Why Vegans Should Be WFPB and Why WFPB People Should Be Vegans

I've written several blog postings in the past on the difference between being whole food, plant-based and being vegan. Now, I'm going to take it a step further and explain why I believe that people who are vegans should also become whole food plant-based and why people who are whole food, plant-based should become vegans.

But first, let me summarize what the differences are between the two.

Basically, being vegan is about kindness and compassion, specifically toward animals. It's not just about the food. It's also about the other products a person buys (from automobiles to soaps), the clothes a person wears, the wallets and belts and other accessories a person has, and the causes, both political and charitable, that a person supports and promotes. Being whole food, plant-based, however, is totally about the food. It doesn't matter what soaps you use or what car you buy or what kind of belt you wear in order to be whole food, plant-based. All that matters is the food you eat.

But the best of both worlds is to be both vegan and whole food, plant-based. That's the camp I count myself in, and I hope that my readers, if not there, will gravitate toward that position as well. And the reason I say that is summed up in the environment and in climate change. That's the common denominator that both groups have.

Animal agriculture, from reports and books I've read, can be destructive to the environment and can be a major contributor to climate change. I think we all agree on that. So, while being vegan is often thought of as being kind and compassionate toward animals, by the very fact that it is less destructive to the environment and creates less of a contribution to climate change, makes it also compassionate toward humanity. That's because we all live in the environment and the atmosphere that we create here on earth. And while we didn't create our earth and our atmosphere, our daily actions determine what that environment and atmosphere will be. And as such, we are daily creating the circumstances within which we live.

The effects of being vegan are on the animals, the environment and the atmosphere. Being whole food, plant-based is actually about none of that, except to the extent that we don't eat animal products. To that extent, we are helping the environment and contributing less to climate change, just like vegans do. But because we might still buy leather wallets and leather belts and silk dresses and down pillows and woolen sweaters and perfumes and soaps made with animal products and cars with leather seats and on and on, we are still contributing to animal agriculture. And that means we are still contributing to demise of the environment and to climate change more than we need to be.

But that doesn't explain specifically why a person who is whole food, plant-based should want to be vegan. The above explanation applies to all of us. But there's a reason that the WFPB person should be sufficiently concerned about the environment and about climate change, and that is, the quality of the food that we get. The quality of the whole plant-based foods we eat, and by quality I mean the nutritional value of the food, is affected by the environment. When the soil is depleted of essential minerals, for example, then the plants won't absorb those minerals and we will no longer get needed minerals in our food.

Or worse, problems occur like the one with arsenic in rice. This issue has come about as a result of chicken farming that has raised arsenic levels in the water absorbed by rice. This has become a serious enough issue that Dr. Greger has suggested that we limit our consumption of rice. And as a whole food eaters, brown rice is even worse than white rice. But the bottom line is, the problem is created as a result of animal agriculture.

For these kind of reasons, the person who is whole food, plant-based and eating this way for their health should recognize the impact that animal agriculture is having on their health even when they don't eat animal products. And that's why a person who is WFPB should also be vegan.

So, what's the case for a vegan to become whole food, plant-based? My argument for that is that with a small percentage of people being vegan, everyone needs to be at their peak healthwise in order to have the strength, energy and stamina to take on the issues associated with being vegan. In other words, vegans need to be healthy because in being healthy, so much more can be accomplished to help the animals. It's hard to help another, whether it's a person or an animal, without being at your best in terms of health. So, I would argue that vegans have a responsibility to be healthy, and that means being whole food, plant-based. It means not just avoiding animal products, but it means also removing from the diet, oils and processed foods as well.

Bottom line is, we should all be vegans and we should all be whole food, plant-based. In that way, we can combine forces to truly improve the planet, our own health and the lives of the animals.

My Recent Talk to Palmetto Plant Eaters

On July 5, 2017, at the Palmetto Plant Eaters Club in Bluffton, SC, I spoke to the largest turnout yet for a PPE meeting. I talked about my experiences in going whole food, plant-based, why I went WFPB and what came about as a result of doing so. I also compared the approaches of five different WFPB doctors: Dr. McDougall, Dr. Fuhrman, Dr. Greger, Dr. Campbell and Dr. Barnard. Here is the talk I gave in its entirety, although it does not include the questions and answers period at the end.

Watch by clicking on this sentence.

Food as Fuel...Food as Medicine...Food as Pleasure

Food has many purposes. It provides us with energy to do the things we do each day, and it stores energy for us for those days when there's no food to be had (probably not a great thing in today's land of plenty). It also helps us to fight disease. And food gives us pleasure. And while we all want all three out of our foods, it turns out that some of the different whole food, plant-based diets put priorities in different places. So, in following a whole food, plant-based way of eating, it's good to know which ways prioritize food as energy, which ways prioritize food as medicine and which ways prioritize whole, plant-based foods for pleasure.

