HOW IT STARTED
During my latest visit to the dermatologist she noticed some small bumps under my skin on my forehead and informed me that this is normally a sign of a gut issue. After consulting with a nutritionist, we concluded that my diet consisted of too much meat, processed foods, sugar - I needed to switch to a more plant-based lifestyle. As someone who loves meat and can’t fathom living life without it, the word “vegan” is scary and the diet seems impossible to me (I also used to think running a marathon was impossible but I ran one a few years ago). The nutritionist explained to me a plant-based diet, called Whole Food Plant Based (terrible branding) that differs from a full vegan diet. I’ve been on this diet for two weeks now and can confirm that I feel great, my skin conditions have improved, and lost some weight.
The words “Plant Based” might scare some guys off, but a Whole Food Plant Based diet is not the same as vegan or vegetarian diets. Although there are some similarities, they are not the same. WFPB diet focuses on minimizing processed foods and an emphasis on fresh, whole ingredients. It’s less of a “diet” and more of a lifestyle that focuses on healthier food choices that stimulate weight loss and an improvement in overall health. The basic principles include:
- Emphasizing whole, minimally processed foods
- Limiting (or avoiding) animal products
- Focus on plants, like vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, whole grains and legumes.
- Eliminating refined foods with added sugar, white flower, and processed oils
- Attention to quality; locally sourced, organic foods
DIET + SKIN
The skin is our bodies largest organ. It's the outer layer that protects our internal organs and where our body expels a lot of the internal toxins. That's why we should be mindful of what we put in it. Many of the reactions our skin has - acne, breakouts, oily skin, and wrinkles are caused by the foods our bodies are trying to digest. Sugar, fried foods, and processed foods can cause acne, premature aging, and dehydrated skin. Sugar particularly causes elevated levels of blood sugar which can damage the collagen in our skin and ultimately cause wrinkling and sagging skin. While the vitamins and minerals found in fruits and vegetables can lead to hydrated, glowing, and healthy skin. Bottom line, be mindful of what you eat and drink.
Plant based eating habits focus on foods primarily from plants, it doesn’t mean that you are vegan or vegetarian but rather you consume more plant based foods. It can be compared to Mediterranean diets, which has its foundation in plant based foods while also including fish, poultry, eggs, and yogurt a few times a week; meats less often. So with the WFPB diet, each individual can take their own approach, one may eat no animal products while the other may eat a small amount of seafood, eggs, poultry or dairy. There are many benefits to this lifestyle switch, some of which are listed below:
- Lose weight and improve health
- Reduced risk of cancer
- Reduce skin issues like acne, eczema, and oily sebum layer
- Decrease risk of heart disease and diabetes
- Good for the planet
WHERE TO START
Here’s a list of 8 ways to get started with a plant-based diet published by a contributor in the Harvard Health Blog:
- Eat lots of vegetables. Fill half your plate with vegetables at lunch and dinner. Enjoy vegetables as a snack with hummus, salsa, or guacamole.
- Change the way you think about meat. Have smaller amounts, use it as a garnish rather than the centerpiece of a meal.
- Choose good fats. Fats in olive oil, olives, nuts and nut butters, seeds, and avocados are the best sources.
- Cook a vegetarian meal at least one night a week. Build these meals around beans, whole grains, and vegetables.
- Include whole grains for breakfast. Start with oatmeal, quinoa, buckwheat, or barley. Then add nuts or seeds along with fresh fruit.
- Go for greens. Try a variety of green leafy vegetables such as kale, collards, Swiss chard, spinach, and other greens. Steam, grill, braise, or stir-fry to perverse flavor and nutrients.
- Build a meal around a salad. Fill a bowl with salad greens and add an assortment of other vegetables along with fresh herbs, beans, peas, or tofu.
- Eat fruit for dessert. A ripe, juicy peach, watermelon, or crips apple will satisfy your craving for a sweet bite after a meal.
- Fruits: Berries, citrus fruits, pears, peaches, pineapple, bananas, etc.
- Vegetables: Kale, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, asparagus, peppers, etc.
- Starchy vegetables: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, etc.
- Whole grains: Brown rice, rolled oats, farro, quinoa, brown rice pasta, barley, etc.
- Healthy fats: Avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, unsweetened coconut, etc.
- Legumes: Peas, chickpeas, lentils, peanuts, black beans, etc.
- Seeds, nuts and nut butters: Almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, natural peanut butter, tahini, etc.
- Unsweetened plant-based milks: Coconut milk, almond milk, cashew milk, etc.
- Spices, herbs and seasonings: Basil, rosemary, turmeric, curry, black pepper, salt, etc.
- Condiments: Salsa, mustard, nutritional yeast, soy sauce, vinegar, lemon juice, etc.
- Plant-based protein: Tofu, tempeh, plant-based protein sources or powders with no added sugar or artificial ingredients.
- Beverages: Coffee, tea, sparkling water, etc.
Foods to Avoid
- Fast food
- Added sugars and sweets
- Refined grains
- Packaged and convenience foods
- Processed vegan-friendly foods: Tofurkey, faux cheese, vegan burgers, etc.
- Artificial sweeteners
- Processed animal products: bacon, lunch meat, sausage, beef jerky.
I challenge you to adopt this lifestyle change, at least for the month of April, and see if you notice any changes in your physical and mental wellness as I have. The first week is tough, it IS a lifestyle change. If it works for you, stick with it and live a longer better life.