New diets are popping up all the time and each claiming to be the best form of healthy eating. Research on what actually works can be confusing and even conflicting at times. The reality is, what works will depend on the individual and their health needs. However, most health experts agree that the basic principle of healthy eating is to stick to ‘whole foods’ instead of diets that aren’t sustainable.
So what exactly is ‘whole foods’?
The American College of Nutrition defines ‘whole foods’ as foods that are unrefined or unprocessed, and is as close to its natural form as possible. In other words, foods that don’t come in a box. You’ll be surprised by how much processed foods you might be eating. Try counting how many packaged foods you find in your pantry!
Why whole foods?
Whole foods are the most natural and ‘clean’ way of healthy eating. It contains a high amount of nutrients including antioxidants, fiber, folate, iron, omega-3, protein, and vitamins. Eating whole foods helps to protect our bodies from the aging process and build our immunity against infections. It also aids digestion, increases energy levels, and helps to prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
What whole foods should I eat?
Here are some whole foods that have high nutritional properties:
- Fruits (avocado, berries, grapefruit, green mango, papaya, bananas)
- Vegetables (asparagus, beet greens, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale, green beans, pumpkin…the list is endless!)
- Grass-fed meat, free-range poultry and eggs
- Fish and shellfish (wild over farmed)
- Nuts and seeds (macadamia nuts, coconut, chestnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds)
- Grains, legumes, and pseudograins*
- Coconut water
- Herbal tea
*There is some debate over the nutritional benefits of grains as these and legumes contain anti-nutrients, which inhibit the absorption of nutrients. Pseudograins (e.g. amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, hemp, flax and chia seeds) are the healthiest ‘grains’ of the group and contain more protein and healthy fatty acids. Experts recommend the safest way to consume these is to wash, soak and slow-cook before eating.
Whether your diet is guided by weight loss, disease prevention or healthy eating, whole foods are a natural way of getting nutrients into our system. It’s also the least complicated ‘diet’ to follow. So why not start today?
Written by Leona Tan