Importance of a Whole Food Diet


What is a whole food?

A whole food is a food that can be found in nature and is unchanged from its natural state with all vitamins, minerals and nutrients still intact. It is the difference between a tomato and tomato sauce or fresh fruit and fruit juice. Whole foods include unprocessed fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, seeds, nuts, fish, lean meats, eggs and fresh milk. A processed food is a food item that has been changed in any way from its natural state. As stated in the last blog article titled What is Processed Food, “Processed foods are those that undergo various heating and treating systems. Some examples include milling grains into flour, extracting oils from vegetables and seeds (olive oil, sesame oil, corn oil, etc.), and refining sugar from sugar cane or beets.” Changing foods from its natural state can affect its original nutrients.

Minimally processed foods include whole foods that have been frozen, canned, cooked, juiced or dried to aid in preservation and a longer shelf life. Since eating a completely raw, whole food diet can be quite difficult, it is important to include as many whole foods in your daily diet as possible. It is also important to know that not all of the nutrients will be lost when a food is minimally processed. So, by purchasing frozen fruits for a smoothie or heating vegetables in a stir fry or casserole, you are still getting many of the available nutrients from these foods which are better than not eating them at all.

What are the benefits of consuming whole foods?

By consuming a diet rich in whole foods, not only are you avoiding the unnatural additives in processed foods but you are also consuming more vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals. Tara Gidus, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association told WebMD “One of the biggest advantages of eating whole foods is that you’re getting the natural synergy of all of these nutrients together, trying to extract a single nutrient and take it by itself may not work.” Explaining why taking vitamins and minerals in supplement form may not be as beneficial as consuming the vitamin or mineral in its natural state. Consuming a diet high in whole foods has also been shown to have many short term benefits including improved blood sugar levels, better digestion, higher energy, and enhance immune systems along with long term benefits including reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and many types of cancer along with contributing to a longer lifespan.

Easy Ways to Eat More Whole Foods

  • Swap instant oatmeal for steel cut oats. Make a big batch on the weekend and reheat for a week’s worth of breakfast.
  • Ditch the chicken nuggets and grill a whole chicken breast.
  • Reach for fresh over canned. Canned items have preservatives and sugar added to them. Eat an apple instead of sweetened applesauce or a fresh slice of pineapple instead of canned.
  • Ditch the processed nutrition bars and reach for nuts as a healthy mid-day snack.
  • Switch to whole grain bread and pasta.

What is Processed Food?

This is a question we as Health Coaches receive quite often. In a world where food is not only a means of survival, but also a part of our culture and our health, it is essential to distinguish between processed and un-processed foods. And while it might seem a little (pardon the pun) indigestible, rest assured that learning about the impact of food processing is an important part of our daily nutrition and overall health goals.


Approximately 2 million years ago, our ancestors learned the valuable tools to preserve, cook, ferment, and freeze food products in an effort to improve food longevity, flavor, and safety. And while these methods have proven to contribute to the survival of our species, food processing has arguably gone a little overboard, where food quality is now being compromised among some food items. When we look at the timeline of food processing, it’s interesting to learn that roasting meat began nearly 1.8 million years ago, bread 30,000 years ago, sugar (500 b.c.), and more recently—Corn Flakes (1894), monosodium glutamate (MSG) (1908), SPAM (1926), high-fructose corn syrup (1957), and lab-grown meat (2013). As food scientists and manufacturers continue to develop food products, it is becoming increasingly important to learn which are considered healthful and which compromise our overall well-being. And although food processing is intended to destroy harmful pathogens and bacteria from making us ill, it has also introduced a whole host of health problems often associated with nutrient deficiencies.

Food Processing Levels

Certain terms might be familiar to you when you hear about food processing. Unprocessed or minimally processed, for example, refers to foods that are left unchanged (or minimally changed) from their original state. We often see these foods referred to as being ‘raw’ or ‘perishable’, having little to no heat processing or change from added preservatives or chemical treatments. Some examples of minimal processing include: washing, cutting, juicing, and low-heat exposure. Many believe that not heating a food above 180 degrees maintains its original nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Heating has shown to degrade or denature foods from having these vital micronutrients. Foods, such as raw dairy, nuts, seeds, greens, sliced fruits and vegetables, and even raw fish fall into this category. Smoothies and fresh pressed juice that has not undergone pasteurization are also considered unprocessed foods. These are commonly found to be abundant in micronutrients, including vitamin C, beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium, and selenium—to name a few of the many available nutrients available.

