What is a whole food diet?
A whole food diet means eating real food as close to the way nature provides it as possible. It is eating food that our great grandparents would recognize. Whole food diets consist of whole vegetables in their skins and whole fruits that don’t need packages or ingredients labels because they have only one ingredient. It is meat that is an actual piece of the animal and fish that still has skin attached. These are the bulk of a whole food diet.
A whole food diet is not artificial colors. There are no added sweeteners, especially artificial sweeteners or high-fructose corn syrup. Whole food diets don’t have preservatives, nitrates, nitrites, trans-fats, anti-fungal agents or dough conditioners. There are no chopped, processed and formed “meats” with twenty ingredients. “Processed cheese foods” are not really food and don’t belong in any healthy whole food diet.
Eating a whole food diet means you have to slice, dice and cook. This is not as bad as it sounds. Many great meals can be put together in the time it takes to pull on a pair of shoes, drive to the local burger shack, order, pay, get home again and unpack to eat. And doing it yourself is a lot cheaper, healthier and better tasting. You also know exactly what you are eating and can control how much you are eating.
Why is a whole food diet better?
Whole food diets are the only diets that are proven to keep you healthy, control weight and prevent chronic diseases. Think Mediterranean diet and prevention of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Think Atkins diet and weight loss and maintenance. Think DASH diet for high blood pressure, diabetes and weight control. Think Okinawa diet for overall health and longevity. These are all versions of a whole food diet.
Eating whole foods is better for our health because whole foods are what we evolved to eat. Until the last few hundred years, whole food was all the only thing available to eat. Until the 1800’s there was no readily available crystallized sugar, there was no high-fructose corn syrup, there was no bleached and bromated white wheat flour and there were no artificial preservatives, colors, flavors or conditioners. So it makes sense that eating what our bodies are designed to eat would keep us healthier than eating the modern diet of mostly man-made “foods” that come from factories instead of farms.
A whole food diet can work for anyone
Want to eat a vegan diet? Whole foods are the way to go. Just leave out the fish, poultry, meat,eggs and dairy. Bump up the whole grain, dried beans, nuts and leafy green for plenty of protein. Eat a few extra portions of fermented vegetables for vitamin-B12. Add plenty of seeds for vitamin-E and omega-3 fatty acids. No other adjustments are really needed.
Going to try a fully raw diet for a while? A whole food diet is the only option, vegan or not. There are really no raw processed foods. And you can still probably get enough B12 from fermented vegetables to not need supplements.
Are you thinking about giving the macrobiotic lifestyle a try? This is another variation of a whole food diet. The whole grain brown rice in place of the modern white rice standard adds a huge amount of extra nutrients. There are still plenty of vegetables out there to choose from without the nightshade family.
Whole foods work for hardcore carnivores, too. Eat roasted chicken legs instead of breaded deep-fried “nuggets”. Eat sliced turkey breast instead of processed “turkey loaf” in a plastic bag. Make grass-fed ground chuck burgers instead of buying frozen “pucks” with an ingredients list. Bake a cod filet or mahi steak instead of heating “fish sticks” in the oven. You get the idea.
Can’t live without bread and cheese? Make, or seek out, whole grain sourdough breads and cheeses made from grass-fed, preferably raw milk. Sourdough has a long fermentation time that converts most of the gluten into actual nutrients and the whole grains are a much better choice than white flour(and more satisfying). Grass-fed milk has more vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed milk. Raw milk brings a whole assortment of extra probiotics(good bacteria) to the table and makes richer-flavored cheeses.
Modern factory-made processed foods don’t work for anyone
All of our modern chronic diseases, the ones that are bankrupting the healthcare system and making drug and insurance companies rich, followed closely on the heels of modern processed foods. High blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and obesity started to become common along with added sweeteners, trans-fats, high omega-6 vegetable oils, white flour and white rice. These major health problems are a direct result of a diet high in simple carbohydrates and low in fiber and nutrients. More sugars and simple starches and less fiber, vitamins and anti-inflammatory compounds is not a good combination for the human body.
Other aspects of the modern highly processed diet are also highly suspect. Artificial “no calorie” sweeteners have now been connected to weight gain and a slew of side effects. Common food additives in the US are known carcinogens and have been banned in Europe and other parts of the world for many years. Some artificial colors and flavors have known side effects and are used less because of public pressure, not because of government regulation. We are assured that genetically modified foods are safe because of study results paid for by the companies that make them, but they are banned in most of the rest of the world.
And food manufacturers and advertising agencies spend millions of dollars every year to figure out how to get us even more addicted to simple carbs and sugar. They learned a long time ago that sugar, salt, fat and simple starches produce an irresistible flavor combination for most people. It does not trip our “full” switch, so we can eat a lot more of it. And we will get hungry and want more in just a short time. Continued research and tweaks keep making processed foods even more addictive and less filling and the advertising keeps getting more effective, too. No wonder the world is getting fatter and sicker and the processed food industry is getting richer.
Nobody can stay healthy on a diet of mostly fast-food, microwaved frozen meals, packaged snacks and candies, white bread and donuts. It is just not possible not matter how heavily the flour is “fortified” or how many multi-vitamins and fiber pills you take.
The only sane solution
So just eat a whole food diet. It will keep you healthy. It will drastically cut your chances of developing a chronic disease. It will reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease as you age. You will help keep a few real farmers in business. And you will keep a lot of money in your wallet instead of giving it to giant pharmaceutical and health insurance companies. It doesn’t matter if you are vegan, vegetarian, carnivorous, low fat, high fat or anything in between, a whole food diet will work for you.