Whole food refers to foods that are in their natural state and have undergone minimal processing. They haven’t had anything bad added or anything good taken away. White flour is not a whole food because the bran – containing many of the nutrients – has been removed. Sweet potato chips are not a whole food because oil and salt have been added. Tomato paste and peanut butter have technically been processed but, if you choose the options without added salt and sugar, they are still whole foods.
Choosing whole foods shouldn’t be complicated. Eating foods in a whole, natural state is generally going to offer the most nutrients. If a food doesn’t have a label (such as a broccoli crown) or if the ingredient list on the label includes only one ingredients (a bag of dry black beans), it’s a good sign that it’s a whole food.
Plant-based foods are just that – foods that come from plants. Think vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds. What we choose to eat doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing. If you meet friends once a month at a pizza joint or your grandma makes you a decadent chocolate cake every year for your birthday, you can enjoy these occasions without dramatic consequences. The body has a remarkable ability to quickly recover from small insults. It’s the day-to-day habits that make or break your health.
Based on our research it’s clear that the closer we can get to a whole food plant based diet (and further from the standard American diet) the better. Nutrition professionals have published case studies, population-based research and books demonstrating how significantly this improves health, prevents disease and enhances quality of life. Check out the resources tab for just a sample of the information that’s available.
Interestingly, while all of these nutritional experts promote a whole food plant based diet, some push for 100% adherence while others suggest that 90-95% is just as good as 100%. If you’re consuming 2,000 calories a day, the 90% route translates to 200 calories from processed foods or animal-based foods per day. What might this’ll look like? 2 eggs OR 4 ounces of chicken OR 20 Lay’s potato chips OR 1 cup of Raisin Bran cereal OR 1.75 ounces of cheddar cheese – for the whole day.
At the end of the day, any movement towards eating more plants in their natural state can benefit your health. As Dr. Michael Greger says “we cannot let perfect be the enemy of good.”
Below outlines the foods that fall under the whole food, plant based umbrella.
Acorn squash, apple, apricot, avocado, banana, blackberries, blueberries, butternut squash, cantaloupe, cherry, cranberries, cucumber, currant, date, eggplant, fig, gooseberry, grapes, grapefruit, green pepper, honeydew, jackfruit, kiwi, lemon, lime, mango, okra, olive, orange, papaya, peach, pear, plum, pomegranate, raspberries, red pepper, strawberry, tomato, watermelon
Artichoke, arugula, asparagus, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, collard greens, corn, herbs, kale, jicama, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard greens, onions, potatoes, rhubarb, radish, spinach, sweet potatoes, water chestnut, zucchini
Adzuki beans, black beans, black-eye peas, cannellini beans, garbanzo beans, green beans, kidney beans, lentils, lima beans, mung beans, navy beans, peanut, peas, pinto beans, split peas, soybeans, white beans
Baby bella, cremini, enoki, morels, oyster, porcini, portabello, shiitake, white button
Almond, brazil nut, butternut, cashew, chestnut, hazelnut, macadamia, pecan, pistachio, walnut
Chia seed, flaxseed, hemp seed, poppy seed, pumpkin seed, sesame seed, sunflower seed
Amaranth, barley, buckwheat, kamut, millet, oats, quinoa, rice, rye, spelt, sorghum, teff, wheat