Whole foods are as close to their natural or original state as possible. Studies show a diet high in healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains is associated with a reduced risk of diseases, including cardiovascular disease, many types of cancers and Type II diabetes.
So what’s so great about healthy whole foods? Eating whole foods allows you to efficiently fuel an active lifestyle while meeting many of your daily recommended dietary goals. These foods are loaded with fiber, vitamins and minerals. They also contain phytochemicals, the general name for natural compounds in plants that help the body function in various ways. Some phytochemicals are antioxidants, which protect cells against damage. Examples of antioxidant phytochemicals are flavonoids, carotenoids and lycopene.
Let’s take a closer look at whole foods and why you should make them a vital part of your diet.
What are whole foods?
Whole foods haven’t been processed or refined. It also means they’re free of additives, such as colorings and preservatives, that would modify them from their original state.
Are there many whole grains to choose from?
Fruits, vegetables, wheat, oats, beans and rice are common whole foods. Other examples include barley, quinoa, rye and sorghum.
What’s the difference between whole foods and processed foods?
Because whole foods are naturally occurring, this means there’s a natural interaction of the nutrients in the food. This can’t be replicated once you start processing the food. The refinement process causes the food to lose nutrients as well as increases the cost.
How much is enough?
Dietary guidelines released in 2011 recommend all adults eat half their grains as whole grains—at least three to five servings per day.
Examples of servings size
- Half cup of cooked brown rice or other cooked grain, 100 percent whole grain pasta or hot cereal (like oatmeal).
- One slice of 100 percent whole grain bread.
- One cup of 100 percent whole grain ready-to-eat cereal.