Adopting a Whole Food Plant Based Diet

Written by Matt Denman
April 24, 2020

A recent American Cancer Society (ACS) study shows that 42% of all cancer cases in the U.S. are linked to preventable causes. At the top of the list of risk factors causing cancer is diet. America’s leading cause of death is poor diet. While genetics are also to blame, they contribute just 10-20% of the risk.

Eating a diet low in vegetables, fruits, dietary calcium, and fiber has been proven to increase cancer risks. Your diet should be composed mainly of healthy foods. On a daily basis, you should eat 2.5 cups or more of fruits and vegetables. Consumption of trans fats present in many processed foods like butter, milk, and red meats should be limited; otherwise, it can raise cholesterol levels, increasing heart disease risk.

The standard American diet has been studied widely for decades. There is evidence showing that a shift to whole plant foods like vegetables and fruits can lower a person’s risk of getting sick and dying from a diet-related cause. In fact, there are studies showing that heart disease can be reversed through diet. Whole food plant-based diets have many other proven health benefits. But how do you incorporate such a diet?

Adopting the whole food plant-based diet according to Dr. John A. McDougall

Renowned American physician and author - Dr. John A. McDougall gives one of the best accounts about the whole food plant-based diet and how to adopt it. Dr. McDougall is a known advocate of a low-fat, plant-based diet as a means for preventing degenerative diseases. He has authored many diet books, the most notable being the program for maximum weight loss.

According to Dr. McDougall, you have three main choices when you want to maximize weight loss which include:

  1. Eat less every day

  2. Begin and maintain an intense exercise program

  3. Change what you eat!

The first and second options may work; however, it is hard to eat less given you’ll be hungry constantly. An intense exercise program means 2+ hours of strenuous exercise daily and you must keep up this brutal routine to keep your gains. This option is also painful. The last option, changing what you eat, guarantees weight loss as long as you get rid of the standard American diet and move to a more plant-based diet. According to Dr. McDougall, this is the only obvious choice for losing weight and staying trim and healthy for a lifetime.

Change what you eat

Step 1: Choose unrefined starch

The first step to maximizing weight loss on a whole food plant-based diet, according to Dr. McDougall, is to get rid of refined starch in your diet. While starch is important in your diet for providing calories, meeting your energy needs, and satisfying your hunger drive, some starches are better than others. For rapid weight loss, potatoes and squash are better than grains, given they are lower in calories and they are unrefined. To adopt this step at home, find one unrefined low-calorie starch you like for every meal, and include it in moderation to satisfy your hunger drive.

Step 2: Avoid refined foods

To lose weight efficiently, you must avoid processed and refined foods. You can do this effectively by reducing consumption of flour products significantly. Flours are absorbed faster than whole grains, which means they raise insulin levels faster and higher than whole grains.

Since insulin is responsible for pushing fat into adipose tissue (fat cells), diets dominated by flour products are bound to make it hard to lose weight. You can still lose weight eating flour products. However, you need to limit or completely stop the consumption of such foods for you to enjoy the best weight loss results.

Step 3: Include yellow and green vegetable in your diet

Dr. McDougall’s program for maximum weight loss also proposes that a person eats large amounts of yellow and green vegetables (33%+ in every meal) as they are packed with nutrients. Yellow and green vegetables are also low in calories and make a person feel fuller. For the best results, the vegetables should be up to 50% of every meal. However, you should not replace starch with vegetables since low-calorie vegetables can’t satisfy your hunger drive on their own.

To include yellow and green vegetables easily in your diet, start your meals with a bowl of vegetable salad composed of steamed or boiled vegetables like broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, peapods, and lettuce. If you must dress your salad, use oil-free dressing.

Step 4: Consume more raw foods

Raw foods i.e., raw vegetables, are better for weight loss because they offer fewer calories. Cooking starts the digestion process by breaking down complex carbs into simpler sugars. This translates to more calories. Most vegetables can be eaten raw. You can snack on raw carrots, bell peppers, celery, green onions in salads or on their own. Cooking has been proven to reduce nutrients in food.

