Healthy Food & Life: The Complete Guide to a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet
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The Complete Guide to a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet

Whole food plant based diet

Is a whole food plant-based diet the healthiest way to eat? Studies show that this way of eating can help a person lose weight, reverse disease and feel great. That sounds like a big promise, but it has been proven over again, that eating this way does reverse many types of disease including obesity, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, heart disease, arthritis and more.

How the Whole Food Plant-Based Diet is Different

A whole food plant-based (WFPB) diet is not really a diet; it is a permanent way of eating. A diet is something someone might do for a while to lose weight and then go back to their normal way of eating. And this can result in the person gaining back most if not all of the weight they lost and sometimes gain even more weight. This can lead to yo-yo dieting, which is not healthy. WFPB is a diet that a person adopts and eats the rest of their lives.

A whole food plant-based diet is not necessarily a vegetarian diet, a vegan diet, a raw food diet or a fruit diet. There are plenty of vegan junk foods around and there are many overweight and unhealthy vegetarians. A vegetarian or vegan diet allows too much junk food that is not healthy. Unhealthy foods like vegetable oils, processed foods, refined carbohydrates, and too much fat.

A raw food only diet and a fruit only diet might be fine for a short time, but they both leave out too many nutrients. Many vegetables are higher in nutrients after they are cooked and you cannot eat legumes raw. And a fruit only diet leaves out just too many foods and nutrients.

What kind of foods can I eat on a plant-based diet? There is a wide range of healthy foods you can eat on a whole food plant-based diet, and you can eat until you’re full. You can eat potatoes, sweet potatoes, whole grains, oats, vegetables, beans, legumes, fruits, seeds, nuts, and any food from the plant kingdom.

Food Choices of a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet

A whole food plant-based diet (no oil) is just what its name implies; you eat whole foods that are plant foods. When most people hear about this, their first thoughts are just plants, just green leafy vegetables.

This is not the case at all, as there are all kinds of plant foods and thousands of great ways to eat a WFPB diet. Of course, there are vegetables of all types and colors that come with an incredible amount of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and nutrients. And the same for fruits, from apples to zucchinis, that are packed with nutrients

Beans and legumes are all very healthy and an important source of vitamins, minerals, and protein. There are black beans, red beans, white beans, navy beans, pinto beans, white beans, soybeans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), lentils and peas. Beans and legumes are an excellent source of fiber, protein, and vitamins. For example, lentils have the following nutritional values per cup:

  • Protein: 18 grams per cup
  • Fiber: 15.6 grams
  • Folate (vitamin B9): 358 mg - 90% of recommended daily intake (RDI)
  • Thiamine (vitamin B1): 0.5 mg - 22% of RDI
  • Iron: 6.6 mg – 37% RDI
  • Manganese: 1 mg – 49% RDI
  • Calories: 120 calories
  • Fat: Less than 1 gram of fat

Lentils also contain a healthy amount of potassium, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, vitamins B6 and B5. This is a very impressive list of nutrients and fiber for only 120 calories per cup.  Other beans and legumes are just as healthy.

Grains are equally healthy. Though grains should be whole grains instead of white refined grains since whole grains have far more nutritional value than white refined grains. Brown rice and whole wheat bread not only have more nutritional value but also much more healthy fiber than refined grains has.

There is a great selection of healthy grains and grasses to eat including quinoa, amaranth, oats, barley, buckwheat, millet, bulgur, wild rice, brown rice, jasmine rice and more. Quinoa and amaranth are popular because they are a complete protein and gluten-free.

Thankfully today, health-conscious consumers have many whole food plant based choices available. If you do not want to or cannot eat wheat or gluten, but still love pasta, you can buy brown rice pasta, chickpea pasta, lentil pasta and more.

And of course there all kinds of seeds and nuts to eat loaded with vitamins, nutrients, and healthy omega-3 fatty acids. These seeds and nuts include flax seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds and all types of nuts like cashews, almonds, pine nuts, and peanuts. Though it should be mentioned that nuts and seeds are rather high in fat, so if someone is interested in losing weight, they should keep nut-milk and nut consumption to a minimum. Nuts and seeds are also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Do Not Fear Carbohydrates

Without eating plenty of healthy carbohydrates, we could not function. Our brains need glucose that is made after eating carbs. We need to eat plenty of good carbs for our muscles to grow bigger and stronger. Our nervous system also needs plenty of carbs.

Science doesn’t say a person gets fat eating carbs. Interestingly, the only people (including doctors) that say carbs make you fat are the ones that have become overweight eating carbs with fat. In fact, recent studies have found that eating fat is what makes you fat.

That is an important distinction, carbs with fat. There are good carbs and bad carbs. Highly refined carbs like white flour are what can cause sugar spikes and are almost always paired with some kind of fat and oils like cakes, donuts, and French fries. Too many times the good carbs like whole grains, potatoes, vegetables, and fruit get mixed into the conversation (or scientific studies) with the bad highly refined processed carbs.

No one has ever gotten fat eating nothing but white potatoes. But people certainly get fat eating white potatoes by putting slabs of butter and spoonfuls of sour cream on that plain baked potato.

