What Is Whole Food?
The internet and bookstores abound with thousands of texts offering the best diet advice and touting specific eating plans. What most of these fail to consider is the scientific research and data about nutrition, weight loss, and wellness. Based on thousands of studies and reports from around the world, there is overwhelming consensus about one thing. Those people who eat a diet based on whole ingredients that are fresh and minimally processed are more likely to be healthier and weigh less. That is where whole foods come in.
The Basics of Whole Foods
A whole foods approach to eating focuses on eating things that are as close to their natural form as possible. These are foods that have not been processed, fortified, added to, changed, or recombined in any way. They are natural and simply cooked to showcase their natural nutrients and goodness.
Examples of whole foods include:
• Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables
• Dried fruits without added sugar or other ingredients
• Pasture-raised meat and poultry from animals not treated with hormones, drugs, or other additives
• Nuts and seeds
• Beans and other legumes
• Unsweetened plant-based milk
• Whole grains
• Seafood and fish
• Milk from animals not treated with hormones, drugs, or other additives and who eat a natural diet
• Eggs from pasture-raised birds
• Dairy products without added ingredients
• Spices, herbs, and seasonings
Most people who follow a whole foods approach to eating get their nutrients primarily from plant-based sources but may include animal products for a small portion of their calories. They may combine several whole foods to create a dish, as well.
Eating strictly whole foods excludes many of the convenience, packaged, and prepared foods you find in the grocery stores today, including those that have added ingredients, contain refined sugars or flours, have added salts, or contain chemicals, preservatives, or other added ingredients. Examples of non-whole foods include:
• Crackers, cookies, and baked goods
• Boxed meals
• Fortified foods
• Fast food
• Anything with added sugar
• Frozen dinners
• Artificial sweeteners
• Processed and cured meats
Why Choose Whole Foods?
Whole foods contain the highest concentration of the nutrients your body needs for optimal health. Whole foods contain more fiber, less fat, salt, and sugar, and more of the vitamins and minerals you require to stay active and healthy. When foods are processed, fiber and nutrients are stripped away, and additives you do not need are included, robbing you of valuable compounds your body requires
Examples of Whole Food Swaps
• Instead of drinking fruit juice, eat a piece of fruit
• Instead of reaching for potato chips, eat a baked or roasted potato
• Instead of eating bacon, opt for a piece of grilled pork
• Instead of eating pasta with prepared sauce, eat vegetables topped with tomatoes that are roasted or sautéed
• Instead of drinking sweetened tea, drink green tea or water
The Benefits of Eating Whole Foods
Foods that are whole or minimally processed have more nutrients and fewer calories in general than those that are more processed. When foods are prepared, sugar, salt, and fat are added to increase texture, longevity, and color, which can increase your likelihood of gaining weight, too. People who eat a whole foods diet are less likely to have problems with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other chronic illnesses, as well. Eating whole foods helps you regulate your weight while giving your body the nutrients it needs without the chemicals it does not.
A healthy, balanced whole foods diet includes plenty of variety, lots of fiber, and the right balance of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates that you need to have plenty of energy throughout your day.