In recent years, plant based diets have gained popularity due to their many health benefits. However, not all plant based diets are created equal. It’s important to distinguish between a diet that simply eliminates animal products and a whole foods plant based diet, often abbreviated as WFPB. If you’ve been searching online for information about plant based diets, you may have come across this acronym and wondered what it means. In this topic, we will explain the differences between these diets so that you can choose the path that works best for your health and lifestyle. 

A plant based diet involves eliminating (or very significantly minimizing) animal products in the diet and instead focusing on plant based foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. This can be a healthy way of eating as it can help to reduce the intake of saturated fat and cholesterol from animal products, while increasing the intake of fiber, vitamins, and minerals from plant based foods. However, a plant based diet doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the foods being consumed are healthy. 

For example, many plant based diets include highly processed foods such as mock meats, sugary desserts, and chips. These foods may not contain animal products, but they can be high in calories, unhealthy fats, and added sugars. This means that a person following a plant based diet may not be getting the full health benefits that a whole foods plant based diet can provide. 

A whole foods plant based diet, on the other hand, emphasizes whole, minimally processed foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. This type of diet can offer many health benefits, such as reducing the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. One excellent resource for WFPB is the FORKS OVER KNIVES franchise. From the book, Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health” by Gene Stone and T. Colin Campbell, the 2011 documentary (a must see!), to their Facebook group “Forks Over Knives Official Plant-Based Group” you can find a wealth of whole foods information. 

In a nutshell, a whole foods plant based diet is more restrictive than a plant based diet, as it eliminates many foods that are considered plant based but are highly processed. By focusing on whole, minimally processed foods, a whole foods plant based diet can provide a wide range of nutrients including fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that can support optimal health. It can also help to reduce the intake of unhealthy fats, added sugars, and sodium that are often found in processed foods. You may have heard of NON-plant based diets similar to this “whole foods” concept such as Paleo, Mediterranean, Whole30, and DASH diets. While they do not eliminate animal products, they do focus on eating foods that are not processed. 

Our “ORGANIZING A PLANT BASED LIFE” resource has a combination of both principles. Many of our “EASY PLANT BASED RECIPES” focus on the WFPB concept, while our “PRINTABLE MEAL GUIDES” have a mix of whole foods and simple off the shelf, more processed items to choose. The idea is to find the right balance for your journey. 

While a whole foods plant based diet is optimal for health, it’s important to remember that any diet can be modified to fit individual goals and preferences. If your goal is to reduce animal product consumption or have a more environmentally sustainable diet, it’s okay to choose a plant based diet that includes less healthy options like mock meats, sugary desserts, and chips. However, it’s important to be aware that these options may not provide the full range of health benefits that a whole foods plant based diet can offer. Ultimately, the key to success with any plant based diet is finding a balance that works for your individual needs and lifestyle.