer, & Weickert, 2020).
The study concluded that evidence from the research supports WFPD in preventing skin aging (Solway, McBride, Haq, Abdul, & Miller, 2020).
The whole-food plant-based diet has many benefits for our overall health and well-being. It might seem “boring”, but there are ways to make your healthy plate look and taste appealing and tasty.
Another important fact to note is that you do not have to completely cut out animal products or other foods you enjoy, but moderation is key. Do more intuitive eating, pay attention to your body, and stop when necessary. Your future self will thank you for it!