Whole Foods Diet
Many Americans rely on processed food to make up or supplement their diets. In fact, a recent study found that ultra-processed foods make up almost 60% of the total number of calories a typical American consumes on any given day. Relying on overly processed foods to supply the majority of our calories is leading to alarming rates of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
So, what are we supposed to be eating to stay healthy? Most nutritionists and doctors agree that a whole foods diet is the best way to ensure we are getting balanced nutrition from our meals. But what exactly is a whole foods diet?
As Michael Pollan, now famously, wrote in a 2007 article for the New York Times Magazine, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.“ We need to focus on a healthier diet that is based on eating fruits and vegetables. A whole foods diet is one where you eat whole, unrefined or minimally refined foods. Most of the foods you eat should be vegetables, but incorporating unprocessed meat, dairy, egg, and whole grain products is an important part of maintaining a balanced diet. What this means is that your food should be as close to its natural state as possible when you consume it.
When eating a whole foods diet, it is important to choose whole grains over processed white flours, whole fruits and vegetables, nuts, and low-fat dairy products. A whole foods diet is not a strictly limiting diet, it is best described as making smarter choices when eating. Instead of reaching for a bag of salty chips, try vegetables dipped in homemade hummus for a healthy snack.
Not only will eating whole foods keep you healthy, it will also help keep you from overeating. Overly processed foods tend to contain fillers and additives to keep them shelf stable, and typically lack the nutrition we should be getting from the foods we eat. By eating whole foods, we are getting fiber, vitamins, nutrients, and much more that our bodies need to thrive. Not only are food additives causing us to give up much of the nutrition in our food, they are also leading to chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
The salt and sugar content alone in many processed food items make up for a huge percentage of the recommended daily values. Much of the salt and sugar in our diets comes from processed foods and foods we do not prepare ourselves. When we prepare our own meals, we are able to see and control the amount of sugar and salt we are adding, and, therefore, are able to make adjustments.
When shopping for groceries, stick to the outer aisles of the store, avoiding the center aisles where the overly processed food lives. Making weekly trips to your local farmer’s market is a great way to get fruits and vegetables directly from the source.
Following a whole foods diet is all about making good choices, a diet full of fruits and vegetables with unprocessed meat, dairy, egg, and whole grain products is best for overall health and nutrition. Avoiding the over-processed foods found on grocery shelves and swapping them for whole foods is the key to living a healthy life.
- Kaplan, Karen. “What’s wrong with the American diet? More than half our calories come from ‘ultra-processed’ foods.” Los Angeles Times. The Lost Angeles Times, 10 March 2016. Web.