What is a whole foods diet?

How to get started?

Selecting, preparing, and eating foods close to how they are found in nature: unprocessed; unrefined; and free from preservatives, additives, pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones.

Why is it important to eat a whole foods diet?
The health of the gut is essential to the health and well-being of the entire body (and mind!). The numerous alterations made to the foods that many Americans consume are deleterious to our health. Our diets are behind the rise of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and other systemic inflammatory diseases. Many other diseases such as depression, arthritis, colitis, osteoporosis, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome are also linked
to diet.

  1. Processed, Refined, and Packaged
    Opt for food that is unprocessed and unrefined. This type of
    preparation removes essential nutrients from the food. That is
    why white flour must be “enriched”- because refining the flour
    removes all the vitamins and minerals that were originally in the
    Packaged food is laden with unnatural additives and
    preservatives. One tip is to do most of your shopping on the
    perimeter of the supermarket. That’s where you’ll find fresh,
    non-packaged foods. The frozen section is also good for fruits
    and vegetables.
  2. Organic
    Certified organic foods are free from pesticides and herbicides.
    These chemicals are ubiquitous in our environment today, and
    most of them remain untested as to their effects on human and
    animal health.
    The most important category of foods to buy organic is animal
    products. Non-organic butter has become the leading source of
    PCB’s in our country. Animal fat becomes a repository of many
    toxic agents.
    Organic meat and dairy should be free from antibiotics and
    hormones. Antibiotics are used to prevent disease that is
    rampant in the squalid conditions found in the meat industry.
    Furthermore, antibiotics, like hormones, increase the size of the
    Organic meat should also be free from pesticides and
    herbicides, since the animals ingest organic feed. Therefore,
    by buying organic animal products, you are also supporting
    organic agriculture.
    The Environmental Working Group publishes a list of “The Dirty
    Dozen.” These are the 12 most contaminated and the 12 least
    contaminated fruits and vegetables. The EWG routinely tests
    vegetables for pesticide residues and publishes this list on their
    website: http://www.foodnews.org/walletguide.php. This list
    will help you budget for the most important items in fruit and
    vegetable category to purchase organic.
  3. Fruits and Vegetables
    See above for discussion on organic fruits and vegetables.
    Most people could stand to eat more food from this category. A
    good general rule is, eat something green everyday. Another
    good rule is, eat at least 1 colorful fruit and vegetable every
    When cooking green vegetables, you should try to avoid
    overcooking them, as this depletes their nutrients. Steaming or
    quickly sautéing them is good. If you cook vegetables in water,
    save that water and drink it or put in soup stock. The cooking
    water contains nutrients too!
    First choice for vegetable source is to get them fresh. Second
    choice is frozen, and last place is canned.
    Vegetables that are especially important to consume are dark,
    leafy greens. Also, colorful vegetables like red and yellow
    peppers, beets, tomatoes, etc.
  4. Protein
    Sources of protein include: meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs,
    legumes, tofu, tempeh, miso, nuts and nut butters.
    There are so many meats to choose from, rather than just the
    standard beef, chicken and pork. Consider trying venison,
    buffalo, ostrich, duck, quail, or rabbit. When choosing beef, be
    sure to get beef that is “grass fed and grass finished.”
    With fish, you have to be careful of contamination with heavy
    metals and other toxins. Avoid farmed salmon, and instead eat
    wild Atlantic salmon or canned salmon, which is also usually
    wild-caught. Tuna, too, is unfortunately highly contaminated.
    You can keep up-to-date on which fish are the safest to
    consume by referring to the Environmental Working Group
    website, www.ewg.org, and using the “Quick Index.”
    Eggs can be an important part of your diet, as long as you are
    not allergic to them. Eggs (along with wheat, milk, and citrus
    among others) are one of the most allergenic foods in our
    country. You should also be sure to purchase organic, cage-free eggs.
    There is a wide variety of legumes from all around the world.
    Look to Indian Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern cuisines for
    ‘exotic’ legume recipes. There are many techniques to reduce
    the gas-promoting qualities of beans: soak beans and toss the
    soaking water before cooking; cook beans with mint, coriander,
    or seaweed.
    Nuts should mostly be eaten raw (except peanuts). Dry roasted
    can be eaten on occasion. Seeds like pumpkin seeds and
    sunflower seeds are also excellent protein snacks.
  5. Carbohydrates
    Reduce the number of refined carbohydrates you consume,
    and instead opt for whole grains. Bread, pasta, many cereals,
    and many cookies are refined carbohydrates. Examples of
    whole grains include whole wheat, bulgur wheat, quinoa,
    couscous, rye, oats, spelt, and amaranth.
    Use brown rice or wild rice instead of white rice.
    White sugar should also be avoided. Alternate sweeteners
    include stevia, honey, barley malt syrup, molasses, fruit juice,
    and date sugar. Go easy on all sweeteners, and you will start
    to appreciate the natural sweetness present in many foods as
    they are, such as rice, carrots, and beets.
  6. Fat
    Fat developed a bad reputation, which it does not truly deserve.
    You may include “good fats” in your diet, such as olive oil (extra
    virgin in best), unrefined high oleic safflower oil, and organic
    unsalted butter.
    Avoid partially hydrogenated and hydrogenated fats, as well as
    trans fats.
  7. Courage and Variety
    With a whole foods diet, you may have to stretch your palate to
    try foods that you’ve never heard of, let alone tasted! Be bold!
    Try buying a vegetable you’ve never seen before and figure out
    how to prepare it.
    Eating a variety of foods is beneficial for two reasons. Variety
    will keep you from getting bored with your diet. Variety is also
    helpful for optimizing your nutrient intake and decreasing the
    chance of developing food sensitivities.
  8. Shopping
    Many large supermarket chains are starting to carry organic
    food in a “natural foods section” and in the produce aisle. Most
    of the time, their prices are comparable to those of local organic
    food co-ops. If your local supermarket does not have organic
    food, give them a list of organic items that you would like them
    to carry.
    There are some national chains of natural supermarkets, such
    as Whole Foods, Sprouts, Sunflowers, Wild Oats, and Trader
    Many communities have local produce co-ops. Also, several
    reputable companies sell organic meat online. One example is
    Daily Blessing Foods: 1-888-862-5785
    When ordering organic meat products through the mail, make
    sure the beef is “grass fed and grass finished.”
  9. Cookbooks
    Here are some excellent cookbooks to help in your new diet:
    a. The Moosewood cookbooks- vegetarian recipes
    b. The Self-Healing Cookbook, by Kristina Turner. Macrobiotic
    philosophy and cooking.
    c. Recipes from an Ecological Kitchen, by Lorna Sass. “Healthy
    meals for you and the planet.”
    d. Healing with Whole Foods, by Paul Pritchard. Oriental
    medical philosophy as it relates to food. Some recipes in the
    back, but mostly a food philosophy text.
    e. Cooking Kosher the Natural Way, by Jane Kinderlehrer.
    Traditional Jewish recipes updated to reflect (Not just for
    those who keep kosher!)
    f. The Garden of Eating, by Rachel Albert-Matesz. Produce based recipes, with lots of protein and few carbohydrates.