We’ve talked a lot on our blog and social media about eating plant-based and whole foods. But despite all this information, we realized that not everyone may know the benefits of eating whole foods over plant-based foods, and vice versa. In fact, you might not even know what plant-based and whole foods really are! So, we wanted to answer the question: plant-based vs. whole foods: which is better?
What Is “Plant-Based”?
The term plant-based probably seems pretty self-explanatory, right? You just eat things that are grown from plants! Well, that is true, but not everyone realizes the range of foods that are plant-based diet approved.
According to Havard Health Publishing, a plant-based diet is one that focuses on eating food mostly (or only) from plants. Now, this doesn’t mean that the diet consists only of vegetables; a plant-based diet also includes things like nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, and oils.
What Are the Benefits of Eating Plant-Based?
There are several benefits of eating a plant-based diet, and not just for humans. Following a plant-based plan can also help the planet! In addition to reducing the risk of health concerns like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer, plant-based eating can help sustain the Earth’s population growth. When we start incorporating more plant-based foods into our diets, we reduce our carbon footprint and help to ensure that our crops will feed people instead of livestock.
Plant-Based Diet Examples
Eating plant-based isn’t a “one size fits all” meal plan. Some people may just be starting out by adding more vegetables to their plates, while others may have been fully plant-based for years. But however someone eats plant-based, they are still helping themselves and the planet. Here are some examples of plant-forward diets.
A vegetarian diet consists of grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruit. But, unlike a vegan diet, a vegetarian diet still includes dairy products, like cheese and milk, and eggs, but no meat or fish.
A vegan diet cuts out any food that is made of animal products. This includes things like eggs, dairy, and, obviously, meat. The vegan diet consists of only plant-derived foods.
What Are “Whole Foods”?
Once again, this term probably seems self-explanatory. Whole foods are just that, right? Well, sort of.
Whole foods are foods that have been processed or refined as little as possible and are free from additives or other artificial substances. This includes foods like whole grains, tubers, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. These foods are natural, and many have significant health benefits and nutrients without the drawbacks of the added ingredients found in processed food.
What Are the Benefits of Eating Whole Foods?
Like we mentioned above, a wide variety of whole foods have substantial health benefits. For example, vegetables and legumes are high in fiber and healthy fats, which can help you manage your weight. Additionally, whole foods can reduce your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and dementia. A diet rich in whole foods may even help lower levels of depression, boosting your mood.
Of course, just like with plant-based foods, the natural foods of a whole food diet can help keep the Earth healthy too. Any diet that cuts down on the amount of meat being eaten helps reduce our carbon footprint and allows us to focus on feeding crops to humans rather than livestock.
Examples of Whole Food Diets
Much like eating plant-based, eating a whole food diet is not the same for everyone. Some may include more or less meat, while others may be staying away from animal products altogether. Here are some examples of whole food style diets.
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet focuses mostly on eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and olive oil. This diet also typically consists of fish and poultry, which are lean sources of protein, instead of red meats, like beef and pork.
A pescatarian diet is sort of a mix of vegetarianism and the Mediterranean diet. It consists almost completely of plant-based food, with the exception of fish.
Plant-Based vs. Whole Foods
Okay, both of these diets sound pretty great, right? They both have health benefits, they both help the Earth, and thanks to their newfound popularity, they’re becoming even easier to follow. So why are we focusing on one vs. the other?
Because we want everyone to understand that just because something is better for you, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s best for you.
What’s Wrong with Plant-Based?
While it’s great that plant-based food is becoming more accessible to people, this plant-based food often has unhealthy ingredients hidden in it. Products like cauliflower pizza crusts, veggie tots, and faux meats are coming to grocery stores and restaurants, labeled under “health food” and “better for you”. But some of these trendy plant-based options are actually highly processed, or they’re full of fats, sugars, and sodium. They may even be worse for you than their “unhealthy” counterparts!
That being said, we don’t want you to think that all plant-based food should be avoided. Rather, we want to shift the focus away from the food that’s plant-based for the sake of popularity, and shift it to real, healthy, plant-based whole foods.
How to Eat More Plant-Based Whole Foods
We know that it can be hard to stay away from the exciting flavors of cauliflower pizza crust and veggie nuggets, but there are some very simple steps to help you eat more plant-based whole foods!
1. Don’t Think of Cutting Out Foods
If you’re trying to eat more whole foods, it’s easy to focus on what you’re giving up. And who wouldn’t be grumpy about giving up food they love?! So, instead of framing your new diet as something that cuts out food, think about all the exciting new foods and recipes you’ll get to try. This will help you keep a positive attitude about what you’re eating, and who knows, you might find a dish you like even better than your old go-to.
2. Read Labels
This is such an important part of grocery shopping in today’s stores. With aisles and aisles of food that claims to be good for you, simply reading the label is a surefire way to find out if a product is actually healthy, or if it’s hiding unhealthy ingredients. For example, not all veggie replacements are created equal; one cauliflower pizza crust might be high in fat and calories, but that doesn’t mean that they all are! It might take you a little longer to get your grocery shopping done, but it will help you stick to a much healthier diet in the long run.
3. Buy Frozen
Buying frozen fruits and vegetables is a great way to get more whole foods in your diet. They’re cost-effective, easy to prepare and last for a lot longer than their fresh counterparts! Plus, freezing is a natural form of food preservation that’s been used for hundreds of years. Tommy’s vegetable medleys do all the work for you with pre-washed, pre-cut, pre-seasoned veggies, frozen at peak freshness to seal in all the nutrients and taste you want from whole foods.
4. Give Yourself a Break
When it comes to following a diet, don’t forget to give yourself a break sometimes. Trying to be overly strict about what you eat makes it hard to continue eating that way over time. So, if you have some non-plant-based food every once in a while, don’t beat yourself up. Sticking to mostly (or only) plant-based whole foods can take some time, so focus on the little victories, like adding vegetables to your breakfast or having a chickpea snack instead of potato chips. And don’t forget, you’ve always got plant-based cheerleaders at Tommy’s!