We’ve all heard of whole foods and their nutrient-packed super powers. Even though a whole foods diet seems a bit mystical, it is as simple as incorporating more foods in their natural form to your diet.
“It seems more complicated because we often think we have to go to a whole foods store, but whole food choices are available everywhere,” says Karen Sprick, lead clinical dietitian with Hillcrest Medical Center.
“It’s as simple as eating a piece of fruit instead of drinking a cup of juice.”
“Eat the basics,” explains Sonja Stolfa, a registered and licensed dietitian with Saint Francis Health System.
“Choose fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fresh meats. Avoid the processed stuff.”
A diet rich in unprocessed or minimally processed foods provides many health benefits, says Stolfa. Typically, food in its natural state is lower in calories and sugars, higher in fiber and a good source of healthy fats. Whole foods are nutritionally dense and contain high concentrations of antioxidants and numerous other phytochemicals that combat your risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes, agree Sprick and Stolfa.
“Eating more whole foods can reduce headaches, allergies, gastrointestinal problems and some autoimmune diseases,” explains Stolfa. “It helps with weight management by getting rid of a lot of empty calories.”
“It addresses your whole health,” adds Sprick.
Incorporating whole foods into your day is easy. Start your day with a piece of fruit and a bowl of whole grain cereal.
“Shop the perimeter of your supermarket,” advises Stolfa. “Challenge yourself to try something new. People who have a wide variety of foods in their diet are healthier.”
“And, are less likely to fall off the wagon,” adds Sprick. “Most Americans do not get enough vitamins and minerals.”
Read the nutrition labels. Avoid foods with lengthy ingredient lists, especially foods with partially hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup.
“Your food shouldn’t be made out of 50 ingredients,” says Stolfa.
Look for healthier grain options like 100 percent whole wheat bread.
“Choose breads with whole wheat flour listed as the first ingredient,” recommends Sprick.
You don’t have to limit yourself to exclusively whole foods to see these health benefits.
“Just increase the amount of whole foods and decrease processed foods,” says Sprick.
Money can be an issue when trying to adopt a whole foods diet. Stolfa suggests thinking simple, buying in bulk and shopping locally.
“Convenience foods seem inexpensive but it doesn’t cost a lot to grill some chicken and bake a potato,” says Stolfa. “Buy locally as much as you can. (Local foods) are fresher and better for you.”