According to Merriam Webster the term whole food means “a natural food; especially an unprocessed one such as a vegetable or fruit.” While there’s no official criteria for a whole food diet, most would agree that it consists of minimally processed food as close to its natural state as possible. Experts agree this is a smart way to eat as it encourages nutritious options from all the food groups.
At Healthy Gourmet we are proud to prepare our meals using all-natural ingredients and without artificial preservatives. Consequently, our meals are packed with the nutrients and taste that nature intended and do not have added sugars, starches, flavorings, or other manufactured ingredients. In this way, we believe that Healthy Gourmet’s approach to preparing meals is as close to whole food as we can make it. What are some examples of whole food, why should we eat them and how can we incorporate them into our diet?
What is a Whole Food?
While some whole food diets are plant based, others can include meat, poultry, dairy and fish, provided that it is minimally processed. In fact, whole food can mean produce of any kind:
- Fresh vegetables such as leafy greens, carrots, avocados, radishes, cucumbers, squash, and sweet potatoes
- Fresh or dried fruit such as apples, pears, oranges, watermelon, tomatoes, grapes, and bananas
- Dairy products without added sugar or chemical flavorings such as plain greek yogurt
- Meat, poultry, and fish that is baked, roasted, grilled, or boiled
- Legumes, nuts, and products made from them such as hummus and nut butter as long as it’s made without added sugar, unhealthy fats, or chemicals
What isn’t a whole food?
By definition, a processed food is a food item that has had a series of mechanical or chemical operations performed on it to change or preserve it. Processed foods are those that typically come in a box or bag and contain more than one item on the list of ingredients.
- Anything with too many ingredients, chemical ingredients, or ingredients that you can’t pronounce
- Most foods out of a box (e.g. rehydrated mashed potatoes, crackers, or cookies)
- Most prepared meals in the freezer isle
6 Reasons to Eat Whole Foods
According to nutrition experts there are at least six reasons we should eat more whole foods:
In the past 10 years, scientists have identified hundreds of biologically active plant-food components called phytochemicals (or phytonutrients). They include the powerful antioxidant lycopene, a red-colored carotenoid found mainly in tomatoes; anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant that gives deep blue color to berries; and pterostilbene, which appears to turn on a “switch” in cells that breaks down fat and cholesterol, and is found in blueberries and the Gamay and Pinot Noir varieties of grapes.
According to national survey results published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, almost a third of us get too little vitamin C; almost half get too little vitamin A. Likewise, more than half get too little magnesium; and some 92% to 97% get too little fiber and potassium. However, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), these particular nutrients help lower the risk of our major health problems: cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
When you eat a diet made up mostly of whole foods, it’s easier to decrease the bad-for-you fats (trans fats and saturated fats) often added to processed foods and fast food. At the same time, it’s easier to emphasize the “good” fats (omega-3s from fish and plants, and monounsaturated fat from plant sources). Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are known as the “good fats” because they are good for your heart, your cholesterol, and your overall health. These fats can help to lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.
While most whole plant foods are rich in fiber; many processed foods, junk foods, and fast foods are not. Fiber helps your health in all sorts of ways. For instance, it keeps the GI tract moving, helps you feel full faster, and it helps fight heart disease and diabetes. Furthermore, eating fiber-rich foods is linked to control of blood sugar, blood lipids (fats), and weight in adults, according to researchers from the Georgia Prevention Institute who recently did a study on whole-grain foods and abdominal fat in teenagers.
Whole foods are as nature made them, without added fat, sugar, or sodium. Eating more of them will help you cut down on calories from the added fats and sugars we get from processed and fast foods.
“Whole grains are rich in a myriad of vitamins, minerals and phytochemical compounds that, alone or in combination, are likely to have significant health benefits that are beyond that from dietary fiber,” notes Simin Liu, MD, ScD, a researcher and professor of epidemiology at the University of California-Los Angeles.
7 Ways to Add Whole Foods to Your Diet
Now that we know what we should be eating, how can we incorporate it into our diet?
Here are some simple steps to take:
- Choose products with 100% whole grains whenever possible
- Replace half the white flour in your baking recipes with whole-wheat flour
- Reduce sweeteners by half
- Eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruits. Try to include them in almost every meal and snack
- Increase beans in your meals and snacks (a great source of plant protein, fiber, phytochemicals, and other nutrients)
- Eat fewer convenience and processed foods (often loaded with added fat, sugar, salt, and additives)
- Choose non-sugary beverages such as water, mineral water, green tea (iced or hot), fresh fruit juice, and skim or soy milk.
Healthy Gourmet believes in the benefits of whole food. Unlike some of the other brands you see in the grocery store we make sure that our prepared frozen meals are minimally processed and packed with nutrition. Therefore you should feel good about every bite!