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How to Get Started on a Whole-Food Plant-Based Diet

Welcome! Presumably you've landed on this page because you are thinking about trying a "whole-food plant-based" diet.

A whole-food plant-based diet is a diet that is focused on healthy nutrition, and that consists of whole foods rather than processed foods, and excludes animal protein.

I was once in your shoes: I wanted to stop eating animal protein because I had high and worsening cholesterol levels, but I had no clue on how to get going. By pure luck, right at the time I wanted to make changes to my nutrition to fight my high cholesterol, Lady Luck intervened and I read about Dr. Joel Fuhrman's book "Eat to Live" on an investment site of all places! It was the beginning of my journey to self-education, motivation, and action. Fortunately there are some amazing resources out there online that helped me be successful in changing my nutrition for the better, and I'll share them with you in this post.

But first, I need you to make a pledge before you go any further, and that is to promise me that you will read the entirety of this post. It's just a little bit long, but you need to get a little fired up before you get started and I will try to do that. Plus there are some important considerations you need to take into account before you start this major change in your life. So go ahead and "take the pledge". OK, done? Great! Read on!

I adopted a WFPB lifestyle almost 5 years ago now, and I can tell you that it feels really good to be healthy.

I'm in my early 60s now and fall into a category known by the medical profession as the "wellderly". These are people 60 and above who take no prescribed medications. It feels good to be in this elite club. Yes, the membership of this club is fairly small in today's world where the SAD diet prevails. That's the Standard American Diet, a diet guaranteed to exclude you from membership in the ranks of the Wellderly.  So it's something to be proud of, and you too can probably join the club if you are of my generation if you have the motivation and commitment to adopt a WFPB diet too. And if you are younger, or even much younger, (lucky you!), eating a WFPB diet will almost assure you of enjoying an entire lifetime without taking prescription medications for the 2 most-common "lifestyle diseases": cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes.

These are the benefits that I have enjoyed from adopting a WFPB lifestyle for the last 5 years:
  • Normal cholesterol (you can see the improvement in my cholesterol test results in this post)
  • Normal blood pressure
  • Normal blood sugar
  • Normal weight and BMI (I lost 30 lbs / 13.6 kg quickly and without hunger)
  • No GERD (acid reflux) as I had prior to my lifestyle change
  • No arthritis pain anymore from the inflammation and loss of cartilage in the joints in my big toes (my sports medicine doctor at UCI Medical Center confirmed for me that my hunch that my going WFPB probably had been behind the disappearance of the pain in my toes) 

Most of what we suffer in terms of less-than-optimal health in our modern lives is a low-grade feeling of not being so vital and energetic as we once were. The reality of it all is that most of these are self-inflicted "lifestyle" outcomes, but with potentially life-threatening consequences.  The effort of carrying excess weight around all day long, poor sleep because of acid reflux or sleep apnea, the hassle of daily medications for cholesterol, blood pressure and type-2 diabetes and their subtle side effects, constipation, general fatigue. Adopting a WFPB lifestyle will for most people "cure" all these diseases of the modern world, and on top of that you will stack the deck in favor of eliminating or lowering your risk of heart attack, stroke, dementia, cancer, and the hassle and cost of daily medications and treatments.

From my own experience of starting out on a WFPB lifestyle I know that it's like going back to grade one in school and having to relearn everything from scratch, especially if you cook for yourself. Most of us have grown up in cultures that place animal protein at the center of the plate and then we build around that. When we start out on our WFPB life we are left scratching our heads wondering "What now?! How do I build a meal?"

