The Health Benefits of Whole Foods and 5 Ways to Add More Whole Foods to Your Diet
Whole foods eating focuses on consuming foods as close to their natural state as possible.
Whole food eating means consuming foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. This means eating foods like lean meats, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains and avoiding processed foods that contain added ingredients.
Making sure you’re eating as many whole foods as possible, also known as ‘clean eating’, is a great way to maximize the nutritional value of your meals because unprocessed or minimally processed foods retain their fiber and beneficial phytochemicals and nutrients that are often removed from processed foods.
Simply put, your body knows what to do with natural foods and can easily digest them and efficiently use their nutrients for improved health and weight loss.
Whole Foods vs. Processed Foods
Whole foods generally don’t have a list of ingredients, or if they do, the list is short. They usually come with minimal packaging or none at all and are typically found around the perimeter of the grocery store. The inside aisles of the store is where you find most processed foods that are not healthy.
Dairy is considered a whole food if it’s full-fat or whole-milk dairy with no added sugars and minimal processing. Whole milk, whole milk yogurt, and real butter (80% butterfat or higher) are considered whole food dairy products.
Eggs fall into the category of whole foods. If you can, it’s best to buy free-range, ‘pasture-raised’, or organic eggs because the hens that lay the eggs are managed in a healthy and humane way. If you aren’t able to buy this type of eggs though, don’t worry you will still be eating healthy with regular eggs.
Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, steel-cut oats, and barley are also whole foods. Watch out for items that look healthy but have added ingredients like sugar, salt, and ‘natural flavors’. Many premade or boxed rice blends and oatmeal fall into this category. Make sure you read the labels and stay away from items with a long list of ingredients.
But anything that has been altered from its original state has been processed. This includes most prepared and ready-to-eat foods, refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, pizza dough, and cereals, and foods with added sugars.
Fat free or low fat dairy is another good example of processed foods. Your body needs the fat in dairy products to properly process the naturally occurring fat. Other things to look out for are items that have a very high percentage of protein. In many cases, these items have added whey protein which is a processed form of protein. If you get used to reading labels while shopping, you will be able to spot the foods you want to leave on the shelf.
A number of studies suggest a relationship between the intake of ultra-processed foods and the prevalence of obesity. This is why GOLO suggests avoiding these types of foods as much as possible.
What are the Health Benefits of Whole Foods Eating?
Similar to the benefits of eating a plant-based diet, whole foods eating can have a positive impact on your overall health.
Whole foods are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial nutrients. Foods in their natural state also tend to be low in sugar. While natural sugars are found in fruit and some dairy products, these sugars keep your body healthy, provide fast yet stable energy, and keep your metabolism stable. Fruit is also high in fiber and water, which can aid in digestion and weight management.
Whole foods tend to be heart-healthy, high in healthy fats, help maintain your digestive system, contain beneficial antioxidants, and may help reduce the risk of disease.
Plus, whole foods can also be helpful when it comes to losing weight. Healthy, whole foods make you feel full, are nutrient-dense, and are generally lower in calories. Whereas heavily processed foods are both high in calories and have little, if any, nutritional benefit or satiety factors that inform your brain to stop eating.
5 Ways You Can Add More Whole Foods to Your Diet
Eat more fruits and veggies:
Fruits and vegetables are a staple to eating whole foods. There are a lot of health benefits to eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Fresh or frozen produce have equal health benefits and are the best choice. The more ways you can find to include them in your diet, the better.
Read food labels
Foods with a long list of ingredients, especially ones that are hard to pronounce or you simply don’t recognize, should be avoided when eating a clean diet.
Some nuts and seeds may have added salt to them. It is best to buy raw unsalted nuts if possible, but if you can’t find them just be sure to steer clear of ones that were roasted in unhealthy oils like vegetable oil.
Add whole grains, beans, and lentils to your diet
Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, lentils, beans, and whole wheat bread are typically low in fat, contain no cholesterol, help with digestive health, and are high in nutrients like folate, potassium, iron, and magnesium.
Drink plenty of water
One of the biggest sources of added sugar come from sugary drinks. Just like processed foods, they’re full of calories and have no nutritional benefit. This is why it’s encouraged you replace these sugary drinks with water.
Staying hydrated has loads of health benefits and keeps you feeling full.
If you find that water lacks the flavor you love about sugary drinks, try infused water!
Be mindful of meat and dairy
Meat and dairy provide protein and healthy fats to your diet. But be sure to check labels. Some meats may come pre-seasoned or marinated with ingredients that aren’t necessary. If you can, buy meat, fish, and poultry as is and season it at home.
The same goes for dairy. Read your labels and always buy full fat dairy vs. reduced or non-fat dairy.
How can GOLO Help You Eat a Whole Foods Diet?
Whole foods are a staple of the GOLO for Life Plan. By adhering to your GOLO Smart Card, you can create delicious and healthy meals that help you eat clean and improve your overall health.
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