It is common belief that whole foods are basically the healthiest food you can get because their natural compositions are neither diminished nor artificially enhanced by added salt, sugar, fat, carbs, chemicals, etc.
Fruits, vegetables, unpolished grains, beans and animal products; any food whose natural form or composition has not been interfered in any way is categorized as a whole food. You can also think of them this way- they are foods that are almost as natural in their making as you can get from the wild. I say almost because there are foods categorized as whole, but are not entirely unprocessed or unrefined. For instance, pasteurization of milk is not considered an unnatural process and, therefore, milk is still a whole food.
Whole Foods Vs. Organic Foods
Whole foods are sometimes confused with organic foods, which actually refer to poultry, meat and dairy products that come from animals naturally without any antibiotic or growth hormone content; fruits and vegetables are considered organic if they have not been treated with pesticides or fertilizers. So not all whole foods are organic, and vice versa.
How Are Whole Foods Healthier Than Processed Foods?
Each and every food naturally contains vitamins, minerals and fibre. When processed, all these natural ingredients are lost, thereby, making the food less healthy than it was in its former natural state. Moreover, processed foods contain artificial colours and flavours, which have a negative impact on the health of a person. Additives and preservatives like salt, sugar, etc. are linked to obesity and high blood pressure and processed foods contain quite a considerable amount of these. The human body can easily break down naturally occurring sugars and sodium but not artificial additives.
A number of studies show that a diet rich in whole foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains reduce the risks of cardiovascular diseases, certain types of cancer and type 2 diabetes.
Besides vitamins, minerals and natural fibre, they also contain phytochemicals or the natural compounds occurring in plants whose multiple significances have been identified and still more yet to be identified. Some of such phytochemicals are antioxidants like flavonoids, carotenoids and lycopene, which are crucial in protecting cells against damage.
Does A Whole Food Diet Help to Lose Weight?
Yes and no. Confused? Well, while whole foods are not directly instrumental in weight loss programs, they indirectly help to maintain weight and help reduce the chance of any weight gain. How, you ask? Now, processed foods, like we mentioned earlier, contain artificial additives and preservatives which the body cannot break down like it can the natural sugars and sodium, thereby contributing to the weight gain of a person.
Hence, if you were to avoid processed foods and instead lean towards whole foods, you would naturally be stacking the odds in your favour when it comes to weight management. Moreover, they contain fewer calories than processed foods and a higher nutrient content. Of course, a 5 minute meal is easier to cook than a proper meal that will definitely likely take your time and effort to prepare and cook; but its also definitely worth it!