We are each different as to what our priorities are. Many people want health for example, but they prioritize pleasure. In such cases, they may want to pick one of Dr. Barnard's programs. Others would like good tasting foods, but their real priority is their health. In such cases, they may want to pick from Dr. Greger, Dr. Fuhrman or Dr. Campbell. And still others want to eat healthy and enjoy their food, but their real priority is with the energy the food gives them. In that case, they may want to pick Dr. McDougall's starch solution program.

I personally am eating whole food plant=based primarily for my health, not just to rid myself of past ailments, but to also prevent future chronic diseases to the extent possible. That's more important to me than how good the food is or whether or not I'm eating the same thing every day. And while it's important to me to have the energy I need to function each day, I'm really more concerned about staying as healthy as I can for as long as I can. For that reason, I find myself more interested in what Dr. Greger or Dr. Campbell or Dr. Fuhrman say than I am in some of the other doctors. There's nothing wrong with the other doctors, it's just that those three seem to prioritize the same things that I prioritize about food.

Food as Energy

I think Dr. McDougall's starch solution is the perfect diet for this. He doesn't require in his book The Starch Solution eating specific types of greens, specific vegetables, getting mushrooms daily, and so on. His emphasis is on starches, vegetables, fruits and nuts and seeds as broad-based categories. He says to make starch the centerpiece of your meal, as much as 70% of your plate. He doesn't specify that the starch has to include beans or whole grains, for example. On McDougall's plan, you can eat potatoes every day, every meal in fact, and just make that your starch.

The rest of the plate is vegetables and fruit. He limits fruit to 10% of the plate and keeps vegetables between 20% and 45% of your plate. Whether the veggie is a dark green leafy vegetable, whether it is cooked or raw, or whether it is tomatoes and zucchini doesn't matter. The criteria here is that any non-starchy vegetable will do.

This is putting priority on food as energy. It's easy to follow. It's a great way to begin losing weight. And it's a great way to get started on eating a whole food, plant-based way. A person should always feel full on this plan, and they should get all the energy they need to keep their body fueled during the day.

And because it eliminates meat, dairy, eggs, oils and processed foods, it eliminates many of the possible causes of chronic disease that a person might encounter. So, it definitely reduces the probability of getting a chronic disease.

Food as Medicine

For maximum nutritional value though, I think it becomes important to think about the foods that you do eat in addition to the foods that you eliminate. And that requires taking a deeper look into the broad categories of vegetables, fruits, beans, grains and nuts and seeds. Where Dr. McDougall says to make starch the centerpiece of your meal, Dr. Fuhrman says to make salad the centerpiece of your meal. This is a stark difference between the two plans and yet both are whole food, plant-based. A person could be hard pressed to follow both ways.

Dr. Fuhrman has categories of vegetables to eat. Those categories are cooked greens, raw greens, mushrooms, onion and non-greens. No longer is it said to just eat your vegetables. With Dr. Fuhrman, he calls for eating several servings from each of these groups every day. This is how we get the nutrients we need to build strong immune systems and to fight both chronic and acute diseases. Dr. Fuhrman has his G-Bombs that he recommends eating every day. They are greens, beans, onion, mushrooms, berries and seeds.

Dr. Greger is very similar in that he emphasizes both green and non-green veggies. He throws in cruciferous vegetables as an important food to have each day. Raw cruciferous vegetables are best, but he says they need to be cut at least twenty minutes before eating. Dr. Greger is also specific about the type of seed to eat every day. He calls for eating flaxseed. Both doctors say to eat four fruits a day, with at least one of those servings being berries.

Dr. Campbell is all about variety. He recommends mostly the same foods as Drs. Greger and Fuhrman, but he also says to eat as wide a variety of whole plant-based foods as possible. He makes the point that foods are loaded with phytonutrients, many of which have not been discovered yet. Only by eating a wide variety of whole plant-based foods can we really fight off diseases and infections.

Food as Pleasure

I believe that while Dr. Barnard in his 21-day kickstart program and in his Food for Life series promotes healthy eating, he seems to add pleasure to the food as being an important priority. Pleasure is good as long as we don't get trapped into addiction through the blissful combination of fat, sugar and salt. Dr. Barnard does a good job of steering us through that wilderness.

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These are not the only whole food, plant-based ways of eating, but they are the ones I find most useful when somebody asks me how to eat on a WFPB diet. I ask what their priorities are for going WFPB, and then that tells me which doctor they would be best at listening to. But it doesn't mean that anyone needs to restrict themselves to one way or one doctor. I believe it's entirely possible to incorporate, for example, what Dr. Greger says into what Dr. McDougall says. It could be as simple as making beans and rice as the main course for a meal.

Over the last four years, I've tried each of the WFPB doctors. You may want to consider doing the
same.

