Sunday, March 3, 2019

Not All Plant Foods Are Created Equal

Not all plant foods are created equal. I lost 100 pounds, reversed type 2 diabetes, and kicked hypertension to the curb eating plant foods but I didn't do it by eating faux meats, processed treats, condiments high in sodium and fat, or even otherwise healthy nuts, seeds, and avocados. If I had incorporated those foods into my regular diet, I wouldn't have lost weight or reversed my diseases. Why? Because I eat a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet and the whole food part is vital to restoring health and promoting weight loss. 

There was an interesting article in the February 15 issue of  The Washington Post that explored the current fascination with all things plant-based and "Forks Over Knives" film producer Brian Wendel was interviewed and talked about how the influx of faux meats and cheeses and other plant-based foods, but not whole foods, are muddying the waters of what a truly whole food plant-based diet is,  and I couldn't agree more. While it's great for the planet and for the animals that more people are adopting a plant-based diet, if they want to reap the health benefits, they need not forget the whole food part of the equation.

The less processed the food the better. On a regular basis, the most processed item I eat is old-fashioned oats. Before adopting a WFPB diet, I never even considered oats a processed food but now I realize that if it didn't come out of the ground looking like what it looks on my plate, then it's probably processed.  Occasionally, I will eat Mary's Gone crackers or Ezekiel bread, but not very often because they are most definitely processed and more calorically dense because of it and that doesn't serve my weight loss goal very well.

As for faux meats and other vegan or plant-based treats, I don't partake of them. They are highly processed and my rule of thumb is that if there is more than a few ingredients on a label, I'm steering clear of it. Also, while I've only made a cursory investigation into these items out of curiosity, I'm pretty certain they are high in fat and most likely sodium as well.

I'm careful of condiments, too. Tahini, or sesame seed paste, is fantastic added to the Forks Over Knives "No-Tuna" Chickpea Salad but it's high in fat and because of that, I use very little in that recipe. Tamari sauce is high in sodium so it's not conducive to keeping high blood pressure at bay so I've always been mindful of that when recipes have called for it. Even the reduced sodium versions are higher in sodium than I like, so I either use less or omit it all-together and you know what, my palate doesn't know the difference and my heart thanks me.

Nuts, seeds, and avocado are unprocessed, healthy fats in their whole food form but are still going to slow down my weight loss if I eat them very often. As Dr. John McDougall, one of the founding fathers of the WFPB movement, says, "The fat you eat is the fat you wear." I notice that when I add those roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds to my daily salad, my weight loss stalls. You might be wondering how some seemingly innocuous sunflower seeds could do me so wrong? Well,  a quarter of a cup of sunflower seeds, which, let's face it, isn't very much, may only be 186 calories (still more than I'm willing to give to something that isn't going to fill up much of my stomach), it's 16 grams of fat. Nuts are much the same story and yet they are so seductive because many WFPB recipes call for them to replace cheese and cream, but I am on a mission so I avoid them. Avocado, another healthy fat, is still fat and if you're trying to lose weight or reverse type 2 diabetes, you need to steer clear for the time being. Half of an average size avocado is 15 grams of fat. And, honestly, who can stop at half of an avocado?

You may be thinking that it doesn't sound all that pleasant to avoid these more calorically dense, higher fat plant foods and there is a sliver of truth to that but please don't feel sorry for me. I don't see myself ever throwing faux meats or vegan treats in my shopping cart. They're too processed, too pricey, and too much like what I used to eat to be attractive to me. When I'm at a comfortable weight and I am maintaining it, I'll allow myself some nuts, seeds, and avocado with the caveat that I know they are super palatable and it would be easy to over indulge and, thus, pack on weight while eating them. As for the condiments, again, they're highly processed, so I plan to continue to keep that in mind and proceed accordingly.

My husband is 6"5 and lean and eating WFPB as well. He does not need to keep his fat intake low so I prepare him WFPB foods that are higher in fat (nuts, seeds, avocado) but I stick to the whole foods and not the processed junk food because even though he's lean, I want him to remain healthy and I can't help but think that those foods aren't necessarily health promoting when consumed on a regular basis. I will stick with WHOLE foods for life more often than not.

Plant-based weight loss doesn't happen without the WHOLE FOOD part and it doesn't happen without following the principles of calorie density. See my August 15, 2018 blog post to learn more about the topic. Lately I've let sunflower seeds slip back into my salads and I need to evict them because they slow me down. The closer I get to my goal weight (whatever that is), the tighter ship I have to run, and sunflower seeds have no place on it.

       One of my enormous salads with those pesky sunflower seeds.

So if you want to lose weight and reverse disease on a WFPB diet, ratchet down your fat intake, follow the principles of calorie density, avoid processed foods, and keep it simple. I don't chase recipes. I usually eat very simply. While eating a whole food plant-based diet may not always be easy, it's simple. Brown rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans of any variety, starchy and non-starchy vegetables, fruit, lentils, they're all your friends. The recipes I use are for soups, stews, and chili, quite often. I steam or roast (sans oil) vegetables. I make enormous salads full of a huge variety of vegetables, and I enjoy fresh or frozen fruit. Eat the food, the whole food, and nothing but the whole food on most days and you will start to see weight loss.

About oil...this could and should be it's own post but I don't have time for it today so let me say this. Just say no to oil. It's high in fat and void of any nutritional value. It does nothing but make you fat. Watch this video by Dr. Michael Klaper and learn why. 

Suggested Reading: Whole by T. Colin Campbell PhD. 

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