“Nutrition is the master key to human health.”


Green and purple lettuce
A circle of vegetables surrounding a Whole food, plant-based meal.

Are you curious about a whole-food, plant-based diet (WFPB)? The T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies is here to help you get started.

A circle of vegetables surrounding a Whole food, plant-based meal.

The term “whole” in WFPB describes foods that are minimally processed. This includes as many whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes as you want.

Many eventually give up the “diet” label, in favor of “lifestyle.” Perhaps that’s because our popular notion of dieting has become so confusing. A WFPB lifestyle is different. It’s not a short-term punishment charged by guilt. It’s not a set of complicated meal plans. It’s simply a return to whole foods, rich flavors, and natural health.

What do I eat?

It’s pretty simple: whole, unrefined, plant-based foods. That’s it.


The benefits of a healthy lifestyle are enormous. When you adopt a whole food, plant-based lifestyle you can increase the odds that you will:

  • Lower risk of prostate, breast & other cancers
  • Prevent, even reverse, heart disease
  • Prevent & treat diabetes
  • Lose weight & have more energy
  • Live longer
  • ...and much more

The price? Simply changing your diet. It has never been so easy or so relatively effortless to achieve such profound benefits.

Let’s break it down into what can and can’t be on your plate...

Enjoy a wide range of whole, unrefined plants. The best news of all? You can eat when you’re hungry and eat until you’re full.

Whole Grains

barley, brown rice, teff, millet, wild rice, quinoa, amaranth, steel cut and rolled oats, whole wheat

Legumes (dried or canned with minimal salt)

adzuki, beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, fava beans, kidney beans, soybeans, green beans, peas, mung beans, lentils, lima beans, pinto beans, homemade veggie burgers

Greens (fresh or frozen)

kale, collards, spinach, lettuces, parsley, cilantro, chards, bok choy, arugula


all kinds of potatoes, onions, leeks, carrots, radishes, beets, garlic, ginger, turnips, daikon

Other Veggies

squash, celery, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, mushrooms, asparagus, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, sea vegetables

Fruit (fresh or frozen)

apricots, apples, bananas, berries, cherries, melons, mangoes, papayas, pineapple, grapes, kiwi, plums

Omega 3 Rich Seeds

flaxseed, chia seed


all spices


water, unsweetened plant “milks”, herbal teas, green tea, decaffeinated coffee

Should I take vitamin B12? This essential nutrient is not made by animals or plants. B12 is made by microbes, bacteria that blanket the earth. These bacteria are common in the gastrointestinal tract of animals and so animal foods can be sources of B12. Few plants actually contain vitamin B12: two varieties of edible algae, some varieties of mushrooms, plants grown in experimental settings with B12-enriched soils or water, and some foods made with certain fermentation processes have small amounts of active B12. We recommend a B12 supplement. Learn more from Dr. Thomas Campbell in his article, “12 Questions Answered Regarding Vitamin B12.”
Many of the foods in the “sparingly” list are healthy foods. Lots of evidence suggests nuts are healthy, for example, and avocados and seeds have many valuable nutrients. But there’s a unique circumstance with people used to the standard American diet who suddenly are trying to avoid added fats, cheeses, and rich cuts of meat. They still crave rich, fatty meals, and if they realize they can put a ½ cup of cashews in every meal, or a ½ of an avocado on everything, then they can “follow the rules” and still love the taste of their food. And guess what? They won’t lose as much weight as they want or necessarily get the maximal benefit.


peanuts, almonds, walnuts, cashews, and nut butters


low-fat coconut milk, unsweetened shreds or chips, raw


Seeds (except omega 3 sources)

sesame, pumpkin, sunflower

Dried Fruit

Added Sweeteners

maple syrup, date syrup, molasses

Minimally Processed Whole Soy Products

tofu, tempeh, miso


caffeinated coffee and tea, alcohol

If purchasing a pre-packaged food product, be sure to carefully read what is in the package, box, or can. Note that product ingredients are listed in descending order, with the greatest amount by weight listed first. Purchase products with just a few recognizable plant-based ingredients. The less processed the better.
The standard American diet, or the Western diet, is heavy on meat, dairy, white flour, sugar, and oil. Imagine the standard fast food meal of a cheeseburger, fries, and a milkshake, or a “healthier” meal which might include chicken, rice, and broccoli with a cheese sauce. Whether it’s the “healthy” or junk food meal, the Western diet relies heavily on animal foods and processed plant fragments. The consequences of the Western diet are epidemic levels of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes and staggering health care costs.


fish, poultry, seafood, red meat, processed meat


yogurt, milk, cheese, butter, half and half, cream, buttermilk


chicken, duck, quail, ostrich

Plant Fragments (these oftentimes include vegan replacement foods)

Added Fats

oils*, margarine

*Oil, even the finest olive oil, is 100% fat, calorically-dense and nutrient-poor. Oil injures the endothelium, the innermost lining of the artery, and that injury is the gateway to vascular disease. For those with known heart disease, even adding a little oil can have a negative impact on heart health.

Refined Sugar

white sugar, barley malt, beet sugar, brown rice syrup, brown sugar, cane juice crystals, cane sugar, corn syrup, confectioner’s sugar, fructose

Refined Grains

white flour, white rice, quick cook oats

Protein Isolates

soy protein isolate, pea protein isolate, seitan


soda, fruit juice (even 100% pure fruit juice), sports drinks, energy drinks

“The epidemic of chronic, degenerative disease that is sweeping the western world can not only be stopped, it can be reversed. The power lies in the hands of the consumer, in the choices we make about what to put on our plates.”

—Dr. T. Colin Campbell

Learn more about the science behind the lifestyle with the groundbreaking research in The China Study.

Some of the most important health decisions you make will be in the grocery store. In a perfect world, we'd all go right out to our garden and just pick our fruits and vegetables. While that is not the reality for most of us, it is not hard to find healthy and nutritious foods at your local market.

Watch a grocery store walkthrough with Dr. Tom Campbell or check out our Plant-Based Shopping Guide

Watch a grocery store walkthrough with Dr. Tom Campbell or check out our Plant-Based Shopping Guide


Kate McGoey-Smith

“Fifteen months later, my eyesight was fully restored, I was off the lung-transplant monitoring list, I needed oxygen only at night, and I no longer required any insulin.”

Meg Donahue

“People often call my mother’s recovery a miracle...I believe the miraculous thing may be that so much illness could be avoided if people could only move from foods that hurt to foods that heal.”

Tim Kaufman

“—I completed a 50K, and a 50 mile ultra marathon on some crazy trails. Imagine, I am supposed to be in a wheelchair, and my doctor now refers patients to me for advice! How cool is that?”

Adopting a whole food, plant-based diet is like a marathon, not a sprint. If you are one of the majority of Americans with chronic health problems, you certainly didn’t get yourself into poor health overnight. It can take a good long while to untangle yourself from the habits and patterns you’ve had your whole life. Take into account the inevitable bumps and hurdles along the way. However, as you find foods you like, and you find new habits in shopping and cooking, this will just be a new lifestyle.

Next Steps

Try our free mini-course

Over 30 minutes of free online learning for whole food, plant-based (WFPB) beginners

Learn more

Become a plant-based authority

Take Your Knowledge to the Next Level with the Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate.

Learn more