Processed foods are those that undergo various heating and treating systems. Some examples include milling grains into flour, extracting oils from vegetables and seeds (olive oil, sesame oil, corn oil, etc.), and refining sugar from sugar cane or beets. These are not generally eaten alone, but are commonly used for baking, cooking, and as thickening agents. These food items are commonly left void of their original nutrition and especially with heating processes, result in altered food products. Shockingly, most fast food chains such as McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King previously only used hydrogenated oils, but because of the learned dangers of hydrogenated oils and their impact on heart disease and obesity, they intentionally made the switch to vegetable oils instead. And while it would appear to be a healthier alternative, the heating of these vegetable oils (commonly used oils include: corn, peanut, and canola oils) actually alters them, producing the toxic by-products: aldehyde and formaldehyde, along with cholesterol-raising trans fats. Not only are aldehyde and formaldehyde known carcinogens (cancer-causing compounds), but they also contribute to the aging of our cells.

The other level of processing to consider is highly processed, where unprocessed, minimally processed, and processed foods are combined. These include things such as frozen TV dinners, cookies, pastries, cereals, chips, breads, cured meats, tofu products, and many, many more! These foods are made through techniques such as frying, curing, enriching (with additional vitamins or minerals), mixing, baking, and smoking. While some of these food items have been enriched with nutrients to make them more healthful, many health professionals worry that these foods are quickly replacing unprocessed, whole food items that are the foundation of our food culture.

What’s our suggestion?

Opt for selecting unprocessed foods at your local market. If you do choose to heat or treat your foods, do so sparingly and with awareness. Use low-heat where possible and focus on foods that are abundant in vitamins and minerals. When selecting foods that are considered ‘perishable’, look for those that have not undergone excessive heating through pasteurization and pre-cooking methods.  Avoid meals such as frozen dinners and most canned soups as they are generally high in sodium. Look for low- or no-sodium on the label, and always read the ingredients list to determine whether preservatives have been added. Choose whole grain bread products if you are not able to bake your own. If you choose to eat out, opt for restaurants that offer healthy and/or raw menu options. Salads and homemade soup are generally going to be more healthful than other menu items. If you do want to purchase deli meat, have your butcher cut the meat for you. Generally the pre-packaged deli meats are laden with sodium, chemicals, and preservatives. Avoid foods that say ‘low-fat’ as they often have additional sugars added. Limit or avoid refined sugar products such as fruit juice and dried fruit.  Lastly, learn to prepare meals at home where possible. This can be enjoyable, simple, and cost-effective once you get the hang of it!



What is Nutrition?

Savor the Flavor of Good Nutrition

March is National Nutrition Month® and the focus this year is on Savoring the Flavor of Eating Right. What exactly is nutrition and what is the importance of it? Let’s dive a little more into these questions and how we can start making healthier, tastier and more nutritious food choices.

What is Nutrition?

Nutrition is the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth. Nutritional scientists study nutrients and nutrition to see how it affects humans and how the body breaks down and responds to food.

What is the Importance of Nutrition?

Our food choices have a direct effect on our health and growth. If we are not getting the right amount of nutrients, our bodies are not able to stay healthy or grow. Good nutrition improves your health and lowers your risk of developing certain health disparities such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Every time you eat, it is a chance to nourish your body and help it to stay at its strongest and healthiest. “The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”


Savor the Flavor

National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education campaign created annually in March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign focuses on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. The theme for 2016 is “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right,” which encourages everyone to take time to enjoy food traditions and appreciate the pleasures, great flavors and social experiences food can add to our lives. How, when, why and where we eat are just as important as what we eat. Develop a mindful eating pattern that includes nutritious and flavorful foods is the best way to savor the flavor of eating right!

