Are you looking to shed some pounds for bikini season? Or are you just trying to be healthier? Whatever your reasons, you have many healthy diets to choose from. A whole foods diet is easy to stick with, and it has many health benefits. It might be the right fit for you.
What Is a Whole Foods Diet?
Now, a whole foods diet isn’t about shopping at a certain grocery store chain. And it’s not the same as some other diets with a similar name.
A whole foods diet means you eat more plant-based foods. These foods should be whole, meaning they’re not processed. This diet allows you to pick and choose from all the major food groups, but it emphasizes eating more fruits and vegetables and less meat, eggs, and dairy.1
Following a whole foods diet is easy, because it allows flexibility. Even if you occasionally cheat with an unhealthy snack, you can still enjoy the benefits. You don’t need to count calories or track days. Just make more healthy choices about the ingredients in your food.2
Vegans and Whole Foods
A whole foods plant-based diet has the same focus on whole foods. But it eliminates meat and animal products, like dairy, from your diet. Instead, plant-based protein, like seeds, black beans, and legumes, are part of this diet.3
Beneficial Whole Foods – Which Foods to Eat
Sometimes it’s easy and obvious to tell which foods are processed and which ones are natural. Potato chips aren’t okay. An apple is a great choice. But what about nut butter, or chia seed pudding? Here’s a helpful guide to what you can and can’t eat on a whole foods diet.
This diet isn’t about shutting out one food group or building your plate around one kind of food. It’s about making healthy choices from all the major food groups.
Whole grains fit this diet, but processed grains don’t. So, stay away from white bread, but feel free to indulge in whole-wheat bread and ingredients like seeds, brown or wild rice, and quinoa.4
Vegetables can be broken into two categories. Starchy vegetables include potatoes, squash, and parsnips. Non-starchy vegetables include onions, carrots, and beets. Try to get a mix of non-starchy and starchy vegetables.5
It can be tricky to determine which dairy items are whole and which are processed. Blocks of light-colored cheese are more likely to be natural than shredded or orange cheese. Plain, full-fat yogurt is more likely to be whole than other kinds.6
You can eat meat on a whole foods diet but in moderation. Instead, look for plant-based protein, like chia seeds and walnuts. Chia seeds are loaded with healthy alpha-linoleic acids.7 Plus, plants and seeds often have fewer calories than meat.8
If you stick to foods that aren’t sweetened or processed, you can eat whatever you want on a whole foods diet. You don’t need to force yourself to eat something you don’t like. And since variety is the spice of life, you can flex your culinary muscles, too.
Get Creative with Whole Foods
A diet based on whole fruits, vegetables, and legumes doesn’t mean you have to eat salads every day. Plenty of food pairings work with this diet. So, feel free to jazz up your choices!
- Eating whole foods doesn’t mean that you’re limited to raw veggies and leafy greens. Hummus, unsweetened peanut butter, and oatmeal all contain protein and other whole and healthy ingredients.9
- Whole fruits don’t have to be eaten raw. You can bake your fruits or enjoy applesauce, so long as no sugar or preservatives are added. If you don’t like plain fruit, try dipping fresh fruit slices into some plain yogurt.10
- Make your own guacamole or salsa using fresh avocado, tomatoes, and onions. Or make an omelet with your favorite vegetables. Familiar recipes can be made whole when you cook for yourself!11
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Just stay away from junk food and fatty snacks. And remember that fresh fruit and veggies are good for your body. But what shouldn’t you eat on a whole foods diet?
Avoid These Foods
It might be tempting to sneak an unhealthy snack here and there. You already know that’s not a good idea if you’re following a whole foods diet. But you may be surprised about some foods that aren’t whole or unprocessed.
Olive and Coconut Oils
You may have heard of the health benefits of olive oil and coconut oil. But the process of turning healthy olives and coconuts into oil strips these foods of their nutrients. Plus, they’re still high in calories. Enjoy these in moderation, and eat whole olives or coconut instead.12,13
Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners
Following a whole foods diet means cutting out sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. They’re high in calories and can make you gain weight. Artificial sweeteners aren’t great, either. Stay away from anything that includes sugar or artificial sweeteners. Instead, you can enjoy the natural sweetness of fruits.14
Processed foods can be tricky. Double-check labels on “health” foods to ensure that preservatives haven’t been added. Also, stay away from anything pre-prepared. The easiest way to avoid additives is to buy raw ingredients and cook for yourself.15
Switching to a diet of whole foods may involve some sacrifices. But the trade-off lies in all the benefits to your body. Trade out olive oil for water, broth, or pureed vegetables and kiss empty calories goodbye. You’ll thrive with a more holistic diet plan!
Why You Should Eat a Whole Food Diet
You know you should eat fewer processed foods. They’re full of ingredients that are bad for your health and well-being. And they’re often loaded with calories that make it harder to lose weight.
Instead, have more fruits and vegetables by following a whole foods diet. Here’s a breakdown of how this diet can help your body.
