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.


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

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.