What to Eat on a Whole Foods Diet

Grain Bowl with Peanut Sauce
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Different people will talk about whole foods in different ways, but usually, they are referring to foods which:

  • Remain close to their state in nature
  • Do not have additives such as sugars, starches, flavorings, or other manufactured ingredients.
  • Are not primarily produced in a factory; in this way, they are the opposite of processed foods.
  • Because they are not manufactured, they are not manipulated to be addictive.

Choosing whole foods will provide a more nutritious diet and one that is probably higher in fiber. If you are eating within the amount of carbohydrate that is right for your body, eating whole foods can provide an optimum diet. Whole foods are also sometimes referred to as "real foods."

Examples of Whole Foods vs. What Are Not Whole Foods 

  • Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and beans are whole foods. Fruit Rollups, fruit drinks, "bean chips" and soy sausages are not.
  • Milk is a whole food, while processed cheese is not (regular cheese is minimally processed, with the "processing" caused mainly by bacteria, molds, etc.).
  • A grilled chicken leg is a whole food, while a chicken nugget is not.
  • A potato is a whole food, while a flavored potato chip is not.
  • Corn on the cob is a whole food, while corn flakes or anything that includes high fructose corn syrup or other molecules derived from corn is not.
  • Brown rice, quinoa, and barley are whole foods. Products which include refined carbohydrates or processed grains such as puffed rice, brown rice syrup, or anything made with white flour are not.
  • Anything with added sugars, including anything from the list of hidden sugars, is not a whole food (honey is arguably an exception).

For those who like to be picky, there are some contradictions and questions. Examples:

  • Is olive oil a whole food? Most would say "yes," even though it has been separated from the original olives.
  • Is low-fat and fat-free milk a whole food, even though at least some of the natural fat has been stripped away? Must milk be raw to be considered "unprocessed?" Some would say "yes," and they have evidence that raw milk is more nutritious, but most would say "no."
  • Does grinding grains into flour make them less "whole?" (They are certainly more glycemic, and lose their resistant starch.)
  • Are canned beans "processed"? (Again, they are more glycemic than beans you soak and cook yourself.)

For the most part, I try not to ask the picky questions but to keep veering more and more towards whole foods as time goes on.

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