The term ‘whole food’ is normally applied to vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains with minimal processing, but it can apply to animal foods too.
There has been a real trend towards a whole foods way of eating, and it can be attributed to the fact that food is in its natural form, without the added extras used in processing, is better for our bodies - No one can dispute that!
A 2014 analysis by Yale University consistently found that “a diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention”. The benefits of a whole food or a minimally processed diet can be attributed to the huge array of nutrients you get in their natural form, and that can act together to promote cardiovascular and heart health.
Eating Whole foods is not about restricting what you eat, or applying ‘rules’ to your food. It is also not about eating low fat or low carb. What it IS about, is eating mindfully, and making smart choices!
How to recognise whole foods and include them every day
- Whole foods that are more a product of nature, and less a product of industry.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables are whole foods
- Legumes packed with fibre, protein and…..
- Dairy products including unsweetened yogurt, milk (skim, low fat and whole milk) eggs, and cheese. In contrary to some beliefs, in Australia, full cream milk is not less processed than low fat or skim milk
- When choosing grain based foods, look for whole-wheat or whole-grains. You can usually see the grains, and the more the better!
- Seafood – fresh, local and caught using sustainable practices is preferable. Try to shop locally for seafood if you can rather than in big chain stores where it is often imported and frozen.
- Locally raised meats such as pork, beef, and chicken (and in moderation! 120 grams of red meat is sufficient in a main meal)
- Beverages limited to water, milk, freshly squeezed an unsweetened juices (in moderation), unsweetened coffee & tea, and, to help the adults keep their sanity, wine and beer!
- Snacks like dried fruit, seeds, nuts.
- All natural sweeteners including honey and fruit juice concentrates are acceptable in moderation, and appropriate to cook with.
Doing the Swap!
Eating more whole foods doesn’t mean you need to cut out all processed foods. Sometimes it is just more appropriate to do a swap for something more appropriate.
- Sugary breakfast cereal with a bowl of porridge with banana or berries
- A muesli bar with a handful of mixed nuts
- White bread with wholemeal or wholegrain bread
- Fruit juice with whole fruit
Bonus Advantage of a whole foods diet!
Another advantage of eating mostly whole foods is that it is easier to eat less of the unhealthy fats, such as trans fats and saturated fats, as they are often added to ultra-processed foods and fast food. At the same time, you’ll be boosting the amount of healthier fats you are eating such as omega-3 oils from fish, nuts like walnuts, and plants like linseed and chia; and monounsaturated fat from plant sources such as avocado, and nuts such as almonds, cashews and peanuts – without even having to think about it!
Written by our friend and Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Accredited Nutritionist Kathryn Hawkins.