A plant-forward diet – loosely defined as a diet that is rich in plant foods but that can also include eggs, dairy foods, and occasionally lean meat, poultry and seafood – is becoming more widely accepted as a way of eating that promotes optimal health.
This report aims to explore the science-based evidence that supports a plant-forward diet as nutritionally adequate across all stages of the life cycle and helpful for the prevention of chronic diseases, including overweight and obesity, heart disease and stroke, Type 2 diabetes, cancer and Covid-19.
An article from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets,” as well as many peer-reviewed reviews and studies, make clear that a well-planned whole foods plant-forward diet can meet our nutritional requirements, including protein needs.
A well-planned whole foods plant-forward diet can meet our nutritional requirements, including protein needs.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, defines good nutrition as a healthy eating plan that gives a person’s body the nutrients it needs while allowing them to meet a specific calorie goal. A healthy eating plan emphasizes vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, eggs, lean meat, poultry, and seafood, and low-fat dairy. It limits saturated fat, trans fat, added sugars and ultra-processed foods, which can contain excessive fat, sugar, salt and chemical ingredients. This way of eating can lower a person’s risk for heart disease and other health conditions.
The whole foods plant-forward diet
Many plant-based diet-related terms are used in this report. So it’s essential to define the many interpretations of vegetarianism that contribute to our definition of a whole foods plant-forward diet. These variations include:
A whole foods plant-forward diet is like a flexitarian approach that includes eggs, dairy foods, and occasionally lean meat, poultry and seafood.
Much of the research this report refers to is based on a varied vegetarian diet, more specifically lacto-ovo vegetarianism and veganism, though some research notes flexitarian and pescetarian diets.
For the purpose of this report, a whole foods plant-forward diet is similar to a flexitarian approach that includes eggs, dairy foods, and occasionally lean meat, poultry, and seafood. But it also includes regular consumption of unprocessed or minimally processed fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds; regular consumption of unrefined vegetable oils or those found in foods like avocado, nuts and seafood; occasional unprocessed or minimally processed dairy, eggs, lean meats, poultry and seafood; and little to no ultra-processed food products and beverages.
This report isn’t advocating for any specific vegetarian diet. The goal of the report is to offer a review of the research that values and describes a whole foods plant-forward approach as nutritionally sound and as a tool to prevent chronic disease.