Whole Foods are plant based foods that are unrefined and unprocessed as little as possible before being consumed. These foods include whole grains, tubers, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. Lean meats, fish, nuts, oils and some dairy products can also be considered Whole Foods where minimally processed.
Benefits of eating Whole Foods include:
- rich in photochemicals
- nutrient dense retaining most of its vitamins and minerals
- contain more fiber
- contain beneficial healthy fats
- generally lower in calories
To retain as much nutrients as possible eat fruits, vegetables and nuts raw. Minimally cook all other foods by steaming, baking or quick sauté to avoid loss of nutrients in the cooking process.
Processed foods are foods that go through a process to change or preserve it including cooking, canning, freezing, blending or packaging. Foods can be very minimally processed and also heavily processed.
We process our own foods whenever we cook, blend, cut or change them in any way. These can be considered less processed than the pre-packaged meals we find in stores. Most packaged foods and frozen meals are highly processed and should be avoided where possible.
Disadvantages of processed foods include:
- loss of important vitamins and minerals
- contains more additives and preservatives
- contains added sodium and sugars
- contains less fiber
- higher in saturated fats and calories
Not all processed foods are bad for you. Processed foods can be necessary where fresh is not available and can be healthy to include with your Whole Foods.
Some healthier processed foods to include:
- frozen vegetables or fruits
- canned vegetables or fruits packed in its own juice with low sodium and no added sugars
- vegetable and fruit juice with low sodium and no added sugars
- whole grain pastas and bread
- whole grain cereals with low sugar and fat
- plain yogurt
- healthy oils such as coconut, olive oil, avocado, sesame
Unhealthy processed foods to avoid:
- high fat and calorie chips, bagged snacks and cereals
- baked goods such as cookies and cakes
- ice cream
- frozen, packaged and canned meals
- artificially sweetened foods
- processed deli and lunch meats
- sweetened yogurt
- white bread
- deep fried foods
- sweetened drinks and juices
- processed cheese
As you can see Whole Foods are by far the better choice giving you a more nutrient dense option. To keep foods as whole as possible eat them in their natural state with minimal cooking time. Eliminate or minimize all unhealthy processed packaged foods. Use whole food options first and mix in healthier processed options where needed.