How to Optimize the “Whole” in a Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet

Food can feel complicated. But it really doesn’t need to be. Keeping it simple and as close to nature as possible is all that is necessary. An optimal diet that reduces risk for disease is based on whole plant foods which are recognizable and enjoyed in their most intact form, avoiding animal products and processed foods. But what is a processed food, exactly? Clearly, Twinkies, Skittles, and fluorescent colored energy drinks would fit the bill of being highly processed. But what about something less obvious…such as a green smoothie, pasta, or plant-based yogurt?

From a diced onion and juiced carrot to refined sugar and artificially-colored corn chip, there is a whole lot of gray area in between when defining processed foods. Especially when you consider that processing includes all sorts of transformations that can be done on food, including grating, mincing, chopping, blending, boiling, baking, blanching, chargrilling, canning, pickling, extracting, changing the chemical or physical structure, etc., etc. The list goes on and on.

With many–but not all–of these alterations, there may be implications, such as these:

  • Nutrients can become lost. From the moment a plant is plucked from the Earth, nutrients start to degrade. Even from the time between when food is harvested to the time it ends up in your kitchen–let alone on your plate–significant losses occur. Cooking foods causes further leaching of certain nutrients and refining a whole grain significantly reduces fiber, protein, and other key nutrients.
  • Unhealthy or potentially harmful substances can be added in. On most food production lines, preservatives, artificial colors, (artificial) sweeteners, artificial flavors, stabilizers, thickeners, and other ingredients are added into the original food for myriad survival reasons. Even using high temperatures to cook potato or grain products can promote byproducts such as acrylamide formation.
  • Olives versus Olive OilNutrients can be concentrated. There is an increase in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals when blending and juicing fruits and vegetables (however, this may also reduce fiber and satiety). Further, a dramatic enhancement of fat and calories is found in olive oil as compared to whole olives or carbohydrates from sugar beets as compared to table sugar when refined (however, this reduces fiber and most other nutrients).
  • Satiety can decrease. When fiber is reduced, many health benefits are minimized and satiety is often also slighted.
  • Caloric densityCalories can increase. Taking out fiber or water leaves room for more calories. Highly processed foods such as sugars and oil contain the most calorically dense foods of all. But even dried fruit increases caloric density as water is removed.
  • Enzymes can become activated. Certain foods are best eaten raw or even sprouted, to protect their disease-fighting phytochemicals and to enhance nutrient absorption. For example, allicin in garlic protects against cancer and is only activated when cut or crushed based on the enzyme allinase. Similarly, sprouting seeds significantly improves their nutritional benefits.
  • Cravings may be enhanced. Highly processed foods have been shown to provoke  physiological responses similar to addictive drugs.

Here is a graphic to help illustrate the journey foods can take from its original state to a more processed version of itself: 

Calorie Nutrient Density

Here are 5 ways to optimize the “whole” in your whole food, plant-based diet:

  1. Fill at least half of your plate (or bowl) with raw or lightly cooked vegetables and fruits.
    • Include at least half of your diet from raw foods to benefit from their original nutritional profile.
    • Include cooked foods as well to incorporate the benefits that take place with cooking certain nutrients, such as carotenoids.
    • Drink soups and stews to make sure you retain any nutrients lost in the cooking broth.
  2. Minimize or avoid oils and refined sweeteners.
  3. Choose whole grains over refined grains as often as possible.
  4. When purchasing food with a label:
    • Focus exclusively on the ingredient list.
    • Aim for the fewest ingredients possible.
    • Completely recognizable and pronounceable ingredients.
    • ignore misleading marketing on the front of the package;
    • Avoid artificial flavors/sweeteners/colors, preservatives, stabilizers, thickeners.
  5. Prioritize The 6 Daily 3’s: 3 servings of legumes, leafy green vegetables, other-colored vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, and exercise.

6 Daily 3's Web Sized

Ultimately, it all lies on a spectrum…

Spectrum

 

The post How to Optimize the “Whole” in a Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet appeared first on Plant Based Dietitian.

Original Link

How to Enjoy Food More

Notice how everything sounds more and more delicious the hungrier you are? A crisp sweet apple, a crunchy rib of celery, a soft, warm plain baked potato…items you may not crave on a regular basis, but with hunger, your true palate emerges. If you have ever fasted, or detoxified with a “cleanse,” or been on …

Original Link

30 Reasons to Go Vegan

Happy World Vegan Month! Here are 30 reasons to try Veganism, one for each day in November: 1. Raising and slaughtering animals at the current rate of consume demand requires horrific, inhumane, torturous practices that cause immense suffering of billions of animals a year. 2. We will need 1.5 to 2 earths in order to …

Original Link

The Best Nutrition Bar

There are a variety of healthier fruit and nut bars on the market now that boast dried fruit as a primary ingredient. Dried fruit is calorically dense, though. Should we be concerned that eating such bars may make us fat?

You may have noticed in the conclusion of the fig study I covered in Best Dried Fruit for Cholesterol that adding 14 figs to people’s daily diets did not lead to significant weight gain.

Wait a second.

That’s 300 calories of figs a day. Over 5 weeks that’s 10,000 calories. How did 10,000 calories disappear into thin air? Figs are so satiating and packed with fiber that even without trying people just end up eating less of other foods throughout the day. I get full just thinking about eating 14 figs!

Was that study just a fluke? Let’s look at the other new studies I covered. What about adding three quarters of a cup of dried apples to our diet every day for a year? Two hundred extra calories a day, but no significant change in weight. Two hundred extra calories of prunes a day for a year? No significant change in weight and same thing with a month of a daily 300 calorie load of dates.

In general, the 5-10% of Americans that average a tablespoon or more of dried fruit a day tend to be less overweight, less obese, and have a slimmer waist with less abdominal obesity. They tended to eat more, but weighed less.  Similar findings were found for those that eat nuts and nut butters, lower body mass index, slimmer waist, and significantly less excess weight and obesity. See my video Nuts and Obesity: The Weight of Evidence. The various mechanisms are summarized in Solving the Mystery of the Missing Calories and explored further in a four-video series:

What if you put dried fruit and nuts together? What would be the effect of adding daily fruit and nut bars on top of one’s regular diet for two months? Researchers took about a hundred folks who were overweight and randomized them into two groups. Half ate their regular diet, and the other half ate their regular diet plus two fruit and nut bars a day, totaling an extra 340 calories. But these weren’t candy calories; these were largely whole plant food calories, dried fruits and nuts.

Two daily fruit and nut bars for two months did not cause weight gain. And they had additional sugar in them (they were KIND brand bars). Maybe that may be why the participants’ cholesterol didn’t get better despite the nuts, which should have helped. I highlight some brands in my 3-min video Do Fruit & Nut Bars Cause Weight Gain? with no added sugar, but it’s even cheaper to just concoct one’s own trail mix and eat dried fruits and nuts on their own.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death and More Than an Apple a Day.

Image credit: miriamwilcox / Wikimedia Commons

Original Link