One of the most powerful steps you can take to improve your health, boost energy levels, and prevent chronic diseases is to move to a plant-based diet. If you’ve seen Forks Over Knives, you know that science shows changing your nutrition is a powerful way to live longer, help the environment, and reduce your risk of getting sick.
There’s excellent scientific evidence that many chronic diseases can be prevented, controlled, or even reversed with a whole-food, plant-based diet. Scientific research highlighted in the landmark book The China Study shows that a plant-based diet can reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes, heart disease, certain types of cancer, and other major illnesses. Many people also report bigger fitness payoffs, more energy, reduced inflammation, and better health outcomes after making the switch.
What Is a Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet?
A whole-food, plant-based diet is based on the following principles:
“Whole foods”: Natural foods that are not heavily processed. That means whole, unrefined, or minimally refined ingredients.
“Plant-based”: Food that comes from plants and is free of animal ingredients such as meat, milk, eggs, or honey.
There is overlap between whole-food, plant-based (WFPB) and vegan diets, but there are also some key differences. A vegan diet can include highly processed imitation meats and cheeses; a WFPB diet eschews these products in favor of whole or minimally processed, close-to-nature foods that make it easy to meet your nutritional needs.
The five food groups
Below is a quick overview of the major food categories you’ll enjoy on a plant-based diet, with examples. For a more detailed breakdown of what to eat on a WFPB diet, check out The Forks Over Knives Diet Explained.
- Fruits: Any type of fruit including apple, bananas, grapes, strawberries, citrus fruits, etc.
- Vegetables: Plenty of veggies including peppers, corn, lettuce, spinach, kale, peas, collards, etc.
- Tubers: Root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, etc.
- Whole grains: Grains, cereals, and other starches in whole form, such as quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat, oats, popcorn, etc.
- Legumes: Beans of any kind, plus lentils, pulses, etc.
There are plenty of other foods you can also enjoy, including nuts, seeds, avocados, tofu, tempeh, whole-grain flours and breads, and plant-based milks. However, we recommend eating these foods in moderation, because they are more calorie-dense and can contribute to weight gain.
The Benefits of a Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet
There are several major benefits to moving to plant-based nutrition, all supported by science. These benefits include:
- Easy weight management: People who eat a plant-based diet tend to be leaner than those who don’t, and the diet makes it easy to lose weight and keep it off—without counting calories.
- Disease prevention: Whole-food, plant-based eating can prevent, halt, and in some cases reverse chronic diseases. The scientific evidence is especially overwhelming when it comes to heart disease and diabetes, but research has also linked plant-based diets to lower rates of arthritis, improved liver function, and healthier kidneys.
- A lighter environmental footprint: A plant-based diet places much less stress on the environment.
It'll Save You Money on Groceries
Whole plant foods are not only the healthiest and most sustainable foods around; they’re also some of the most affordable. In fact, going plant-based can cut grocery bills by $750 a year per person, according to research published in the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition.