November 28, 2022

– by zedek

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What is a whole foods plant based diet?

What Is A Whole Food Plant-Based Diet?

A whole food plant-based diet is a way of eating that eliminates animal products as well as any foods that have been (substantially) processed before consumption. This means on a whole food plant-based diet one is restricted to picking up plant-based foods that closely resemble their naturally occurring form.

A guide to getting you started would look as follows:


  • Ultra-processed foods – pizzas, burgers, fries, crips/ potato chips, candy, ice cream etc
  • Mock meats – beyond burgers, soy sausages, soy burgers, Quorn etc
  • Ready-made meals/ microwave meals
  • Vegan cheese and highly processed sauces
  • Refined sweeteners – aspartame, sucralose etc
  • Refined flour products – refined pasta, bread and baked goods.
  • Cooking oils
  • Refined and added sugars
highly processed foods

Example of heavily processed foods

These are the most commonly removed items, however, there are some discrepancies between what some people avoid and consume. For example, some whole food eaters avoid any wheat products, so no pasta, no bread, no matter whole grain or gluten-free. On the other hand, some whole food plant-based eaters are fine with consuming shop-bought and legume-based pasta. – we’ll be touching more on pasta in the WFPB diet below.

Eat to your heart’s content

  • Fruits
  • vegetables
  • legumes (beans, peas, and lentils of all varieties)
  • mushrooms and edible fungi
  • Spices
  • Plant-based milk
  • tofu & tempeh

Before we continue It is important to note that the term ‘whole food’ is quite relative and it’s more of a personal lifestyle choice rather than a concrete diet plan with guidelines.

Since there isn’t a point at which food suddenly jumps from ‘whole’ to ‘processed’ all foods are on a spectrum ranging from 100% natural to heavily altered and processed. Because of this, everyone has a slightly different idea of what whole foods are, as such there are certain grey areas, for example, olive oil.

Is oil part of a whole food plant-based diet?

For many reasons, cooking oils are typically avoided on a whole food plant-based diet. For one, the manufacturing process of olive oil strips the olives of all their nutrients and fibre by pulverising and grinding them to a paste, then this paste is slowly compressed to release all the liquid still stored inside. This gives us the oil we then put on our food. The issue with this process is how altered the original food has become and the possible implications that come with that.

One tablespoon of olive oil has:

  • 119 calories
  • 14g of fat
  • 2 mg of vitamin E

“When we add olive oil to our meals we are significantly bumping up the calorie count without increasing the dish’s nutritional value. “

Since a calorie-dense ingredient with no nutritional purposes can potentially spell trouble regarding excess fat and clogged arteries, WFPB eaters choose to remove oil from their diet.

This study¹ by Caldwell B Esselstyn suggests that an oil-free plant-based diet can prevent and even reverse coronary artery disease

On the other side of the coin, there are numerous studies and anecdotal reports of olive oil’s benefits to human health, particularly heart health.

This study² done by Alexandra Foscolou & Co suggests that olive oil may even help protect against certain chronic diseases

There are plenty of studies for and against added oils, so who’s right? From my unbiased perspective, both sides have good arguments for and against olive oil, but the studies people cite to back up their claims are often limited and inconclusive. If you’re interested in the issues and limitations of some of these studies please check out these great articles below:

Limitations of studies that suggest olive oil is healthy.

Limitations of studies that suggest olive oil is unhealthy.

LettuceVegOut.Com on oil-free diets. on why Dr Esselstyn’s science was flawed.

To conclude this segment it’s ultimately down to you, WFPB is a lifestyle choice, not a rigid diet, look at the evidence and use your intuition to decide what will be the healthiest option for you. To me, it’s reasonable to intuit that if cooking oils are to be used, they should be used sparingly, and consumed as part of a wholesome nutritious diet supplemented with regular physical activity.

I polled 640 Whole Food Eaters To See How Many Use Oil

Even though the whole food plant-based diet is not ‘supposed’ to include oil, 76% of the Whole Food Plant Based dieters I polled still use it:

Very interesting results! I thought we’d see a much lower occurrence of oil consumption.

Check the poll out for yourself here: The poll

I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading some of the insightful responses.

Is tofu part of a whole food plant-based diet?

A whole food plant-based diet will generally include tofu and tempeh as they are minimally processed and act as fantastic meat substitutes due to their consistency and nutritional profile.

