The Healthiest Plant-Based Foods

I'm a big believer in both Dr. Joel Fuhrman's G-Bombs (that is, eating greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries and seeds every day) as well as Dr. Michael Greger's Daily Dozen of foods to eat on a daily basis. I believe that by doing so, I've been able to improve my health significantly, bringing my total cholesterol down to 101 and my blood pressure down to 110/70 along with many other improvements in my health that I've repeated several times (and most of my readers know about). In my mind, by following those two pieces of guidance, the G-Bombs and the Daily Dozen, I am eating the healthiest diet on the planet.

But yesterday I was struck by something each of those doctors said. First, I was struck by Dr. Fuhrman's statement in Health Science Magazine when he said, "A diet made up of rice, potatoes and fruit can be whole food, plant-based, but that certainly is not a diet designed to maximize lifespan and offer the most dramatic protection...." In other words, he is saying that while there's nothing wrong with those foods, those are not the foods that are going to give us the dramatic health benefits that we are seeking through a whole food, plant-based way of eating.  And the more potatoes, rice and fruit that we consume, the less of the really important beans and vegetables we end up consuming.

Dr. Greger echoed this same thought in yesterday's video titled Dr. Greger's Daily Dozen Checklist. In his video yesterday, Dr. Greger started out by saying that some plants are healthier than others. Then he went on to say that you can center your diet around potatoes, which he said would meet the definition of a whole food, plant-based diet, but as he said, "Not a very healthy one." And in a series of videos last month, Dr. Greger effectively moved rice from being a green light food to a red light food (except for those who just can't live without rice, in which case, he suggested treating it like a yellow light food). The various stoplight colors are described in his book, How Not to Die.

So, as I read Dr. Fuhrman's article and watched Dr. Greger's video, I came away with the thought that both potatoes and rice are foods to not emphasize in our diets. Again, there's nothing wrong with the potato, it's just that it doesn't give us the biggest bang for our buck. Instead, both doctors really push vegetables as being where we need to fill up.

There are particular vegetables that are most important. Both Dr. Fuhrman and Dr. Greger rank green vegetables and cruciferous vegetables as most important. Dr. Esselstyn backs that up as well when he says to eat greens six times a day. It makes sense when you think about it because the reason plants are green is the chlorophyll, which is how the plant captures the energy from the sun. So, the green color indicates direct sunlight energy and lots of phytochemicals to strengthen our immune systems.

There is also one non-plant food that both doctors say to eat daily. That is the mushroom, which is actually a fungus and not a plant. Mushrooms have a substance in them that is found nowhere else in any of the foods we eat. But it gives the mushroom amazing disease-fighting capabilities. In fact, some have said that it should be classified as a vitamin that everybody needs on a daily basis. The only thing about the mushroom is that it should only be eaten when cooked. Raw mushrooms contain agaritine, which is potentially carcinogenic.

Both doctors also emphasize the importance of nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds are helpful for losing weight and they protect against both cancer and heart disease. Dr. Greger says that not eating nuts and seeds is actually a leading cause of death.

Beans are also emphasized by both doctors, and beans are eaten by every Blue Zone community in the world. In fact, beans are the one food that is common to every single Blue Zone. Beans are important for several reasons, but one is that they are a resistant starch. I'm planning to write more about resistant starches in the future. They can be thought of as McDougall on steroids. Resistant starches allow you to eat many more calories than you'll actually absorb. That is as long as resistant starch is eaten along with a lot of fiber as Dr. Greger has talked about in the past. Beans have both fiber and resistant starch.

I wanted to write this today because I hear people from time to time say that they have gone whole food, plant-based, but they never saw results like they expected. Or they tried it and gave it up as not working for them. I oftentimes find that they went "vegan," but they didn't really go whole food. I wrote yesterday about the dangers of processed foods. Some people will call themselves whole food, plant-based, but all they did was trade the animal products in for fake processed foods. Or some people, as I talk about in today's posting, go whole food, plant-based, but most of their food comes down to potatoes, rice and fruit. Those foods, while acceptable, won't provide the benefits being sought, however.

So, no potato diets and no banana diets (or any other mono diet). It's clear to me that a salad is something to think seriously about as the main course for our meals. And I've found that eating a large salad, topped with lots of beans and a handful of walnuts and lots of veggies can be very filling and very satisfying. And because I like potatoes too, I'll throw in a few cold but cooked fingerling potatoes. I'm not saying to not eat potatoes. In fact, I keep potatoes around to snack on. The important thing is to not focus on potatoes or rice or fruit. Focus on the most nutrient dense foods instead.