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Making Sense of Foods

Understanding “Whole Foods:”Advantages of Whole Plant Foods

Numerous studies have demonstrated the health advantages of a diet based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes left in as natural a state as possible.

These advantages include:

  • Whole foods are rich in phytochemicals—powerful nutrients found in plant foods.
  • Compared with processed foods, whole foods contain more vitamins and minerals.
  • More fiber and beneficial fats are found in whole foods.
  • The combinations of nutrients in whole plant foods act synergistically to protect us from disease.

Processed Foods

Many foods are processed in some way before they reach our plates. Some  need some processing to be edible and nutritious. Imagine chewing on a raw artichoke or dried kidney beans. Processing of foods can also slow spoilage and enable easy storage. Freezing the abundance of fruits and vegetables after the summer’s harvest allows people to continue to have fruits and vegetables available into the winter.

However, highly processed foods such as potato chips, candy, sodas, hotdogs and snack pastries, pancake mixes, and even many breakfast cereals lack the health benefits of whole foods, such as potatoes, carrots and apples. Heavy processing often depletes or removes health–giving nutrients and concentrates fat, salt, and sugar.

Consider some of these reasons to favor unprocessed foods:

  • Processed foods contain more additives and preservatives and are often high in sodium.
  • Processed foods may contain artery–clogging hydrogenated oils.
  • Processed foods may contain hidden allergens posing a threat to people with food allergies.
  • Some processed foods are loaded with sugar—soft drinks, candy, sugary cereals, baked products, frozen desserts, etc.
  • High–calorie, low–fiber processed foods contribute to overeating and weight gain because you don’t feel full as quickly as with high–fiber whole foods. 


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