Sure, green juices are good for you and your waist. But you can’t live on them. Here, the plant-based eat­ing plan to drop five pounds – pronto. By Ni­cole Catanese.

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Aw­hole-food, plant-based diet is not ve­gan. Or raw. But re­search shows it might be the an­ti­dote to heart dis­ease, cancer, and yes, the last five pounds – for good. And while its big­gest claim to fame came when Jay Z and Bey­oncé an­nounced they’d be eat­ing plant­based for 22 days, it’s fast be­com­ing the diet strat­egy du jour.

But what ex­actly does “whole-food, plant-based” mean? “Whole food is just that – whole,” says Cald­well B. Es­sel­styn Jr., di­rec­tor of the Car­dio­vas­cu­lar Dis­ease Preven­tion and Re­ver­sal pro­gramme at the Cleve­land Clinic Well­ness In­sti­tute. Along with fel­low re­searcher T. Colin Camp­bell, a pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of nu­tri­tional bio­chem­istry at Cor­nell Univer­sity, Es­sel­styn has spent years tout­ing the diet as the cure to a long list of ail­ments, from heart dis­ease to di­a­betes and high blood pres­sure. It may even help au­toim­mune dis­eases and chronic pain – not to men­tion boost en­ergy and pro­duce ef­fort­less weight loss. Camp­bell is best known for his 2005 book, The China Study, a nearly 50-year look at the pre­dom­i­nantly plant-based eat­ing habits of ru­ral Chi­nese. “Breast cancer, colon cancer, and heart dis­ease were al­most non-ex­is­tent,” notes Camp­bell, whose lat­est book, Whole:

Re­think­ing the Sci­ence of Nu­tri­tion, came out last May. But back to why you’ll lose weight: “Once you start eat­ing out of a box, bag, or can, the food is pro­cessed and may have un­healthy ad­di­tions like su­gar, salt, and oil,” he adds. It’s this key as­pect that dif­fer­en­ti­ates this diet from its cousin ve­gan­ism, which also es­chews all an­i­mal by-prod­ucts. If you think about it, ve­g­ans and vege­tar­i­ans can live on heaps of pasta, oil-drenched veg­gies, and Oreos. Then there’s the plant-based part. “Top of the list is green leafy veg­eta­bles,” says Es­sel­styn, who rec­om­mends eat­ing a fist­ful (add bal­samic vine­gar) with ev­ery meal. That also means beans, legumes, whole grains, and ev­ery veg­etable un­der the sun. What’s ver­boten? Any­thing that has a mother or a face: red meat, poul­try, fish; as well as all dairy.

Skep­tics of a plant-based diet fo­cus more on what’s po­ten­tially lack­ing in nu­tri­tion, not on what it can of­fer. The most no­table is what Camp­bell calls our “rev­er­ence for protein”. “It’s a very im­por­tant nutrient, but al­most ev­ery­one over­con­sumes it and gets it from an­i­mal­based foods, so they end up de­creas­ing con­sump­tion of plant-based foods, an­tiox­i­dants, and com­plex car­bo­hy­drates.” Mean­while, there are plenty of protein-packed plant-based sources – beans, lentils, chia seeds, quinoa, spinach, and mush­rooms. As for get­ting cal­cium with­out dairy? Kale, broc­coli, but­ter­nut squash, car­rots, and cau­li­flower are all nat­u­ral sources.

Di­eti­cian Stephanie Mid­dle­berg, founder of Mid­dle­berg Nu­tri­tion, says, “The ma­jor­ity of plant-based foods are ‘cleaner’. They have only one in­gre­di­ent, and are eas­ier to digest than dairy, meat, and in some cases, fish. Eat­ing them gets people back to the ba­sics of good solid nu­tri­tion, which is to load up on what is sea­sonal and whole-food-based. Plus it al­lows them to be more fo­cused when eat­ing out.” Other pros of ditch­ing cheese, su­gar, red meat, and pro­cessed foods: Less bloat. Bet­ter di­ges­tion. More en­ergy. A thin­ner you. If you also drink plenty of wa­ter, avoid al­co­hol, and com­mit to your work­outs, you could drop five pounds or more in nine days, all while eat­ing real food. So ask yourself, “What would Bey do?”

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