What’s the big hype about a whole food diet? Is it really healthy, and how hard is it to achieve?
There’s a lot of confusion surrounding the ‘whole food diet’ as this seems to have become the latest buzzword, and it is also sometimes called ‘clean eating‘.
I’m not sure I really like either of these two terms – for a start I hate anything with the word ‘diet’ in it, because it makes you instantly think of depriving yourself for weight loss. However the original meaning of the word ‘diet’ is just a pattern or style of eating so I guess that is good. As to whether this style of eating is ‘clean’ – I think that is open to interpretation as well.
What is true though, is that your diet will be healthier, if you can increase the proportion of whole foods that you eat, and decrease the amount of processed foods, especially those that are rich in sugar, salt, fat and chemical additives. So a whole food diet is definitely something to aspire to – although I must say that I am in favour of cutting down the processed stuff and eating it in moderation, rather than trying to eliminate it completely.
What exactly are Whole Foods?
Whole food is food that is eaten in its natural state without any processing.
According to Tara Gidus, RD, whole foods are foods “in [their] natural state” that are “intact, with all of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are in the food.” WebMD simplifies it with a helpful example: “it’s the difference between an apple and apple pie, or a baked potato and chips.” Switching to a diet comprising mostly whole foods can improve your overall health.
Some people take the definition of the whole food diet to mean that it must be organic or pesticide free food. Others are using the same label to describe their plant based diet, and clean eating is also sometimes used to describe veganism.
From my perspective the quest for a whole food diet is a journey or a spectrum. It really depends where you are starting from. if you currently eat most of your daily allowance as processed, pre-packaged foods, fizzy drinks and so on, then the first step is to start buying more meat, grains, fruits and vegetables, swapping some of your drinks with water, and cooking more from scratch.
If you have already got to the point where you are cooking a lot, then maybe you want to start looking at organic produce, and possibly to cutting down on the amount of meat and animal products that you eat. That’s completely up to you. But don’t give up on the idea of whole foods just because you are a committed carnivore and you can’t afford organic stuff.
Every little helps…..
Benefits of a Whole Food Diet
So these are some of the reasons why the whole foods movement is gathering steam right now. Here are 10 good reasons why you might want to add whole foods into your diet, and you have to admit, some of these are biggies…..
1) Healthy weight management
Eating a diet rich in whole food eliminates processed and junk food that is loaded with added fat, sugar and calories. Eating clean with whole food allows you to enjoy lots of nutrient dense foods versus energy dense foods (high calorie) and therefore manage your weight, lose weight and eat better on the whole.
2) Improve your mood
Beyond just affecting weight, eating highly processed foods or those with trans fats can have negative effects on your energy, mood, and the functionality of your brain. Eating a diet primarily composed of these foods can cause you to lose energy and become stressed, irritable, or angry. Cutting these foods down and replacing them with whole foods can help to provide you with more energy and improve mood.
3) Lower your risk of heart disease
Replacing highly processed foods in your diet with whole foods can lower your risk of heart disease. By consuming more vegetables, whole grains and fruit, you can introduce more fibre in your diet, which researchers have found to greatly reduce your risk of heart disease.
4) Lower your risk of developing diabetes
A diet rich in grains, fruit, and vegetables can help lower your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, which is at epidemic levels and primarily caused by poor diet and obesity.
In addition to that, eating whole foods can help those who already have Type 2 Diabetes to manage their blood sugar.
5) Strengthen your bones
Your body needs vitamin K, calcium, and magnesium to help nurture your bones. And those nutrients found in whole vegetables absorb into the body faster and enter your system quicker. Vegetables high in these minerals are also a good option for vegetarians that choose not to eat the meat containing these minerals.
6) Easier to eat a balanced diet
Eating a diet rich in whole food makes it easy to eat a well-balanced diet, which promotes good health and vitality.
7) Improve your sleep
Eating highly-processed foods can make it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, and actually get quality rest. Introducing more whole foods into your diet can help you achieve quality sleep each night and wake up feeling well-rested and ready to face your day.
8) Improve skin health
Highly-processed foods and foods high in grease, fats, or sugars can cause your complexion to worsen and can actually cause you to break out more frequently. Introducing more whole foods provides you with key nutrients for all-natural skin health.
9) Increase your energy
Whole foods have all the nutrients you need to thrive and have loads of physical and mental energy throughout your busy days.
10) Lengthen your life
Highly-processed foods aren’t good for you and can, little by little, harm your health, cause obesity and various diet related chronic diseases. Introducing more whole foods into your diet can help to lengthen and improve your life by improving your nutritional profile and therefore greatly improving your health.
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