My Predominantly Plant-Based Nutrition Philosophy
If you’ve been with me for awhile, you may have noticed some new things going on here. For one, we have a new site!
Oh yeah, hey! Welcome to my brand new site, “Whitney E. RD!”
Another more subtle change has been happening over the past year or so, and that’s my transition to a new way of eating that I call “Predominantly Plant-Based.”
When I first starting telling people about my new eating habits, they were naturally a little confused. See up until a year ago, I was a daily chicken and egg-eater and this blog was filled with recipes featuring animal protein.
And then all of sudden…it wasn’t.
I never went into great detail as to why I flipped the switch so quickly and dramatically, and I’ve been wanting to fill you in for a while now. So that’s what today’s post is about — sharing with you the science behind my Predominantly Plant-Based dietary pattern and explaining how it’s actually not a diet at all, but a lifestyle that leads to health, happiness, and longevity.
MY PREDOMINANTLY PLANT-BASED NUTRITION PHILOSOPHY
My Predominantly Plant-Based nutrition philosophy is based on two seemingly contradictory premises:
1. A plant-based diet is the best way to prevent chronic disease and to increase longevity.
2. Diets, in general, are bad for your health.
How can one philosophy embrace two totally opposing principles? Let me explain.
About a year ago, I began cutting most animal products out of my diet. The change was swift and friends and family naturally were curious (possibly concerned?) about what had sparked this drastic 180 in my dietary pattern.
It began with a genetics course I took in Italy last summer where I learned about the interaction of genes, diet, and disease.
I won’t go in depth into the science in this post but I will tell you — the evidence supporting a plant-based diet for preventing disease and increasing longevity is overwhelming.
It wasn’t like I hadn’t heard about the benefits of a plant-based diet before; I had just never had the evidence presented to me in such a convincing, undeniable way.
The Health Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
To sum it up, studies show that vegans and vegetarians have a significantly reduced risk of cancer, coronary heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
Additionally, they have a greater life expectancy. One large study of vegetarians in California found that men and women live 7.3 years and 4.4 years longer than their non-vegetarian counterparts, respectively.
Studies of populations living in “The Blue Zones” (areas with the highest concentration of people over 100 years of age) show that their diets are rich in plants and low in animal products.
In Okinawa, for example, which has the largest population of centenarians in the world and also an extremely low risk of hormone-dependent cancers including breast, ovary, prostate and colon cancer, the majority of the diet comes from sweet potatoes!
Combined with other vegetables like cabbage, bitter melon and seaweed, sweet potatoes made up about 60% of the traditional Okinawan diet. Meanwhile fish accounted for a mere 1% of the diet, and meat <1%.
And there is so much more research where those studies came from, which I intend to get into in other posts, but I’ll leave it here for now.
After my first week in Italy, I was sold on the science and ready to jump on the plant-based bandwagon. There was just one problem…
I really like ice cream, and I was in Italy!
Was I seriously going to spend this once in a lifetime opportunity to immerse myself in Italian culture, avoiding gelato, pesto, pizza, and fresh seafood?
Not a chance.
Though I didn’t know it at the time, this was the birth of my “Predominantly Plant-Based” philosophy.
See, in addition to receiving an in-depth education on the many benefits of a plant-based diet, I’ve also spent a large majority of my dietetic experience working in a field that is wholeheartedly opposed to strict diets – eating disorder recovery. In doing so, I learned about a field of nutrition known as Intuitive Eating.
INTUITIVE EATING + WHY DIETS DON’T WORK
Intuitive Eating is a nutrition philosophy that rejects the traditional diet mentality of “good” and “bad” foods, calorie counting, and tracking nutrients. This is pretty much because – DIETS DON’T WORK!
Studies show that while traditional diets initially help people lose weight, only about 1/3 of dieters are able to maintain a weight-loss of 5%, and less than 10% can maintain a weight loss of 15%.
In fact, those that do regain weight after a diet often gain more than their starting weight due to metabolic adaptations that occur within their fat cells that slow the metabolism and cause increased hunger.
