By Jake Biggs, Nutrition Longevity
What is a whole foods diet?
A whole foods diet is foods that are as close to nature as possible. The foods do not have added sugars, starches, preservatives, additives, flavourers or manufactured ingredients. The foods are not produced in a factory (processed foods) but instead in its raw and natural state. In the mainstream media it has been known as “clean eating”. A whole foods diet also gives strong attention to food quality promoting locally sourced fresh foods. It primarily focuses on plant based foods but does not exclude animal products. Consuming a whole foods diet will result in a far superior nutritional profile with higher dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals.
What foods are part of a whole foods diet?
· Fruits: Berries, citrus fruits, bananas, pineapple, grapefruit etc.
· Vegetables: Kale, spinach, broccoli, capsicum, onion, lettuce etc.
· Starchy vegetables: Sweet potato, brown rice, quinoa etc.
· Whole grains: Rolled oats, wholewheat bread, wholemeal pasta etc.
· Healthy fats: Extra virgin olive oil, salmon, coconut oil etc.
· Legumes: Chickpeas, lentils, garbanzo beans etc.
· Seeds: Pepitas, sunflower seeds, chia seeds etc.
· Nuts: Brazil nuts, cashew nuts, pistachios, macadamia nuts etc.
· Nut butters: Almond butter, cashew nut butter, peanut butter etc.
· Unsweetened plant based milks: Almond milk, cashew milk, oat milk etc.
· Spices, herbs & seasonings: Basil, turmeric, black pepper etc.
· Condiments: Salsa, soy sauce, lemon juice etc.
· Plant-based protein: Tofu, tempeh, lentils etc.
What foods to avoid with a whole foods based diet?
· Fast food: Hot chips, burgers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets etc.
· Added sugars and sweets: White sugar, sugar based cereals (coco pops), doughnuts, pastries, cookies, muffins etc.
· Refined grains: White rice, white pasta, white bread, white bagels etc.
· Packaged foods: Chips, white crackers, frozen dinners etc.
· Processed vegan/vegetarian-friendly foods: Plant-based meats eg: tofu based sausages, vegan sausages etc.
· Artificial sweeteners: Splenda, equal, xylitol etc.
· Processed animal products: Bacon, beef jerky etc.
Are animal protein sources included in a whole foods diet?
YES – ABSOLUTELY! Ensuring purchasing from a quality health foods store or ideally locally produced farms.
· Eggs: Free range, organically produced
· Poultry: Free range, organically produced
· Beef/Pork: Pastured or grass fed
· Seafood: Wild caught from sustainable fisheries
· Dairy: Organic dairy products from pasture-raised animals
What are the health benefits of a whole foods diet backed up by scientific literature?
1. Weight loss: A whole foods based diet is high in dietary fibre. A review of 12 studies A review of 12 studies that included in excess of 1,100 individuals found that those designated to plant-based diets lost substantially more weight — approximately (2kg) over an 18 week time frame, than those designated to non-vegetarian diets.
2. Heart disease prevention : A sizeable study in over 200,000 individuals found that those who followed a nutrient dense plant-based diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, legumes and nuts had a substantially reduced risk of developing heart disease than those following non-plant-based dietary intakes.
3. Cancer prevention: A study in excess of 69,000 individuals concluded that vegetarian diets were correlated with a substantially reduced risk of gastrointestinal cancer. Furthermore, Another study in 77,000 individuals found that those who pursued vegetarian diets had a 22% reduced risk of developing colorectal cancer than non-vegetarian consumers.
4. Cognitive decline prevention: Whole foods diet are rich in fruit and vegetables (high in antioxidants) which can help reduce or essentially prevent cognitive decline, cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. A review of nine studies including in excess of 31,000 individuals found that eating more fruits and vegetables led to a 20% decrease in the risk of acquiring cognitive impairment or dementia.
5. Diabetes prevention: A research study in excess of 200,000 individuals ascertained that those who followed a healthy plant-based dietary intake had a 34% reduced risk of developing diabetes than those who followed nutrient devoid, non-plant-based diets. Furthermore, whole foods diet has been shown to improve blood glucose management in individuals with type II diabetes.
As soon as I meet a new client, I provide immediate nutritional education on incorporating a whole foods based diet as a primary principle for daily dietary intake. I want my clients to be as healthy as possible and a whole foods diet has been shown to provide an incredible nutritional profile that is abundant in micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). I for one strongly advocate for a whole foods diet!
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