how whole food plant based is different from veganism
October 23, 2018
Whole food refers to the state of the food. Food in its most natural form, unrefined and unprocessed (or very minimally processed considering washing, chopping, and steaming veggies can be considered a form of "processing"). The dictionary definition of "process" is "to perform a series of mechanical or chemical operations on something in order to change or preserve it." Unprocessed food has nothing bad added and nothing good taken away. Processed food is easy to spot because it will come in a box or package and have a long list of complicated ingredients with artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and a bunch of other added unnecessary ingredients. Whole foods include grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds all in their whole and most natural form. This would also include milk fresh from a healthy cow, a free range chicken egg, a wild caught fish, etc.
Plant based refers to the food itself. Food comes either from the ground or from an animal. All food items can be traced back to their plant or animal origin. Plant food excludes all animal based foods, sounds simple enough, right? Fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, beans are all plant foods. Corn syrup, cane sugar, Oreos, and even some cakes and donuts are technically plant based (if they contain no milk, eggs, or other animal byproducts). Other animal byproducts which may not be obvious would include gelatin (made from animal bones), lard (animal fat), lactic acid (from animal muscles and blood - but is also found in beets), casein (a dairy milk protein), rennet (from calf stomach mucus), and many more.
"Vegan" and "whole food plant based" are not the same, although they can be seen as pretty similar. A vegan eats entirely plant based, but not necessarily whole food. Plant based does not always mean whole food, just like whole food does not always equal plant based. The terms vegetarian and vegan primarily refer to what somebody doesn't eat: any food product that is derived from animal origin. While the term whole food plant based refers to what somebody does eat: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes in their most whole and natural forms, unprocessed and unrefined.
Veganism is a lifestyle choice where animal rights activism is the motivation. This goes farther than food: wool, leather, fur coats, and even zoos aren't vegan. Any product (like chocolate, coffee, or gold) that was obtained via child labor or slave labor is not vegan. Products that have been tested on animals are also not vegan. Some people choose veganism for the planet's health, to reduce their carbon footprint and encourage others to do the same. This would include any environmentally friendly alternative that saves water, power, or protects nature. So plastic bags, gas guzzling SUVs, and littering are not vegan. Then there are the people, like me and my family, who chose to adopt a whole food plant based "vegan" diet purely for the health benefits to our own bodies (at least that's where it started). So adopting a vegan lifestyle could be motivated by the love of animals, the love of the planet, or the love of your own body (or all of the above!).
If more people treated their body with this kind of love and care, there would be far less instances of obesity, heart disease, certain cancers, and other preventable food related illnesses. Unfortunately, too many people don't know how to love or care for their bodies.
Animal foods and highly processed foods are more calorically dense, while whole plant food is more nutritionally dense.
When choosing foods, I often ask myself these two questions: Did this come from a plant? Is it in its most whole or natural form?
If the answer is yes to both then I am good to go! I know that the calories I am consuming aren't empty or harmful, but filled with all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients my body needs. And if I feel like compromising (I love Oreos) I try and make sure that it isn't a regular thing. But I don't compromise to the point of eating processed meat or dairy products. I may have let gelatin as an ingredient slide every once in a while in the beginning of my journey, and I had a couple tiny chunks of egg in some fried rice a few months ago. And for the record, we do still consume honey.
My goal is whole food AND plant based, not junk food veganism.