Step 5: Avoid sugar, high-fat plant foods and salt

Too much sugar in the diet increases insulin levels increasing your ability to gain weight. Simple sugars like table sugar, honey, maple syrup are packed with calories, which usually end up as body fat. Dr. McDougall’s program suggests the elimination of sugar when preparing foods. There may be some exceptions and better alternatives i.e., stevia to consider instead of table sugar.

While Dr. McDougall’s program promotes plant foods, you should avoid high-fat plant foods if you want to maximize weight loss. While salt is important, saltiness has been linked to increased food consumption.

Step 6: Minimize fruits

Excessive consumption of fruits isn’t good for maximum weight loss according to Dr. McDougall. Instead, eat fresh fruits in moderation or low quantities i.e., 1 – 2 fruits daily since fruits are packed with sugar. Avoid fruit juices and dry fruits and minimize consumption of fresh fruits i.e., to one or two apples, oranges, bananas, etc., per day. For snacks, the maximum weight loss program replaces fruits with vegetables like green peapods, baby peppers, carrots, tomatoes, and jicama.

Step 7: Eat slowly & frequently

Dr. McDougall’s program favors many small meals (8 to 10 meals daily) over the standard 3 large meals. The reasoning behind this is simple: small frequent meals make it harder for your body to store excess food as fat since food is always available. Small frequent meals also result in lower insulin levels. Eating slowly makes you fuller faster.

Step 8: Exercise

Eating a whole food plant-based diet or going vegan doesn’t mean you should exercise. Besides burning body fat, exercise makes your body fitter and lighter increasing your ability to maintain a healthy body weight. However, make sure you choose an exercise you love doing to make it sustainable in the long term.

Step 9: Avoid alcohol

According to McDougall, alcohol isn’t good for maximizing weight loss since it is packed with calories. Drinking alcohol in moderation i.e., a glass of wine is fine. However, alcohol lowers a person’s inhibitions making moderate drinking extremely hard. It’s therefore better to avoid it altogether if you want to maximize your weight loss and can’t stick to a single drink.

Benefits from eating a whole food plant based diet

McDougall’s program, while having stricter food choices and lifestyle changes, comes with notable benefits. They include:

Consistent results: The program offers encouraging and consistent weight loss results making the dramatic food and lifestyle changes worthwhile. Unlike other weight loss programs, you’ll have something to show for your effort.

Less damaging compromise: The program also makes it easier to make less compromising damage to old diet habits. The program has many healthy options that make cheating equivalent to other healthy diets.

Proven success for individuals with a hard time losing weight: Since most weight problems can be traced to diet, making healthier choices is the best and only way for individuals that have tried everything in vain. While exercise is important, you don’t need it with McDougall’s maximum weight loss program.

Enjoyable: While changing what you eat may be difficult initially, the adjustments become enjoyable as your taste buds change and you being to

experience weight loss and health benefits. Eventually, you’ll find out that you don’t give up anything in regards to taste when you follow McDougall’s maximum weight loss program. The only thing you give up is poor health brought about by the standard American diet.

Helpful with common illnesses: The maximum weight loss program is linked to many health improvements and further advantages in regards to serious health issues. For instance, the program promotes consumption of less simple sugars known to raise triglycerides. Since high triglycerides compromise heart health, the program can reverse heart disease and address other health issues like diabetes by managing insulin levels. Also, since the program is largely free of wheat, it is helpful in addressing wheat-sensitivity problems like food allergies, celiac disease, and cases of arthritis and headaches.

While John McDougall’s program for maximum weight loss is a significant change from the standard American diet, the benefits are worthwhile. What’s more, the most difficult part is the transition period, which doesn’t last. As discussed above, the dietary changes made are painless and enjoyable in the long-term.

Most diseases including heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, depression, etc. are treated using drugs as opposed to lifestyle changes and diet because of commercial reasons. Medication also seems easier for patients, however, it is more costly and never a cure for chronic conditions. The placebo effect is also to blame since many people don’t feel cured without being prescribed medicine. What most people overlook is: a change in diet can get you off diabetes medication among other medication prescribed for lifestyle-related diseases.