Tofu is made by compressing soybeans that have been soaked in water, however since the soybeans went through some sort of “process” or “alteration”, some exclude it from their diet. Although the overall aim of the whole food plant-based diet is to reduce your intake of processed foods, kicking out tofu, which is just compressed soybeans, is not a necessity, but I can understand why some do.

Can you eat bread on a wholefood plant-based diet?

Refined/white bread is knocked off of whole food plant-based diets because the main ingredient (wheat) has been altered heavily and stripped of its nutritional value in the process. Conversely, wholefood plant-based eaters are mostly fine with eating whole-grain bread.

This is primarily because whole-grain bread consists of grains which have gone through significantly less processing. This makes a major difference as the whole grains force your digestive system to work slower due to the higher fibre and protein content, this results in a myriad of benefits such as feeling satisfied for longer, maintaining a steady blood sugar level and an improved gut microbiome.

Can You Eat Pasta On A Whole Food Plant-Based Diet?

Ordinary pasta is left out of whole food plant-based diets but wholewheat and non-wheat alternatives are mostly included. This is because ordinary refined pasta has been altered heavily before you consume it, meaning it is drastically different from the food’s original state. And as a general rule, the further a food is from its naturally occurring state, the less nutritious and wholesome it will be when it enters your body.

The milling of wheat, which creates semolina flour, strips the wheat of its germ and bran, 2 of the 3 components that make up wheat. The bran is the shell which is fibrous and filled with minerals like iron, zinc and manganese, while the germ is filled with antioxidants and unsaturated fats.

So many people still enjoy pasta on a WFPB diet. As you may remember me saying earlier, there are no clear-cut rules, and people cut out different foods for different reasons.

Some people will kick out refined pasta and opt for wholewheat pasta instead. Some people choose pasta made of lentils or quinoa to avoid any wheat content. Some whole food eaters even make their pasta at home, and some, of course, stay away from anything that has been processed, which leans very strongly towards a raw food vegan diet.

I polled 458 wholefood plant-based eaters to see if they eat pasta

Check the poll out for yourself here: The poll

As mentioned earlier the overall aim of a Whole Food Plant Based Diet is to reduce the number of processed foods you consume and increase the foods that are more nutritionally beneficial to our bodies, so where you draw that line is up to you as all foods go through some sort of process. For example plant based milk.

Is plant-based milk wholefood?

Plant-based milk can be considered part of a whole food diet because the processing of the main ingredient, whether it be soya beans or oats, is quite minimal. The process often includes crushing and boiling nuts or seeds which doesn’t heavily diminish the nutritional value of the drink.

But hold your horses, some brands incorporate more processing into their manufacturing process than others. For example, plenish oat milk and Oatly’s oat milk contains just water, oats and sea salt. Whereas some others contain, unnecessary additives and flavourings.

If you’re still scratching your head, head over to this article, where Beverly explains what plant based milks are all about.

If you’re super serious about sticking to a strict whole-food diet, your best bet might be to purchase a plant-based milk maker where you can control the exact ingredients that make up your milk as well as play around with interesting flavours of your choice. But be warned they can be quite pricey ranging from £80 to £200 on amazon.

Why Do People Choose A Whole Food Plant-Based Diet?

Swerving away from foods that have been heavily altered is usually done in an attempt to avoid the problems we see with processed foods in the 21st century. These problems include high rates of diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, autoimmune responses and overall unsustainable eating patterns.

I made the switch when I realised being vegan doesn’t necessarily mean I’m eating healthy. So I did my research and slowly cut out the heavily processed foods that were super addictive and super comforting. This hasn’t been the easiest task in my life, but it’s been extremely rewarding and revitalising.

What I tend to eat in a day

Are all processed foods bad?

All of the food we eat goes through some sort of process, even if it’s a natural process human processing techniques help preserve our food and make them edible for us. Therefore, not all processing is ‘bad’.

However, there is value in reducing the number of processed foods in your diet, for example with a switch to more nutritious and natural foods, you’ll experience a boost in energy and a much healthier gut. This is simply due to an increased intake of foods that are wholesome, meaning you’re getting the proper macronutrients you need as well as more vitamins, minerals and fibre than foods which have been stripped and altered heavily.


Don’t be too strict with yourself unless you have a valid reason to be! Figuring out which foods are healthy and which aren’t only requires a little bit of research and your honest intuition. Thank you for reading, Find more insightful articles like this one below.

Thanks for stopping by ADPB!

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