Note to Readers: I recently expanded my blog to sometimes talk about wellness and well being as opposed to just talking about food all the time. My first blog posting in that regard was about yoga and meditation. However, because it was not food related, I did not post it in as many of the places I normally post in. If interested, you can read that post by clicking here.

Yoga as Meditation

Note to my regular readers: After writing about eating the whole food, plant-based way for almost four years now, I have decided to expand my horizons for this blog site and write on the subject of well being, which includes eating a whole food, plant-based diet but also stretches out into other areas of our lives that affect our well being. I believe that most of my readers will welcome this change because my readers tend to be more conscious of their own well being, as well as the well being of others and our environments, than probably the majority of the population. So, this transition seems like it should be a natural one to make although change is not always easy. I will continue to write about food and nutrition when the muses lead me in that direction, but I will also expand out into new territory as well. I hope you come along with me. Today's posting is on my experiences with meditation and yoga. Enjoy!

I have been practicing both meditation and yoga for a couple of years now, but it's only been lately that I have really come to recognize the true benefits of doing so. At first, they were just unique activities to engage in, but if you were to ask me why I did either, I couldn't really give you a good answer. It might have been because others I knew were doing meditation and yoga and they seemed to believe there was some benefit in doing so.

Meditation was the hardest for me to understand. I would sit, focusing on my breath or focusing on an imagined spot out in front of me, and I would start wondering why am I doing this. Being retired and having a comfortable but not lavish lifestyle, I was really under no stress in my life. I would do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. Listening to others, they would talk about meditation quieting the mind and reducing stress. But I had no stress or very little stress to relieve. And because I walk every day, mostly on the nature trail, listening to the birds communicating with the other creatures in the woods, I found that to be quieting as well.

And yet, I persisted with doing meditation. Recently, I found a very practical use for meditation though. I banged my shin really hard the other night, and the pain from that was intense. It radiated throughout my entire leg. It was the kind of pain that I would normally rush to the bathroom and find a pain killer to take. But I've come to pride myself on the fact that because I follow a whole food, plant-based way of eating and because I regularly walk and do yoga and play pickleball, I don't need medications. While I still have some old, likely outdated pain killers, I prefer not to take them.

Remembering that pain is a mental thing, not a physical thing, I decided to first give meditation a chance. I began to quietly meditate, focusing on my breath, and I swear that within two minutes, this intense, radiating pain was completely gone. And it never came back. That's when I suddenly realized the importance of meditation. Meditation can control our bodies. Not just our physical pains, but also our anxieties, our depressions, our wants and desires. The Buddhist writer and founder of The Interdependence Project, Ethan Nichtern says in One City, A Declaration of Interdependence, that meditation gives us better mindfulness, awareness and insight. The changes may be subtle, but they are there. Oftentimes, our friends notice the changes before we do. For a good understanding of meditation, readers might check out Turning the Mind Into an Ally by Sakyong Mipham.

Note: I am no longer linking to items that readers can purchase because I've learned that doing so is labelled as an unnatural link by Google, and Google then places the website with the unnatural link, as well as the business linked to, lower down in its search criteria. I didn't know this until Bragg's recently contacted me and asked me to remove a link to their Liquid Aminos product. You know it's a serious issue when the manufacturer of a product doesn't want you linking to a site where readers can buy their product. But you can search for the books and DVDs and even the foods that I recommend on sites like Amazon or Barnes and Noble and easily find them. And you can rest assured that I am not personally profiting from my recommendations. All of my recommendations come from my personal beliefs in the products I mention.

In today's posting, I want to touch on yoga as meditation though. Yoga is another one of those things I started doing several years ago without fully understanding why. Was it physical exercise, like kind of a weird calisthentics? Was it something spiritual? Or was it just a fad? You might ask why I would do something when I don't know why I do it. And my answer is that I'm always inquisitive for new things and I'm always fascinated by the benefits I receive from doing something when I had no idea that I would receive such benefits in the beginning. It's like when I bought my first computer, an IBM PC Jr. I had no idea what I was going to do with it. I had no idea of what the power of a personal computer would become. And yet, I dived in and today I can't live without my computer. It's an integral part of my life.

And so it is with yoga. But I really came to see the benefits of yoga last February after I moved my yoga practice from the studio to my home. I made the change because the studio raised its prices again, and I began to find it more unaffordable. I prefer to save my money for travel and photography by cutting out other things like cable TV, frequent restaurant meals, and in-studio yoga. At the time, I thought that I would try cutting it out and hope that I didn't lose the discipline. But not only did I not lose the discipline, but my practice got better.

It got better because I began to focus on my breath. I know in the studio, we would be told to focus on our breath, but somehow I never did. Sometimes we moved too quickly, in fact, with one substitute, it was like a race to get through the yoga positions. Sometimes, I focused more on making sure I didn't look foolish in comparison to others. Sometimes, other participants distracted me. Or I would watch the clock.

