Whole foods are those that are not manufactured or processed, remaining as close as possible to the form they took in nature (Dolson, 2021). When you eat an orange instead of drinking sugary orange juice, you’re choosing to consume a whole food. A whole foods diet is not a specific diet plan, but rather a way of eating in which processed foods are swapped for foods in their whole state (Dolson, 2021). A whole foods diet can include many different food groups, including meats, grains, fruits, legumes, cheeses, vegetables, beans, and nuts (Dolson, 2021). There are many advantages to a diet that includes mostly whole foods, yet today, over 75% of the Western diet consists of processed foods (Turomaa, 1994).
If you’re interested in a career as a nutritionist, it will be important to share the benefits of a whole food diet with your clients. Read on to discover the positive impact that a whole food diet can have on our health.
1. Whole Foods Have Higher Levels of Nutrients
Whole foods generally have a greater nutritional value than processed foods, as the refinement process of manufacturing foods tends to remove many nutrients from them (Griffin). Whole foods, on the other hand, contain a whole host of nutrients, including higher levels of fibre, good fats, minerals, vitamins, phytochemicals, and antioxidants (“Clean eating: How to begin a whole foods diet,” 2017). Consumers of whole grain foods have been shown to have better nutrient profiles, with higher levels of vitamins and minerals (Cleveland et. al, 2013) and more vitamins, zinc, magnesium, and selenium (Slavin et. al., 2001). Those in nutritionist school will be interested to discover the key benefit coming from the higher levels of nutrients found in whole foods: a reduced risk of disease.
2. Whole Foods and Reduced Risk of Disease: the Link Students in Nutritionist School Should Know About
Whole foods contain higher levels of nutrients than processed or manufactured foods, and the nutrients they contain have been associated in studies with the prevention of many diseases (Liu, 2012). A whole foods diet has been shown to reduce the risk of developing arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and even depression (“Clean eating: How to begin a whole foods diet,” 2017). Some research reveals that the method of consuming whole foods for reducing the development of chronic disease could be as effective as other treatments, while being significantly less expensive (Liu, 2012).
3. Eating Whole Foods Helps Us to Avoid Additives
When foods are highly processed and manufactured, they often contain food additives (Griffin). Additives are substances that aren’t food, but are added to foods to maintain their quality, taste, or consistency (Turomaa, 1994). Food additives include artificial preservatives—chemical substances which can have a negative impact on our health (Anand, 2013). Nitrates, a form of preservative, have been shown to be linked to Alzheimer’s, Type 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s (Anand, 2013). Diets of high-additive foods have also been linked to malnutrition, as foods containing additives tend to be more calorific, while possessing lower nutrient levels (Turomaa, 1994). By recommending a whole foods diet to clients, nutritionist program graduates can promote a lower consumption of additives, as preservatives are not found in whole foods.
4. Whole Foods Contain Less Fat, Salt, and Sugar
Processed foods containing additives are generally higher in salt, trans and saturated fats, and sucrose (Griffin). Sucrose contains zero nutrients, but packs many calories (Turomaa, 1994), while salt is associated with high blood pressure (Griffin). Excess consumption of these processed salts, sugars, and fats may also contribute to weight gain or in some cases, the harmful physical condition of obesity (Griffin). Processed grains and refined carbohydrates have an inherently higher sugar content (Dolson, 2021). Thus, opting instead for whole grains leads to benefits such as lower total intakes of added sugars, fats, and saturated fats (Cleveland et. al, 2013).
5. A Whole Food Diet Isn’t a Restrictive Diet
While many diets have their respective benefits, a whole foods “diet” is less restrictive than many of those that are marketed for their health benefits (Griffin). There are a range of foods considered to be “whole,” and nutritionists can help their clients to stick to a whole foods diet by choosing from the many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and legumes found at the grocery store. Those following a whole foods diet may also choose to incorporate meat and dairy products that are minimally processed.
Thanks to the wide range of whole foods available, a whole foods diet is not only realistic—but also extremely beneficial in helping to raise the intake of nutrients for the natural prevention of disease. If you’re considering a career as a nutritionist, being aware of the benefits of whole foods will be important as you help clients to reach their health goals.
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Anand, S.P., Sati, N. (2013). Artificial preservatives and their harmful effects: looking toward nature for safer alternatives. International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research, 4(7). Retrieved from https://ijpsr.com/bft-article/artificial-preservatives-and-their-harmful-effects-looking-toward-nature-for-safer-alternatives/#:~:text=ARTIFICIAL%20PRESERVATIVES%20AND%20THEIR%20HARMFUL%20EFFECTS%3A%20LOOKING%20TOWARD,delay%20the%20growth%20of%20bacteria%2C%20yeast%20and%20molds.
Clean eating: How to begin a whole foods diet. (2017). Retrieved from https://shine365.marshfieldclinic.org/wellness/whole-foods-diet-tips/
Cleveland, L. E., Moshfegh, A. J., Albertson, A. M., Goldman, J.D. (2013). Dietary Intake of Whole Grains. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 19. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07315724.2000.10718969
Dolson, Laura. (2021). What is a Whole Foods Diet?. Retrieved from https://www.verywellfit.com/what-is-a-whole-foods-diet-2241974
Griffin, R. Morgan. (n.d.). The Benefits of Healthy Whole Foods. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/the-benefits-of-healthy-whole-foods#1
Liu R.H. (2012). Health Benefits of Phytochemicals in Whole Foods. In: Temple N., Wilson T., Jacobs, Jr. D. (eds) Nutritional Health. Nutrition and Health. Totowa: Humana Press. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-61779-894-8_13
Slavin, J. L., Jacobs, D., Marquart, L., Wiemer, K.. (2001). The Role of Whole Grains in Disease Prevention. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 101(7). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0002822301001948
Turomaa, Tuula E. (1994). The Adverse Effects of Food Additives on Health: A Review of the Literature with Special Emphasis on Childhood Hyperactivity. Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, 9(4), pp. 224-243.