I decided to dedicate an entire piece to this as there’s much confusion around veganism let alone this new fanged thing called WFPB Nutrition, which incidentally is what me and my family base the majority of our meals on.
Let’s start with the definition of each one. Veganism is a lifestyle. A person who is vegan limits the harm they cause to animals in the food, clothing and cosmetic choices they make. However, just because a vegan doesn’t eat animal based foods it doesn’t necessarily mean all vegans live on grass. Vegan food is plentiful and delicious, but (and here’s the catch) it can be just as unhealthy if not worse than an omnivore’s diet. Vegetable fats, sugar and salt are all vegan. Many popular processed foods are vegan. You many be may surprised to learn that Oreos, Party Rings, Cadbury’s Creme Fry’s, Co-op donuts, lots of potato chips and french fries are all vegan. The fact is, going vegan for health reasons doesn’t always add up if you maintain a diet that is high is salt, fats, sugars and foods that no longer resemble the whole food grown in the field.
Someone who follows WFPB nutrition may or may not be a vegan. Our family is both but there are many who for health reasons choose to follow a WFPB diet and leave it at that. But what on earth is it? A WFPB diet is a diet mostly made up of non-processed whole foods of the plant based variety. Typically that would be fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. There may be minor processed foods added in for flavour such as sauces or dark chocolate but it is kept to a minimum. In our house we no longer cook with oil (more on that in another note), never add salt and use unrefined sugars sparingly. Vegan processed foods are reserved for when the children attend birthday parties – it’s hard enough as it is for them and the hosts when we roll into town!
Eating like this is the only proven way to prevent lifestyle disease. 95% of diseases are what are known as diseases of affluence and include; heart, brain and auto-immune diseases, diabetes and many cancers. Diseases of affluence are illnesses we have caused to occur through what we have been putting in our mouth meal after meal, day after day, year after year until it finally catches up with us. What’s even more shocking is we are starting that process with the foods we’re feeding our children. In one study, 200 children were found to have heart disease as young as toddlers and some in utero. This leads us to one conclusion, even though we have the best intentions we are at best creating a family culture of poor food choices and at worse unwittingly killing our children. A classic example of this is giving children cow’s milk under the misguided belief they need it for the calcium. Whereas in actual fact, it leaches the calcium from their bones and puts them at greater risk of bone diseases than those that do not drink it. And because of the high levels of hormones in cow’s milk we now know is switches on breast and prostate cancer and then continues to promote cancer growth as we continue to put it into our bodies on a daily basis.
In my naivety I was one of those parents. I gave my children bottles and bottles of milk and insisted they had animal protein at every meal under the misguided belief I was giving them the best start in life. I fried in olive oil thinking that was okay too – it’s vegetable based I told myself! It wasn’t until I began trying to answer the question “Why are so many of my young friends suffering with cancer?” that I finally opened my eyes to what the typical Western diet is doing to our health and the health of our loved ones. To quote my husband’s penny dropping moment “I feel like we’ve been hoodwinked our whole life.”
I may have gone off on a slight tangent here but the point is that it doesn’t matter if you eat an omnivore diet or an unhealthy vegan diet ultimately nothing compares health wise to a diet rich in whole foods of the plant variety. And to prove it the numbers speak for themselves. Before switching to WFPB nutrition my husband’s blood pressure was 120/89. Within 6 months it was 108/73 and within the same time period I went from 119/80 to 97/67. From all the research I have carried out I have not been able to find one reported incidence of heart disease or stroke with numbers like this. I’ll take that.
One of the questions I now get (it used to be where do the children get their protein from?) is where do the children get their fat from now oil has been removed. Every day they have a tablespoon of flaxseeds and shelled hemp seeds in their smoothie together with tofu and at least half an avocado. They also have daily servings of nuts or nut butters.
I admit, shifting from a lifelong way of omnivore eating to vegan is an enormous adjustment, not just for you and your family but for all those around you. The thought of then losing even more ingredients is almost unthinkable but I promise you, the hard work has already been done. You’ve researched, read, discussed, joined various groups, found recipes and restaurants you enjoy, reconciled the fact that 99% of the population will at some point rib you for it and have most likely come to the decision that consuming animal proteins is not something you want to do any longer. Reducing the processed products, sugar, salt and oil (often dubbed as The Vegan Killer) is a tiny tiny step further on that journey but is the difference that will make the difference to a healthy future for you and those you cherish most in your life.
P.S. For more on cooking without oil I’ll be making a video shortly on how I manage it.