But at home, I learned to shut my eyes and to move through the yoga positions more slowly and gracefully to the music of Putumayo Presents Yoga, focused entirely on my breath and not distracted by anything else. The practice of yoga became peaceful and meditative. It became an act of meditation in and of itself. And I now understand why I do it. It's physical, it's spiritual, it induces peaceful feelings and it's meditative.

I've found this for myself. I hope you have or can find it for yourself too. And I hope that you find my expansion of subject matter worthwhile. Please feel free to letting me know what you think. Write to me at jlsmith.jim@gmail.com


It's Not Selfish to be Whole Food, Plant-Based

While my last posting was generally well received, there were a few comments that said that people who eat whole food, plant-based are being selfish if they aren't doing it for the animals in addition to doing it for nutrition. I've also read that same sentiment recently by some others online and in Facebook groups.

I want to dispel such notions because one, they are not true and two, such sentiments tend to lead us away from the good we can do for ourselves and in the world by eliminating animal products from our diets. If anything, it could be considered selfish to eat whatever you want, including animal products, without regard for the effect of such dietary habits on the planet's climate, environment, our fellow man and other species that live among us. But eating whole food, plant-based addresses all of those issues and makes a positive impact in the world we live in.

We should not criticize anybody's motives for what they do. All we can really do is look at a person's actions to make a judgment about whether or not what that person is doing is good or bad. If I don't eat meat, it matters not a bit whether I do it out of compassion for animals, out of concern for the environment or out of interest in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The end results are the same. I will accomplish all of those things. Our goal is not to get people saying they are ethical vegans; our goal is to improve the environment, the climate, our health and our treatment of animals. And we do that one mouthful at a time by resolving to eat a vegan or whole food, plant-based diet.

To say that a person is selfish because they eat whole food, plant-based for health reasons is like saying a person who goes jogging in the morning is selfish if they are doing it for their health. It's not selfish to take actions that will sustain and improve our health. In fact, I believe that we have a moral obligation to keep ourselves as healthy as we can. And that means, among other things like exercise, getting enough sleep, meditating or praying (depending on your beliefs) and moving around, we need to follow a WFPB way of eating.

Why is it a moral obligation? There are many reasons. To start with, when we don't keep ourselves as healthy as we can, we risk becoming burdens to other people, such as our children or other family members or good friends. Not only do we affect our own lives in a negative way when we come down with serious chronic diseases, but we also can often take away the lives of others too. Being a caregiver is hard work. I know because I've done it. And while caregivers love us and will do whatever it takes to care for us, we have a duty to do what we can so as to not become that burden on them.

Before going further, let me state that people do get sick through no fault of their own, and they do require extensive care as a result. This in no way is intended to shed guilt on them. But I think we can all agree that there is way more chronic illness in the world than there needs to be, and much of it is preventable. And if it can be prevented then morally, we should do what we can to prevent it. The exception might be the independently wealthy person who has no need to depend on family or friends for support if they become ill. Such a person can just pay his way to good care.

But that's not the only reason that maintaining our health is a moral imperative. There's also the ridiculous costs that all members of society pay today for health insurance, dental insurance and long-term care insurance. These costs come about because of so many people being on some kind of prescription medication and/or being so unhealthy they need to make many trips to the doctor's offices. Today, health insurance and long-term care insurance, in particular, are becoming more and more unaffordable. This is exacerbated by the poor dietary and lifestyle choices that so many people make. We all pay those costs. And I believe if we all considered it our moral obligation to stay healthy, then we would not be placing such high costs on others.

Along those lines, Americans are paying too much in taxes for that same reason. Medicare is 15% of the national budget and Medicaid accounts for over $500 billion of spending (some of that is federal and some of that is state funding). In addition, government employees receive benefits that pay for significant portions of their health insurance. The taxes we pay, whether to the federal government or to the state, have to cover those costs, and those costs are in addition to the costs of individual health insurance policies that we all carry.

And finally, eating whole food, plant-based means being there for our children, grandchildren, spouse and other immediate family members. It means having the energy to play with your children and grandchildren. It means having the mental acuity to help your children and grandchildren with their school work. It means having the energy to volunteer and to help out those less fortunate. It means having the health to work at a successful relationship with your spouse. It means making the lives of others around you better because of your energy and mental acuity and interest in life. All of these things are improved by eating WFPB.

So, the bottom line is, it's not selfish to eat whole food, plant-based for health reasons. Those reasons are just as valid as are reasons for doing it for the environment or reasons for doing it out of compassion and kindness toward animals. Eating whole food, plant-based for our health is an act of love and compassion. It's an act of love and compassion for our own bodies and our own worth in the world and it's an act of love and compassion for others as well. It's an act of love and compassion for the environment and for the climate. And finally, it's an act of love for the animal world.