The idea of eating a particular food for one nutrient is pervasive in our culture. We have been led to believe we should eat meat for protein, dairy for calcium, fish for omega-3 fatty acids, and even tomatoes for lycopene, among many others. This sort of thinking is misguided and has caused grave harm to human health. The quest for protein, for example, has steered us toward meat consumption. In this quest, we not only consume protein in excess of our needs, but also many harmful substances like dietary cholesterol that are only present in animal foods.
No food is a single nutrient, and we should never think of foods in that way. Any given food has countless nutrients. What matters most is the overall nutrient profile, i.e., the whole package. Whole, plant-based foods contain all the essential nutrients (with the exception of vitamin B12*), and in proportions that are more consistent with human needs than animal-based or processed foods. So our question is really this: Why waste any of what we eat on inferior packages? As long as — over time — we choose a variety of whole, plant-based foods, we will easily meet all of our nutritional needs.
Whole, Plant-Based Food Will Provide the Best “Package” of nutrients
When eating fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, and legumes to comfortable satiation, you will get superior nutrition without also getting all the unhealthy elements present in animal-based and highly processed foods. Among other things, you will effortlessly consume:
- A nutrient profile consistent with human needs. All whole foods contain carbohydrates, protein, and fat. These are the macronutrients, which are the source of virtually all calories, or energy. Different foods, how- ever, contain each of these in different proportions. The foods you eat on a whole-food, plant-based diet will most easily get you to a healthy carbohydrate, protein, and fat ratio, which lies somewhere in the range of 80/10/10. We discuss each macronutrient in the chapters that follow.
- Lower-calorie-density foods that will leave you neither underweight nor overweight. Whole, plant-based foods in general are significantly lower in calories per pound (calorie density) than animal products and processed food. Higher-calorie-density foods lead to excessive calorie consumption and overweight bodies. Many chronic diseases are caused by the same foods that result in being overweight or obese. (We explain calorie density and how it affects body weight on page 30.)
- A sufficient amount of vitamins and minerals. Every vitamin or mineral you need to thrive is present in a whole-food, plant-based diet in amounts and proportions consistent with our needs. The only exceptions are vitamin B12 and vitamin D, which we discuss on page 37.
- Dietary fiber. Fiber plays a key role in signaling to our brain that we have eaten enough and is also an essential part of digestion, normal colon function, and binding and removing toxins that would otherwise be re-absorbed into the body. Animal foods do not contain any dietary fiber, so we must get it from whole plant foods.
- No cholesterol. We do not need to consume cholesterol in our diets because our bodies can make all that we need. Avoiding dietary cholesterol is a great way to decrease our risk of developing heart disease. Excess cholesterol is involved in the thickening and hardening of arteries, or atherosclerosis, which leads to serious problems, such as heart attacks and strokes. Animal foods, even the low-fat varieties, contain cholesterol.
The above is an excerpt from the book The Forks Over Knives Plan: How to Transition to the Life-Saving, Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet by Alona Pulde, MD, and Matthew Lederman, MD. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy and references.
Copyright © 2014 Alona Pulde, MD, and Matthew Lederman, MD, authors of The Forks Over Knives Plan: How to Transition to the Life-Saving, Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet
Alona Pulde, MD, is a family practitioner specializing in nutrition and lifestyle medicine. Alona developed the Lifestyle Change Program used for patients in the film Forks Over Knives and in her clinic, Transition To Health. She is the author of the book Keep It Simple, Keep It Whole: Your Guide to Optimum Health. Alona joined Whole Foods Market in 2010 as a health and wellness medical expert.
Matthew Lederman, MD, is a board-certified Internal Medicine physician specializing in nutrition and lifestyle medicine. Matt has lectured for the eCornell T. Colin Campbell Certificate Program in Plant-Based Nutrition and appeared in the films Healing Cancer From the Inside Out and Forks Over Knives. With Alona, he cofounded Transition To Health and coauthored Keep It Simple, Keep It Whole. Matt joined Whole Foods Market in 2010 to help direct various health and wellness projects.
For more information please visit http://www.forksoverknives.com and follow on Facebook and Twitter
This is one of my favorite recipes from the book, super easy and quick, on-the-go breakfast!
The Quickest Breakfast Wrap
Makes 1 wrap
1 10 inch whole grain tortilla
2 tbsp nut butter ( peanut, almond, or cashew)
1 tbsp unsweetened apple butter or other fruit butter
1 ripe banana, sliced
2 tbsp raisins
1. Place the tortilla on a flat surface. Spread the nut butter across the middle of the tortilla and top with the apple butter, banana and raisins.
2. Fold the ends of the tortilla in toward the center and roll the wrap up like a burrito.
Serve and enjoy!