Instead of focusing on weight loss and obsessing over foods to eat/which to avoid, Intuitive Eating trains people to ditch food rules and reconnect to their body’s internal hunger and fullness cues to drive eating behaviors and food choices.
While an Intuitive Eating approach may not be as effective initially at promoting weight loss, studies show that this mindfulness-based way of eating prevents additional weight gain and helps to maintain long-term behavior change.
In addition, intuitive eating approaches also combat disordered eating, which can develop from classic dieting.
Which brings me back to the plants. I was faced with a conundrum. I knew strict diets are a bad idea but I also knew that the research supporting plant-based eating is iron clad. There had to be a way of eating that took into account both of these scientifically supported truths.
That’s how I came up with my Predominantly Plant-Based philosophy.
HOW PREDOMINANTLY PLANT-BASED WORKS
Predominantly Plant-Based is a break away from the black and white thinking of traditional diets. It’s an acknowledgment that true health is not all or nothing. Just like in all things in life, too much of anything is good for nothing.
Exercise: good, right? But too much exercise can cause amenorrhea, reduced immunity, and injury.
Eating plants: good, right? Until you’re breaking plans with friends, turning down exciting life experiences, or denying the body’s signs of deficiency to hold steadfast to a rigid morality paradigm with food.
Predominantly Plant-Based embraces the overwhelming evidence of the beneficial effects of a plant-based diet while discarding the unnecessary dogma attached to this way of eating.
For example, if you’re on a trip to Greece and you want to try the local goat cheese, you shouldn’t feel like a bad person for enjoying a cultural delicacy. Similarly, if you are out to brunch with friends and you start craving that fried egg on the top of your avocado toast, you should be able to enjoy that. And if the cake at a friend’s birthday is calling your name, you should be able to have some, without verifying that it’s vegan.
See, this is where the “predominantly” comes in. In this plant-based pattern of eating, you have flexibility, enjoyment, and the ability to partake in life’s special food-centric moments.
At the same time, you commit to a new mindset where plants become the star of your meals. At home, you stock your kitchen with fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains.
You experiment with new plant-based dishes, learning that you don’t have to add chicken to everything to meet your protein needs!
You throw out the old ideology that puts meat and animal protein at the center of the plate. And you broaden your horizons to try new restaurants that adopt these same ideals.
Predominantly Plant-Based also takes into account the individual differences in our makeup that may dictate our ability to eat certain foods, and guides us to simply do our best to eat in a way that is practical and sustainable.
For example, some people can’t eat nuts, wheat, beans, or soy for a variety of reasons, which makes it much harder for them to follow a 100% plant-based diet. For that person, supplementing some animal products may be necessary to meet their needs of certain nutrients, and that’s ok.
If eating 100% plant-based works for you, that’s awesome. There are many other less-selfish reasons to eat a fully plant-based diet that don’t involve your health, including the benefits to the environment and animal welfare (but again, those are topics for another post).
But if it doesn’t work for you, that’s ok too, and that’s where my Predominantly Plant-Based paradigm comes in. Being Predominantly Plant-Based means eating as many plants as possible, as often as possible, and also giving yourself permission to be a normal human being.
Again, the beauty is that it’s not all or nothing. Studies show that every bit of plant-based eating adds benefit. While vegans do have a lower risk of many diseases compared to meat-eaters, vegetarians do too, and pescatarians do as well.
Each little reduction in intake produces positive results.
WHERE TO START
Are you ready to take control of your health, enjoy delicious food, and help animals and the environment at the same time?
Start transitioning to a Predominantly Plant-Based diet today! This website has TONS of recipes to get you started.
I recommend trying the following:
You can also sign up for my email newsletter and get my *FREE* 7-day PPB Meal Plan when it comes out on November 1st.
I’ll be hosting an awesome challenge for you guys to try the plan along with me the week after it comes out with an amazing giveaway for one lucky winner.
Thank you for reading this lengthy post. I hope you feel more informed about the benefits of Predominantly Plant-Based diet and inspired to try it yourself!