I am writing this blog for people who want to get started on a Whole Food Plant Based (WFPB) lifestyle for health. When I found Forks Over Knives, I was fortunate to be retired, and had time to experiment with planning. It was challenging, but I was motivated by my high cholesterol and coronary calcification. Whatever your motivation, I want to help you to NOT GIVE UP! Starting out the way I describe is not fancy or beautiful. It is plain whole food, cooked simply. It takes a little while for taste buds to adjust to the more subtle flavors of beans, potatoes, and greens lacking the enhancing meat, oil, butter, and salt which we are used to. But change of taste does happen! At this starting point, remember we are eating to live, not living to eat. If you are old enough, you can remind yourself that you do know what sugar, butter, and olive oil taste like, and agree that probably you have had enough, at least as a regular part of your diet. I believe you will find the immediate benefits worth it: feeling better in general, regular poops, automatic weight loss, and always able to have a snack of something good for you, whether savory or sweet.
It is vital for understanding the WFPB lifestyle to have watched the documentary Forks Over Knives before you begin. Fed Up is the other one which I’d recommend. Both are available for streaming online through Netflix, iTunes, or Amazon; see each film’s web page for information about how to stream. There are many other food documentaries, but I am sticking with Forks Over Knives; in my opinion, it has the best science behind it, and is the most complete set of instructions.
This blog is a limited, hopefully simple, plan which will get you going and from which you can branch out, as fits the rest of your life (work, children, responsibilities). The only difference in the instructions between wanting to prevent heart disease and reverse heart disease, is that with prevention you can have higher fat whole food like nuts and avocado, and with reversal they should be drastically reduced or eliminated. In either case, refined oil of any kind should be eliminated.
The default “go to” meal, which could be any of the three standard breakfast, lunch, or supper, is beans over brown rice, cooked greens, and one other vegetable or a salad. Once a week we make tomato sauce with beans to have over pasta, once a week we have baked potatoes and a salad, and the rest of the time the default. You could also have more breakfasty meal at any time of day—oatmeal or whole grain dry cereal like Grapenuts with berries, fruit, and almond milk. This will get you within the guidelines of WFPB, and there is a wealth of recipes on the internet from which you can branch out. To get an idea, I often search online for a recipe by the ingredients I have on hand. Recipes are just for guidance, to give me ideas. What I make is usually much more simple than the recipe. I leave out the oil, using water, rice water, or veggie broth instead. I also leave out salt and anything somebody doesn’t like (e.g., jalapeños or brussels sprouts).
I should emphasize that the most challenging aspect for me was cooking without any refined oil and nuts. I love olive oil and nuts. I got used to eliminating olive oil after several months, and actually prefer not using it now for cooking. I still miss nuts, and this week I actually put some in my no-oil homemade granola. You will need to evaluate your own health with your doctor, and decide how strict you need to be with nuts. If you also have trouble breaking up with olive oil, just use it when you most want it, and keep in mind you may eliminate it later.* You should also limit added salt, especially if you have high blood pressure or want to reverse heart disease. Start out by not cooking with it, and eat most of a serving without it. I sometimes add a few grains for the last few bites as a reward to myself. This is becoming less “necessary” as time goes by.
*Please keep in mind that eliminating refined oils is important if you’re focused on reducing the risk of heart disease, or reversing existing damage. Eliminating nuts is only necessary if you’re trying to reverse existing damage. When I first started out, I hadn’t eliminated either, and I still lost 45 pounds in six months and felt great. My focus now is on reversing heart disease, so I’ve decided to adhere as much as possible to no oil and almost no nuts.
The good news is that with this plan there is no need to limit portion size or count calories. Eliminate animal products (meat, dairy, eggs), commercially processed food, and refined sugar and chemical sweeteners. I use a food processor for making hummus (pureed chickpeas/garbanzo beans), and a blender for dessert smoothies of fruit and almond milk, and a blender for making date paste (Medjool dates and water). I don’t peel any whole food, but carrots may become an exception. Last week I noted a chemically taste which seemed to be associated with the outside of the carrot.
Here are the categories of food for a Whole Food Plant Based (WFPB) lifestyle. For learning about and keeping track of the food categories, I like the app Daily Dozen (free) which Dr. Michael Greger put together. It gives a good description of goals including beverages, vitamins, and exercise.
- Whole Grains
- Greens (dark green leafy ones)
- Vegetables (cruciferous and colorful)
- Fruit (be sure to include berries)
- Nuts and Seeds*
- Vitamin B12
For all vegans, a B12 supplement is needed, as B12 is not made by any plant or animal, but by bacteria which live in the soil. Our ancestors got it from the dirt that clung to the plants they ate, and from the meat they ate, so it was not necessary for them to evolve to make it.
We drink water, either bubbly or plain; coffee is not recommended for reversal of heart disease. The recommendations against salt, oil in nuts and seeds, and coffee are based on evidence of interference with the healing of endothelium of arteries
*Reminder: Reduce or eliminate nuts and seeds if you are trying to prevent or reverse heart disease (Dr. Esselstyn), but he does recommend one tablespoon per day of ground flaxseed.