What is a Plant Based diet?
So you’ve heard a little about plant based diets. You’ve seen the documentaries, read the books, watched the news headlines. But what exactly is plant based food, and how can you start eating more of it? What kind of impact does it have on our health? How does it impact our weight? Does it even matter if I can’t afford a big bag of organic kale every day? (I know I can’t)
A plant based diet is, simply put, a diet which does not contain foods that come from animals - this includes all kinds of meat, fish, eggs, dairy products and honey. The basic idea is to eat what comes from plants and nothing that comes from animals.
Is Plant Based Diet the same as being Vegan?
Veganism is a social justice movement that stands against the commodification of animals is all walks of life. Diet is one part of it. Clothing, accessories, cosmetics, and entertainment that use animals are also avoided by vegans.
The History of the term Plant Based and the addition of 'Whole Foods'
Dr. Colin Campbell conducted the world's largest epidemiological study called The China Study. When he compared the diets and health status of rural Chinese to Americans, he found that that the top killers in the US - heart disease and cancers - were practically absent in China! His research showed that this was primarily due to their diet and lifestyle. Animal foods seemed to be the top dietary cause of these disease, so he named the healthy diet the Chinese followed, the 'Plant Based Diet' in 1982.
He quickly realised that this definition alone is not enough. By definition, chips and soda are still plant based. So, he added another dimension to the definition and called it the 'Whole Food Plant Based Diet'.
What do we mean by Whole Food Plant Based?
The term plant based diet refers to a diet which does not include animal products or food derived from animals. Whole Food adds another dimension to this. A whole food plant based diet is one largely comprised of unprocessed plant foods. This means a diet comprised of a variety of fruits, berries, vegetables, greens, pulses and legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, herbs and spices, and mushroom. All this in their whole form - with the fiber intact- without removing components. Processed foods include oil, sugar/jaggery, white rice, maida, rava, semiya, etc.
In practice many people choosing a plant based or plant centered diets tend to do so for health or environmental reasons. There is a tendency to eat more whole foods and fewer processed foods, but this differs from person to person. If you are choosing to move towards a plant based diet for health reasons, we recommend further upgrading to a whole food plant based lifestyle. Not only are you increasing your chances of better results for your specific health concern, but will see improvement in your overall health.
A Whole Food Plant Based Diet is not a diet in the traditional sense of the word. It is a way of eating that encompasses foods that are health promoting - unprocessed plant foods and mushrooms. A well planned whole food plant based diet has shown to prevent, treat and in some cases potentially reverse chronic lifestyle diseases including diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, obesity, asthma, and even some types of cancers.
Apart from this, eating a variety of unprocessed plant foods also improves overall health, skin, hair and energy levels. Unlike traditional diets, it does not call for portion restriction or elimination of a single macronutrient.
Vegetarian and vegan diets tell me what you DON'T eat, but they don't tell me what you eat. Vegetarians avoid meat, fish and eggs. Vegans avoid dairy products and honey too. But either could be consuming plenty of vegetarian or vegan junk food, oily food, or sweetened beverages.
On the other hand, a whole food plant based diet tells me what you DO eat - a diet rich in unprocessed plant foods.
The origin of a Whole Food Plant Based diet goes back to one of the largest epidemiological studies on Nutrition ever conducted. Published as a book - “The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long Life" by T. Colin Campbell et al.
Taking a leaf out of these learnings, Sampoorna Ahara has a whole range of whole food plant based offerings including meals, snacks, sweets, breads, spreads, cakes cookies and more. If you are looking to adopt a healthier diet, we are here to make it easier for you.
Dr Achyuthan Eswar