A whole food is a food in its natural, unprocessed form. For example, a fresh apple instead of apple juice or an apple-flavored snack. The phrase is also used when referring to unrefined whole grains, as well as beans and legumes. There are many reasons whole foods have gained a reputation for being an important part of a healthy eating plan.
Whole foods contain many unique nutrients that may not be present in the food once it’s processed. When edible skins are stripped away, the nutrients in those skins are also removed. Heat and other processing methods can also reduce antioxidants (like vitamin C) in fruits and vegetables.
For example, oranges are known for containing plant nutrients called citrus flavanones. Initial animal studies have shown that one of these compounds, called herperidin, may reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol. This flavanone is found in the peel of the orange and the white pulp within the orange, not in the juicy portion of the fruit. As a result, it may be lost when an orange is made into juice. By eating a whole orange and consuming some of the pulp, you may increase your intake of this potentially beneficial nutrient.
More Natural Dietary Fiber
When you eat a whole food, like a fresh berry or a grape, you consume more dietary fiber than if you drink the fruit as a juice or eat a yogurt with the fruit flavoring. The edible skins, seeds, and flesh of fruits and vegetables provide valuable dietary fiber that can improve heart health and digestion.
Mindful eating helps you become more aware of your eating. This allows you to recognize your hunger and fullness signals and truly enjoy your food. Mindful eating can be achieved in a number of ways, but most are associated with simply slowing down. Whole foods help slow your meal. When you have to peel a banana or remove a nut from its shell, you are prevented from eating quickly and mindlessly. More mindful eating has also been associated with weight loss.