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SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

Committee on Plant-Based Health & Nutrition

Beginner’s Guide to Getting Started on Plant-Based Eating

PDF of Full Beginner's Guide to Getting Started on Plant-Based Eating

Regardless of whether you seek to stay healthy, improve your health, or even reverse chronic disease, we have terrific, evidence-based news: transitioning to a diet rich in plant foods can help you achieve your goal. Millions of people have successfully made this transition and so can you by using this Beginner’s Guide as a launch pad and guide post for your path to optimal health. Compelling scientific evidence highlights that the best diet for optimal health is a whole-food, plant-based (WFPB) diet. Whole foods occur naturally and are unrefined (i.e., unprocessed), or only minimally refined. More specifically, a WFPB diet is a type of vegetarian diet that:

  • Emphasizes eating plants (vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, beans, nuts, and seeds)
  • Discourages eating refined carbohydrates (such as white rice, white bread, and pastries) and other foods that have been stripped of their nutrients (extracted oils, fruit juice, many prepared and convenience foods)
  • Minimizes, or completely avoids, eating meat (red meats, poultry, fish/seafood) or other animal products (such as eggs and dairy)

Please note that a vegan diet is exclusively plant-based and does not include any animal products at all. In contrast to a WFPB diet, however, a vegan diet may include refined grains, refined sweeteners, extracted oils, and highly processed foods. To maintain our focus on health, we prefer to use the term WFPB based diet instead of vegan diet.  

Almost half of Americans suffer from at least one chronic disease, but many of these diseases are preventable. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure are directly related to lifestyle factors including poor diet, inadequate exercise, tobacco use, and excess alcohol. The food we choose to eat can lead us either to disease or to vibrant health and longer life.

Extensive research has shown the impressive health benefits of eating more whole, plant-based foods while also decreasing or eliminating consumption of animal products. Studies have shown that WFPB diets can prevent diabetes and heart disease and, in some cases, even reverse these conditions. Plus, following a WFPB diet is one of the best ways to lose excess weight and keep the weight off.

Despite the health benefits of WFPB eating, it can be difficult at first to change what we eat.  Obstacles can be cultural, social, financial, and just plain lack of knowledge. We hope to bridge the knowledge gap with this practical guide for transitioning to a WFPB diet as a path to better health. We hope this guide and the evidence-based resources on our website answer your questions and address your concerns. Cheers to health and happiness for a lifetime!

Sincerely yours,
The SUNY Downstate Committee on Plant-based Health & Nutrition