People consume processed food because it’s convenient. However, snacks made with artificial ingredients and various chemicals are bad for your health. If you’re still on the fence about consuming more whole foods, here are 21 reasons to add them to your regular diet and boost your overall well-being.
What are “whole foods?”
Whole foods refer to real, single-ingredient food. Real food is nutrient-rich, mostly unprocessed, and doesn’t contain chemical additives.
Processed foods can be eaten on the go, but you sacrifice nutrition for convenience whenever you eat them. It is better to follow a real food-based diet to improve your health.
Here are 13 reasons to eat more whole foods.
They’re full of essential nutrients
Whole animal and plant foods contain vitamins and minerals that are essential for optimal health. For example, eggs and liver are rich in choline, an essential nutrient for brain function and development.
Meanwhile, plant foods like a cup (220 grams) of red bell peppers or orange slices contain over 100 percent of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for vitamin C.
Various kinds of whole foods are full of beneficial nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
They’re a great source of fiber
Dietary fiber has many health benefits. Fiber improves digestive function and metabolic health, and it keeps you feeling full for longer. This helps prevent snacking.
Below are some whole foods that are rich in dietary fiber:
- Chia seeds
They’re full of good fats
A lot of naturally occurring fats are good for you. Extra virgin olive oil is rich in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that is beneficial for your heart health. Plant foods like avocados, nuts, and seeds are rich in healthy fats.
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Meanwhile, omega-3 fatty acids from fatty fish like herring and salmon can help prevent inflammation and boost heart health.
They contain antioxidants
Antioxidants are compounds that help fight free radicals, the unstable molecules that cause cell damage. Real foods like fruits, legumes, nuts, vegetables, and whole grains are rich in antioxidants.
Fresh, unprocessed animal foods also contain antioxidants, but not as much as plant foods.
They improve gut health
Real food like asparagus and garlic can benefit your gut microbiome or the “good” bacteria in your digestive tract.
Some types of real foods function as prebiotics or food that your gut bacteria ferment into short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids improve your gut health and improve blood sugar control. (Related: Tips for clean eating: 11 Ways to improve your eating habits right now.)
They’re low in sugar
Several studies have found that a diet rich in sugary foods can increase your risk of conditions like fatty liver disease, heart disease, insulin resistance, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes.
In general, real food contains less sugar than processed foods. Whole foods like fruits are also a great source of fiber and water.
They promote heart health
Antioxidant-rich real food is full of nutrients like magnesium and healthy fats that boost cardiovascular health. Following a diet that incorporates whole foods can help minimize inflammation, one of the main contributors to cardiovascular disease.
They help control blood sugar
According to the International Diabetes Federation, a whopping 400 million people around the globe have diabetes. Experts predict that the number will skyrocket to 600 million in the next 25 years.
A diet full of fiber-rich plants and unprocessed animal foods can help reduce blood sugar levels in individuals who have diabetes or those at risk for the condition.
They can help minimize disease risk
The Mediterranean diet and other diets based on whole, unprocessed foods can help reduce your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome.
Some large observational studies also suggest that a healthy diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of cancer and heart disease.
They can help prevent overeating
A diet full of fast food and processed foods is associated with overeating, especially in overweight people.
Consuming more whole foods, which don’t contain added sugars and artificial flavors, can help keep your appetite in check.
They help you set a good example
Eating whole foods improves your physical and mental health. Following a healthy diet also promotes better eating habits among your loved ones.
If you have kids, lead by example and encourage them to eat nutritious food.
They allow you to support local farmers
Buying dairy products, fruits, meat, and vegetables from farmers’ markets allows you to support the hardworking people who grow food in your community. Local farms also offer fresh, clean food that’s less processed than those found in grocery stores.
They’re fresh and delicious
Eating healthy doesn’t mean you’re depriving yourself of delicious foods, it just means making better choices when buying and preparing food. Fresh, unprocessed food is full of amazing natural flavor while junk food contains artificial ingredients that don’t make you feel satisfied.
Improve your well-being by eating more whole foods, managing your stress levels, and exercising regularly.