How to Eat More Whole Foods: 5 Easy Ways to Add More Whole Foods to Your Diet, and Why It’s Good for You
Author: Millennia TEA’s Official Science Steeper - Allison Tannis, MSc RHN
You’ve probably been told to eat your veggies before – now, you’re hearing you should eat more whole foods. Change the way you eat for the better by discovering what a whole food is and how to eat more of them. Here are 5 easy ways to add more whole foods to your diet that you can start, today. Yes! It can be easy to eat more whole foods. Plus, check out the astonishing research on why it’s good for you to make a switch to eating more whole foods.
What is a Whole Food?
Whole food is a food that has been processed or refined as little as possible and is free from additives or other artificial substances.
5 Easy Ways to Eat More Whole Foods You Can Start Eating Today
- Bake with Fruit
- Whole Grains
- Plant a Snack on Me
- Think Simple
- Tea leaves
Why Eat Whole Foods? What’s So Bad About Processed Foods?
One could argue that most processed foods don’t actually resemble food anymore – they are so far from the whole food plant they originated from. Processing of foods results in the loss of nutrients and the addition of unhealthy ingredients; preservatives or additional ingredients are added, including unhealthy fats, salt, sugar, and chemicals, to ensure shelf stability. It’s no surprise that scientists have found eating processed food is linked with negative health outcomes: a review of 20 research studies concluded the consumption of ultra-processed foods are associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, obesity, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, cancer, adolescent asthma, and frailty.
What are Processed Foods?
Processed food is any raw agricultural commodity that has been subject to washing, cleaning, milling, cutting, chopping, heating, pasteurizing, blanching, cooking, canning, freezing, drying, dehydrating, mixing, or other procedures.
Are Whole Foods Healthier than Processed Foods?
Here are 4 ways that whole foods are healthier than processed foods:
- Whole foods contain more nutrients: more nutritious.
- Whole foods contain more protein: satisfy you longer.
- Whole foods contain fewer additives: health-promoting.
- Whole foods are more sustainable: better for the planet.
How Do I Start Eating More Whole Foods?
With a few little changes, you can be enjoying the health benefits of eating more whole foods sooner than you may think. Here are 5 easy ways to eat more whole foods:
1. Bake with Fruit
When the mixing bowls are out while your baking in the kitchen, consider swapping some of the sugar in your recipe for fruit. The most famous fruit in baked goods is banana – such as delicious banana bread or banana pancakes. Apple sauce is great in muffins or even cinnamon coffee cake. Avocado can be a substitute for butter in oatmeal cookie recipes. Even some vegetables work well in baked goods – you’ll love recipes with sweet potato or zucchini! Heat up the oven - eating more whole foods can be delicious!
2. Act Refined, Choose Whole Grains
Choosing whole grains instead of refined grains is an easy way to eat more whole foods. Refined grains have been stripped of valuable nutrients, such as the bran (fiber) and germ (B vitamins, vitamin E, phytochemicals, and healthy fats). It’s worth eating more whole grains! Eating more whole grains is associated with lower rates of mortality. There are many unprocessed whole grains to try: amaranth, barley, brown rice, corn, buckwheat, kamut, millet, rye, or spelt. Be food package savvy: a food labeled ‘whole grain’ doesn’t necessarily mean healthy, cautions experts.
4 Simple Ways to Eat More Whole Grains
- Switch to whole grain bread
- Swap half of the white flour for whole wheat flour in your baking recipes
- Cook steel-cut oats for breakfast instead of processed dry cereals
- Try wild rice or quinoa in place of white rice with dinner
3. Plant a Snack on Me
When hunger strikes and you’re searching for a snack, plant a whole food on your plate. From nuts to seeds, fruits to popcorn, there are many tasty, quick, satisfying whole foods you’ll love that are easy replacements for processed snacks, such as cookies, potato chips, or granola bars. Swapping out a sugary granola bar for a handful of nuts, seeds, and an apple, can improve your mood: researchers note eating plant-based foods have even short-term benefits that include improved energy levels and less inflammation. Of note, research has found higher levels of inflammation plays a role in both depression and fatigue.
4. Think Simple
Whole foods are simple and require little preparation. It’s easy to eat more whole foods: a pear needs simply to be washed, as do snap peas, baby bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes. Avocados, mangos, carrots, and radishes are easily ready within a few chops with a knife. Fresh tomatoes with basil create a stunning, flavour-packed salad. Got a few minutes? Broccoli, shiitake mushrooms, and bok choy make an inspired Asian dish after a few minutes in a hot frying pan or wok. Transform a favourite summer salad into a whole food meal with the addition of quinoa. Don’t have time? Buy pre-packaged salad kits or freshly cut vegetables from the market or store. Try to think simple - you’ll find it makes it easier to eat more whole foods.
6. Switch to Fresh Tea
Tea has been considered one of the healthiest drinks on earth, yet it is highly processed. To make some forms of tea, the leaves are picked, wilted, bruised, oxidized, heated, and dried. In fact, for a millennia we’ve been processing tea leaves when the evidence clearly indicates that drying and processing plants reduces the nutrient content. Why not use fresh tea leaves? It’s nutritious! Fresh tea leaves are packed with nutrients, including L-theanine and catechins, such as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), as well as vitamins (B2, C, folic acid, beta-carotene). Laboratory analysis has found there is 5x more EGCG in fresh tea leaves than dried. Better yet, eat the fresh tea leaves! Adding fresh tea leaves into your smoothie offers you 15x more EGCG than in a cup of tea brewed from dried tea. Now, that’s one nutritious whole food! Yes, one of the easiest ways to eat more whole foods is to switch to fresh tea. Fresh tea leaves are conveniently available in the freezer at your favorite stores or shipped directly to your front door.
University of Kansas study found EGCG to be 100x more effective antioxidant than Vitamin C.
Why You Should Eat More Whole Foods
It may surprise you how few whole foods you eat. According to a study by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, people consume almost 50% of their daily calories from ultra-processed foods, in Canada. It’s easy, delicious, and nutritious to eat more whole foods. It’s also cost-effective, according to a scientific update to physicians, which noted plant-based diets, (described as eating more plant-based whole foods) is an excellent low-risk intervention to lower weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, risk factors for diabetes, and reduce the need for some types of medications.
Are you ready to dig in? Go on - try one of these easy ways to eat more whole foods, today!
We love Whole Foods! Millennia Tea is now available at Whole Foods across Canada.
Ultra-processed food consumption is associated with increased risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in the Moli-sani study. Am J Clin Nutr 2021 Feb, 113(2): 446-455.
Consumption of ultra-processed foods and health outcomes: a systematic review of epidemiological studies. Nutrition Journal 2020, 19(86).
The effects of plant-based diets on the body and the brain: a systematic review. Translational Psychiatry 2019; 9(226).
The role of inflammation in depression and fatigue. Front Immunol 2019; 10: 1696.
Nutritional update for physicians: plant-based diets. Perm J 2013 Spring; 17(2): 61-66.
Identifying whole grain foods: a comparison of different approaches for selecting more healthful whole grain products. Public Health Nutr 2013 Dec; 16(12): 2255-64.
Association between dietary whole grain intake and risk of mortality: two large prospective studies in US men and women. JAMA Intern Med 2015 Mar; 175(3): 373-84.