Thanks to Whole Foods Market, and an increased focus on eating healthy food, “whole foods” has become a widely recognized term. But what exactly makes a food “whole”, and why does it matter?
Here’s an overview of what whole foods are, how they can make you healthier, and how you can enjoy a diet full of whole foods, whether cooking for yourself or eating out.
Defining Whole Foods
Whole foods are simply foods that have not been processed or refined. They are either natural or close to their natural state, and do not contain additives like salts, fats or other preservatives that are found in processed and refined foods.
Examples of whole foods are fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes such as chickpeas, beans, and lentils, and whole grains such as brown rice, corn, rolled oats, and whole wheat.
The only exception to the rule this rule of whole foods being unprocessed are dairy products. Pasterization is a process that doesn’t affect the nutrients of the food, and so non-homogenised milks, yogurts, and cheeses are also whole.
Boost Your Immune System the Natural Way
Whole foods are great because they are nutritious. Because they are natural or near-natural, they have the highest levels of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Some of them, such as berries and nuts, also contain antioxidants which prevent cell damage and boost the immune system.
Even better, whole foods can help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, as well as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
While many people believe they have to take dietary supplements and vitamins to get all the nutrients they need, nutrients work best in your body when you get them the natural way, by eating whole foods.
It may be time to set down the multivitamin and pick up a carrot instead. It tastes a lot better anyway.
Working Whole Foods into Your Diet
You don’t have to go to Whole Foods Market to get whole foods.You can find fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains at any grocery store, or even grow them yourself. And while whole foods have the reputation of being expensive, that isn’t always the case.
You can also find minimally processed packaged foods at the store, such as cooked whole foods like beans and tomatoes, frozen fruits and vegetables, and non-homogenized dairy products. It’s best to choose foods without any added salt, sugar, or oil.
While whole foods are more expensive than processed foods, they may actually save you money in the long run. Those who eat whole foods regularly are healthier, and have fewer medical expenses.
Be aware some whole foods have a shorter shelf life than processed foods, which contain preservatives to make them last longer. Fresh fruit won’t last as long as dried fruit, but it’s better for you.
It’s easier to find whole foods in grocery stores than in restaurants, but with a little effort, you can also eat whole foods when eating out. Look for these dishes:
- Breakfast egg dishes such as scrambled eggs
- Side items such as baked potatoes, vegetables, beans, fruit or brown rice
- Simple soups
If you’re eating out with children, avoid the kid’s menu, which is usually processed foods or dishes made with processed ingredients, such as pasta from white flour, factory-made chicken nuggets, or French fries. Rather, look at what dishes from the regular menu your child may enjoy, or put together a plate of adult side items, such as baked potatoes and beans.
Whole foods are delicious and nutritious. Whether cooking at home or eating out, start incorporating more whole foods into your diet and you’ll feel healthier in no time.