By the way, having mentioned that word "protein", I feel have to make a quick detour to say that I recommend you put aside all the fixation our society has these days with protein, and the belief that more is better. Yes, it's an essential part of our daily food intake, but it's not the be-all and end-all of nutrition; but makers of processed food, snack bars, fitness drinks and bars, etc. sure have made it into a great marketing hook. Actually, I never ever think about how much protein is in a meal; I just know that it's there, and that over the day I will have eaten enough of it. If you eat enough calories in a day from your plant-based food, then you will have consumed sufficient protein for the day. Rest easy knowing that the initial source of all protein is plants, not animals. Yes, you can consume a cow as a source of protein if you would prefer getting your protein second-hand, so to speak, but personally, I prefer to go straight to the source and cut out the "middleman" and all the extras that come with it like cholesterol, animal fat, hormones and antibiotics, and cancer feeding IGF-1 that comes along for the ride on the back of the cow.

You will need to be prepared though for challenges from friends and family about how you are going to be getting enough protein. Just brush it aside and tell them to go ask the same question of an elephant, rhino, hippopotamus, gorilla, cow, or any other favorite plant-eating mammal that grows and lives on 100% plant-based diets, and ask them to get back to you once they have done that. While they are off doing their research, you meanwhile will know that all protein comes from plants.

To successfully adopt a WFPB diet, you need something really good to motivate you. How about good health? Is that motivating enough for you? It was good enough for me at least.

It's easier to have confidence in what you are doing and be motivated about the nutritional value of a WFPB diet if you educate yourself . So I will give you some resources where you can educate yourself by reading and watching videos and documentaries on the subject. But let me be straight with you: you own the responsibility for this education, just as you are responsible for your own health. This club is not for the half-hearted, but the reward for you commitment is good health. Yes, it's so much easier not to try or to give up and just be a passive taker of pills, but I know that's not what you want to do or be - that's why you're reading this post. 😊

So, yes, to be successful, you need to be motivated, and there's no better way of getting and staying motivated than by educating yourself about all the benefits of the WFPB diet, and all the risks of the SAD diet . Put yourself and your health front and center; you are doing it for your health! That's why I called this blog "Give it up for health". The "it", of course, is animal protein. Yes, there is an aspect of "giving up". That means motivation and self-discipline are part of the recipe, but you're up for the challenge, right? I mean, the pay off is really, really worth it for you and your loved-ones.

As you educate yourself you will come to learn that animal protein comes with many risks to human health. Cardiovascular disease from high cholesterol; clogged arteries; high blood pressure; type 2 diabetes; inflammation throughout the body causing all manner of disease and pain; acidification of the blood resulting in the leaching of calcium from the bones to alkalize the blood; and last but certainly not least, a higher risk of cancer. So it's all worthwhile to "give it up for health", don't you think? Keep reading...

If you have any doubts about the efficacy of a WFPB diet on health, do some reading, read some of the personal testimonials from people who have seen their bad health turn into good health, and then take another pledge: just do it for 4 weeks and see how it goes. If you currently have high cholesterol, get tested at the end of the 4-week pledge. By the way, if you have type-2 diabetes, you MUST work with your doctor as your medication may need to be adjusted. (A WFPB diet is just that effective at reversing type-2 diabetes. Once again, Dr Joel Fuhrman has a great book on it: "The End of Diabetes" Dr. Joel Fuhrman).

So pledge to do it for 4 weeks. No cheating. No "mostly WFPB", but 100% WFPB. Give it all you've got for just 4 weeks so that you can see the amazing results you have achieved or decide it's not for you.

Finally, if it is meaningful for you and helps you feel even more motivated, by adopting a WFPB diet  you will no longer be a part of any of the cruelty inflicted on animals in modern industrialized farming, and you will significantly lower your contribution to greenhouse gases. So along with low cholesterol and less achy toes, you'll have a clear conscience too. Way to go!

So, once again, my apologies for the long preamble. Finally, here are my resource recommendations to help you get educated and get going on your whole-food plant-based journey to good health and a longer healthier life.

Forks Over Knives

Watch the Forks Over Knives documentary. Based on the China Study, this film will get you motivated. You can find it on the Forks Over Knives website under "The Film" tab. 

While you're there, spend some time on the website. This is one of the premier websites for the Whole-Food Plant-Based movement. 

