What are whole foods?

Whole foods are minimally processed or completely unaltered foods. This means the food is unrefined and in its pure form, just the way it was grown.


According to Wikipedia, these foods are defined as “foods that are unprocessed and unrefined, or processed and refined as little as possible, before being consumed.”

The most common additions to food products involve the use of familiar ingredients, such as salt, carbohydrates, or fat.

Organic foods vs whole foods: The difference

Fruits and vegetables in their organic form are the best examples of whole foods. However, it should be clarified that whole foods are not necessarily organic, just as organic foods are not necessarily whole.

Organic foods are produced and harvested using only organic methods. They are not sprayed with pesticides or any chemicals as part of pre-harvesting process.  The USDA says,

“The principal guidelines for organic production are to use materials and practices that enhance the ecological balance of natural systems and that integrate the parts of the farming system into an ecological whole.  Organic agriculture practices cannot ensure that products are completely free of residues; however, methods are used to minimize pollution from air, soil and water.”

Thus whole, organic foods are unrefined, and are exposed to a minimum of pollution whille being grown.  This combination makes them some of the healthiest food available.

Examples of commonly available whole foods

Unpolished grains, as well as unprocessed poultry, fish and meat are also categorized as whole foods. The non-homogenized milk is also in the whole foods list.

To be more specific on whole grains, the U.S. Department of Food and Drug Administration (USDA) defines whole grains as those that still contain the germ, bran, and endosperm in its harvested form.

Why eat whole foods?

In a Mayo Clinic paper, whole foods are described to have three major benefits over processed foods.

  • One, whole foods provide greater nutrition for being a source of more complex micronutrients. Often, the micronutrients are wiped off during processing, even by peeling of vegetables.
  • Two, whole foods provide essential dietary fiber. This is good for your metabolism and stomach stress.
  • Three, whole foods provide naturally occurring protective substances, such as phytochemicals. Just like the inherent micronutrients in food, phytochemicals are sensitive to processing.

Maximizing the food’s nutrients and naturally occurring healthy substances

When you eat whole foods, you are taking in the maximum amount of nutrients available in the food, eating super foods for your body. You can also be sure that whole foods have the least amount of chemicals infused into it through processing. Whole foods should be part of your healthy meal.

Choosing organic whole foods is also a move in favor of the environment. By discouraging the use of potentially harmful chemicals on food, farmers are encouraged to protect the environment by avoiding too much chemical use on their produce.

Whole foods are wholly nutritious.



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