1. They Help You Shed Pounds
If you’re trying to lose weight, the foods in this diet can help you slim down without leaving you hungry all the time.
Processed foods can be addictive. By cutting junk food from your diet, you can train yourself to crave healthier options. Raw foods encourage you to eat less and feel fuller, even when you eat fewer calories.16
Whole foods are high in fiber. Fiber helps you feel full, which means you eat less.17
Plants and whole foods are nutrient-dense. They fill you up better than other foods, even some foods with more calories. And they don’t leave you hungry between meals.18
Eating fresh foods can help boost your overall health and help keep your blood sugar levels stable.19
When you eat whole foods, you can eat less, feel fuller, and still lose weight. Even if you don’t need to drop pounds, whole foods have other health benefits.
2. They Make Your Body More Efficient
Your body chemistry has a delicate balance. And when you eat a natural and healthy diet full of whole foods, your body can work better.
Antioxidants and Vitamins
Whole foods are full of vitamins and antioxidants, which help make your body more resilient. They also boost your overall health. Processing foods tends to strip natural nutrients, making them less nutritious.20
Certain nutrient-rich foods complement each other well. Whole foods are naturally packed with these complementary vitamins and minerals. Those foods have more benefits than foods that are vitamin and nutrient-fortified.21
Healthy Fatty Acids
A whole foods diet includes fish, nuts, and eggs, which are full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. The diet cuts out processed foods, which are often high in unhealthy omega-6 acids. The balance of these fatty acids is a big key to maintaining a healthy body.22
Following a whole foods diet can help your body work better. Who knew a diet change could have so many impacts?
3. They Boost Your Appearance
Along with the other health benefits, this diet can play a role in helping to improve your appearance and your smile.
Switching from processed foods to a plant-based diet may help improve the appearance of your complexion.23
Eating more fish, vegetables, and fruits may help reduce the appearance of wrinkles. A diet of whole foods is rich in antioxidants and healthy fats, which can help boost skin hydration and elasticity.24,25
This diet may make your smile healthier. It’s low in sugar, which means it can help keep your teeth stronger.26
You are what you eat. And with a whole foods diet, you are whole, nourished, and healthy. So, get rid of empty calories from sweeteners and additives. Replace them with nutrient-dense, low-calorie whole foods.
Whole Foods and The Environment
The whole foods diet is good for you, but it also has benefits that extend beyond your own body. Switching to whole foods ingredients may help you do your part to protect the environment.
Reduce Your Environmental Footprint
Did you know that meat production and artificial food processing both contribute to pollution? Plant-based eating means you aren’t buying products with a large environmental footprint.27 In fact, this diet will generate 70% fewer greenhouse gasses than a traditional diet.28
Help Preserve Freshwater Resources
Animal products like meat, eggs, and dairy have a massive water footprint. Ground beef uses about five times more water than an equal amount of vegetables!29 Potato chips use four times more water than the same weight in potatoes.30
Cut Down on Waste
Junk food is often sold in packaging made of cardboard, plastic, or aluminum foil. This processed foods packaging often ends up in landfills. If you can eat more loose grains and produce, you can cut the amount of waste you generate.31
Health nuts and eco-warriors can agree: A diet of plant-based protein is a great way to enjoy more leafy greens and fresh veggies while helping the environment.
Building a Whole Foods Meal
You might be reluctant to start a diet if you’re not excited about a meal plan of raw fruits, lean meats, and salads. But plant-based eating doesn’t mean you can’t experiment in the kitchen. The internet is full of recipes that use whole foods to satisfy meat-eaters and vegans alike.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables can be the cornerstone of your diet. Sliced fruits and chopped up vegetables make a quick, healthy snack. Steamed vegetables, or a salad of leafy greens, can be a tasty side dish. Fruit can give you a burst of sweetness for dessert – without the added sugar.
- Carbs aren’t your enemy, especially when you eat whole grains. Sweet potatoes and whole-wheat bread are filling and healthy. Whole grains are better for you than their sugary, simple carbohydrate cousins.
- Eat a healthy mix of meats, like fish, and plant-based proteins. There are many nuts, legumes, and beans to choose from. Mix and match to find a filling breakfast, lunch, or dinner that pairs well with your other vegetable and fruit choices.
- When building a meal, or a snack, select at least one of each: vegetables and fruits, carbs, and protein. There are countless tasty and filling combinations of these three bases. Plus, you don’t need to worry about counting calories or following confusing schedules.32
Is your mouth watering? Flavor doesn’t have to mean ingredients like unhealthy fats or high-fructose corn syrup that are loaded with calories. That’s right, a meal plan can be full of fresh fruits and vegetables and still be delicious!
Whole Foods for a Whole You
The whole foods diet isn’t just a fad or a trend. It’s an accessible, easy-to-follow meal plan that involves plant-based eating. And eating more fruits and veggies can play a major role in improving your health. Give this plant-based diet a try to get a taste of its health benefits.
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