They have a great recipe app for mobile phones that costs just a few dollars. New recipes are added constantly. 

You can also consider subscribing to their Weekly Meal Plan service like I do. Each week they email a link to meal plans for a week's worth of cooking . All the recipes are super easy and quick, delicious and super healthy. Some of the meals are designed to be eaten a second time as leftovers, so it's perfect for those of us still working, or with families to feed and schedules to be juggled. There's a shopping list for each week and suggestions on prep you can do ahead of time on the weekend to make it all a lot easier and faster to cook after work during the week.

Dr. Greger - Nutrition Facts 

Dr. Greger's nutritionfacts.org  and associated YouTube channel are my go-to resources for nutritional science. This guy has it nailed. Search nutritionfacts.org for any topic and he's likely got it covered. Read the About page to see how ethical this man is: he does not run any ads on his site, takes no money from special interests. His work and that of his staff is all funded by donations from regular people who appreciate all the good work he does in sifting through the good, the bad, and the "BS" that poses as scientific nutritional study. By the way, I make a monthly donation to nutritionfacts.org as I am so indebted to Dr. Greger for all that I have learned from him, and will continue to learn from him.

Dr. Greger has an app called "Daily Dozen" that helps you track whether or not you check all the boxes on his recommended "daily dozen" foods we should all eat every day for optimal health. Here's a link to the Daily Dozen YouTube episode where he covers what's in the daily dozen and basically lays out what goes at the center of the WFPB plate. As you will see, nothing in particular goes at the center of the plate. 

Dr. Greger came up with his Daily Dozen after many years of analysing the results of nutritional research, so this list of 12 has the most "bang for the buck" in terms of good health outcomes. Here's a graphic of the Daily Dozen for your convenience.

Dr Greger's Daily Dozen
Dr Greger's Daily Dozen

Center for Nutrition Studies

This is the website that is associated with Dr. T. Colin Campbell, the co-author of the China Study which is covered in the Forks Over Knives film. Start perhaps with the Center for Nutrition Studies guidelines on what to eat as part of your WFPB diet


With these three sites you should have more than enough to be able to educate yourself, motivate yourself, and enable yourself to get going with a healthy whole-food plant-based diet. I have other recommendations for reading available to you on my Recommended Reading page, and there are also links on the "Blog Roll" found in the sidebar or under the menu, depending on what kind of device you are using to view my blog. 

Disclaimer

Please note, I am NOT a medical practitioner or certified in any way to provide dietary or medical advice. I'm just a guy who educated himself and achieved beneficial health outcomes from adopting a WFPB diet. Everything I know I learned from self-education at the sites listed above and from reading the books listed on my Recommended Reading page. I have read them all, and more, by the way.

If you currently have a diagnosis for medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease or type-2 diabetes, you must work with your doctor while you make your change to a WFPB diet. For many people these medical conditions are reversed by a WFPB diet and any medications you take will need to be adjusted over time. 

One last thing before I go: everyone on a plant-based (vegan) diet must take one supplement - vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is the one essential vitamins, meaning if you develop a vitamin B12 deficiency you will get seriously sick. B12 is the one and only vitamin that is not made by plants. It's actually made by organisms in the soil. Modern practices of triple-washing fruits and vegetables for sale removes any trace of soil on the product, and with it any vitamin B12. Dr Greger has several posts about B12, but for dosage recommendations and type of vitamin B12 to use, go to this post first: https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/vitamin-b12/. Please note that there are two types of vitamin B12, and only one has been scientifically recommended as a supplement. Watch the video for details.

So it's now over to you. No one other than you can take responsibility for your health. Not me, not your spouse, or family, or friends. Not even your doctor. It is you who makes every final choice about what you put in your mouth, and what you put in your mouth is the single thing that has the greatest impact on your health. So get going. I was going to say "good luck", but it's not a matter of luck; it's a matter of choice, and it's your choice. 




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