Too many people only think of carbs such as cakes, donuts, cookies, and the wonderful and healthy baked potato with a ton of fat on it. There should be a separate category for these foods.

Eating too many unhealthy refined processed carbs loaded with fat and sugar will make anyone fat. Fat and carbs do not mix. Today, there is mainly the high-carb/low-fat diets and the low-carb/high-fat diets, never the high-carb/high-fat diet. 

But the standard American diet (SAD), the one that is making everyone ill and obese is just that, the high carbohydrate and high-fat diet. The following YouTube video includes first-hand accounts from doctors about the healing benefits of a whole food plant-based diet.

No Oil

Most but not all people that follow a whole food plant-based diet do not use oil of any kind. That means no oil in cooking and no oil in the ingredients. No olive oil, no sunflower oil, no soybean oil, no canola oil, etc. And it is amazing just how many foods we buy have some kind of oil in them. Vegetable oils are one of the unhealthiest foods we can eat since they are all fat and high in omega-6.

Most people fear that without oil they cannot cook their own plant-based meals, or find anything to eat. But it is actually very easy to sauté vegetables using water or better yet vegetable broth. Making salad dressings is simply without oil using ingredients like balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, maple syrup, and fruits.

Why is Oil Unhealthy?

This is the first question most ask when considering a whole food plant-based no oil diet. The main reason is that oil is very bad for our health, and oil is a processed food that is not a whole food.

Oil is nothing but pure fat with little to no nutritional value, and oils are the highest in calories per gram. Protein and carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram and fat have 9 calories per gram.

Vegetable oil is bad for our health in the following ways:

  • Fat causes the blood to become sluggish, which slows the flow of blood. Oil also causes our red blood cells to clump up, which limits their ability to absorb and deliver oxygen to our cells.

  • Oil depresses the immune system, limiting our bodies to fight infections, illnesses, and disease.

  • Fats and oils constrict the blood vessels which damages their lining, called the endothelium. Continuing this damage can lead to coronary heart disease.

  • Oils are high in omega-6 and are very inflammatory for our bodies, which can cause a host of health problems.

Think about the plumbing system in your home. Water flows through them easily without constraints or problems. If you were to pour oil in the drain, the plumbing system would become sluggish and flow slowly and at the worst, it might stop flowing altogether.

If you were to narrow parts of this home plumbing system, water would slow down in those constricted areas and possible dam up. This is what can happen if too much damage occurs from eating too much fat and too many high-fat meals.

All oil promotes heart disease, but some of this damage can be reversed and healed by switching to a whole food plant-based diet without oil. One recent study found that eating one meal with olive oil reduced blood flow by 31% [1].

Another study found that all oils - saturated, monounsaturated (olive oil) and polyunsaturated (flax oil) - were associated with an increase in the plaque build up that clogs our arteries and leads to heart attacks. (JAMA 263:1646, 1990)

Basic Guidelines of a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet

Eating a healthy whole food plant-based diet is simple by following these guidelines:

  • No animal food of any kind, no meat, no poultry, no eggs, and no dairy.
  • No dairy means no cheese, milk, butter or yogurt. 
  • No oil including olive oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, etc.
  • No textured vegetable protein (TVP), because it is not a whole food.

Some might consider this way of eating as extreme, but as one well-known doctor explains, this way of eating is not extreme at all considering having the chest cut open for heart surgery as a possible alternative.

Whole Food Plant-Based Diet Conclusion

For anyone concerned about their health or those faced with declining health should consider changing their way of eating to a whole food plant-based diet immediately. It has been proven that this way of eating can reverse many diseases and prevent diseases from starting in the first place.

You no longer have to fear carbs and starches, plus you will get all of the nutrients, minerals, and vitamins you need for a healthy life except vitamin B12. You should supplement with vitamin B12.

If you are interested in living a long and healthy life or you are worried about any health problems, you will have plenty of motivation to stay with this way of eating as you will see fast improvements in your health. There are several great Facebook groups to help you get started including:

There are plenty of good books to help you understand a whole food plant-based diet including:

A whole food plant-based diet is full of satisfying and tasty foods and meals, and there are hundreds of cookbooks and recipes that are easy to make. Another great benefit of a plant-based diet is good for the environment and the planet.

About the Author

Sam Montana is a certified Food Over Medicine instructor from the Wellness Forum Health Center and certified in optimal nutrition from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Copyright © May 2018 Sam Montana



  1. Sounds very interesting and a very informative post thanks for sharing it.

  2. This is a pretty good article. I especially like your concept regarding yo-yo dieting, which is a problem I have had for a while. It's not that I'm extremely overweight or anything, as I exercise 2-3 times a week, but I would like to eventually permanently stay on a consistent healthy diet, but I am afraid to give some things up (red meats). Thank you for this article!

    1. Jared, when you start reading more studies about red meat and how it is really not healthy, you might have an easier time giving it up.

      I grew up eating red meat and never thought I could give it up. The more I learned, the easier it was to give it up. And of course the older you get, the more fearful you get of heart attacks and disease.