What is a whole food plant-based diet?

What does eating a wholefood, plant based diet really mean and how does it differ from being a vegetarian or a vegan?

Good question!

Lots of people are confused by this. It’s pretty simple really. Eating a wholefood, plant based diet means that you only eat natural food, the way nature intended.

Where did the phrase ‘whole food, plant based’ come from?

The phrase ‘whole food, plant based’ was introduced by Professor T. Colin Campbell when he was a member of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) cancer research grant review panel during the period 1978-1980.

He introduced the phrase as he wanted to describe the truly remarkable ‘health effects of this diet in reference to the scientific evidence, rather than in reference to personal and philosophical ideologies’. It is under the later that vegetarians and vegans sit.

So, what do vegetarians eat?

The Vegetarian Society defines a vegetarian as:

“Someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with, or without, the use of dairy products and eggs. A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish or by-products of slaughter.”

The term ‘Vegetarian’ was first used way back in 1847 in Salford, UK when the Vegetarian Society was first set up. If you exclude meat, fish, poultry and game from your diet but still eat dairy products such as milk, butter and yoghurts then you’re probably a vegetarian.

There are five main types of vegetarian, for example:

Lacto-ovo vegetarian – from the Latin ‘lactis’, milk and ‘ovum’ egg, is a vegetarian who eats dairy products milk, cheese, yoghurt, butter, cream and eggs. This is the most common type of vegetarian.

Lacto vegetarian – from the Latin ‘lactis’, milk, is a vegetarian who eats dairy products such as milk, cheese, yoghurt, butter and cream, but not eggs.

Flexitarian – this is a vegetarian who is essentially vegetarian but occasionally eats meat.

Pescetarians – this is a vegetarian who also eats fish or other seafood, but not poultry or red meat.

Pollo-pescetarians – a vegetarian who eats poultry (chicken, turkey, ducks, geese etc) and fish but not red meat.

What do vegans eat?

Well, a vegan like a vegetarian doesn’t eat meat, fish, poultry or game but they also do not eat dairy products such as cheese, butter or eggs, nor do they wear leather, wool, silk, fur or pearls. They exclude all animal derived products from their life including honey.

The Vegan Society defines a vegan as follows:

“A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”

A vegan will not eat any animal products, for example they will not eat:

  • meat, fish nor other products that come directly from killing an animal, such as animal fats and gelatine
  • dairy products such as cow’s milk, cheese and yoghurt; or goat’s milk
  • eggs or foods containing eggs such as Quorn
  • honey

The term ‘Vegan’ was first introduced back in 1944 by Donald Watson when he co-founded the Vegan Society, however it wasn’t until 1949 before Leslie J Cross pointed out that the society lacked a definition of veganism.

What’s different about a wholefood, plant based diet?

Both vegetarians and vegans consume added fat e.g. when they’re cooking they’ll use vegetable oils, both groups eat refined carbohydrates such as sugar and refined flour and both groups eat processed foods and salt. People who follow a whole food, plant based diet don’t eat these.

In addition to the main difference above, I also see two other significant differences between vegans and those on a plant based diet.

The first is political.

There is a strong focus on animal rights and politics with being a vegan, whereas the focus for plant strong people tends to be their own health and the environment in that order.

The second difference revolves around lifestyle.

It used to be the case that when you said that you’re a vegan, people would apply a label to you. The first word that often sprung to mind was hippie – with long flowing hair and alternative lifestyle and while there’s nothing wrong with that, it becomes a label and is rarely associated with manliness, athletic achievement or strength.

Being plant strong has none of those labels attached to it. It’s for anyone and everyone who seeks to be healthy and pain free for as long as they possibly can be.

Your wholefood, plant based journey starts here!

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