Uncomplicated Healthy Eating

You don’t have to remember every single nutrient and the benefits that each of them gives. You don’t always have to count calories; you just need to simplify the way you think about nutrition.

  • Focus on eating whole foods rather than packaged processed food. These tend to be high in preservatives and sugar
  • Lean protein sources, quality carbohydrates and lots of fruits and vegetables. The more colors of the rainbow you eat with fruits and vegetables, the better it is for you!
  • Know good vs bad fats and watch out for them on the labels. Steer clear of trans fats and look for healthy poly and mono unsaturated fats when possible.
  • It’s okay to treat yourself occasionally. Cutting things out completely can lead to over eating of those foods in the future. As you start to make healthier choices as a part of your lifestyle, you will actually crave the healthy foods more than the unhealthy ones!



10 Ways to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

Did you know that 90% of Americans do not eat the daily recommended amount of fruits and vegetables? This month, make it a goal to eat the nine recommended servings every day. That’s only 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables.


1 | Make a Breakfast Smoothie

Add one banana, one cup of spinach and one cup of milk or dairy substitute. Blend with a handful of ice.

2 | Vegetable Egg Bake

Add broccoli, tomatoes, onion, red pepper and spinach to eggs, milk and low-fat cheese and bake for a week’s worth of healthy, vegetable-packed breakfasts.

3 | Berry Bowl

Add one cup of berries to plain Greek yogurt.

4 | Mid-Morning Fruit Break

Have a small apple or peach, one cup of grapes or a grapefruit as a snack.

5 | Lunch Time Salad

Get your daily veggies needs in one go with a big salad. Add two cups of greens, and a half cup each of cucumbers, tomatoes and red peppers. (Two cups of greens count as one cup vegetables.)

6 | Add to Wraps and Sandwiches

Add some crunch to your wrap with shredded carrots, top your sandwich with cucumbers and tomatoes or add apple slices to your turkey sandwich.

7 | Crunchy Dippers

Use baby carrots, celery sticks or sugar snap peas to dip in hummus.

8 | Easy Sides

Keep bags of your favorite frozen vegetables on-hand to steam for a quick side or toss in a stir fry.

9 | Noodle Swap

Swap out pasta for spaghetti squash or spiralized zucchini.

10 | Sneak in Veggies

Puree or shred carrots, spinach or zucchini and add to tomato sauce for lasagna or meatloaf. Be extra sneaky and use thinly sliced eggplant or zucchini in place of noodles in your lasagna.

Cancer Fighting Foods

It has been estimated by the National Cancer Institute that approximately one-third of all cancer deaths may be diet related. Although no single food item can cure cancer itself, filling your diet with the right nutrients can help prevent cancer, and in some cases aid in cancer survival.

“The easiest, least-expensive way to reduce your risk for cancer is just by eating a healthy diet,” says Rachael Stolzenberg-Solomon, PhD, MPH, RD, a researcher at the National Cancer Institute. By eating a healthy diet you are decreasing your risk of obesity which can lead to many forms of cancer. When it comes to a diet rich in cancer-fighting substances, most experts agree that your plate should consist of at least two-thirds plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes) and minimal animal fats. “If you have two-thirds of plant food on your plate, that seems to be enough to avoid excessive amounts of food high in saturated fat,” says Karen Collins, RD, nutritional advisor for the American Institute for Cancer Research. That being said, complete elimination of animal foods is not necessary, however, be sure to keep your intake under control and chose leaner options.



Look for foods rich in folate, vitamin D and antioxidants. Berries (blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, blackberries), citrus fruits (grapefruit, oranges, lemons), dark leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale, arugula), cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts), legumes (beans, peas, lentils) and whole grains are all known for having cancer fighting agents. Tea contains flavonoids, known for their antioxidant effects. Ginger, garlic, tomatoes, red or purple grapes, turmeric and soy are also known as cancer fighting foods.


Avoid refined sugars and processed foods all together and keep alcohol consumption to a minimum. As for animal fats, make sure they do not fill more than one-third of your plate and chose lean meats like naturally raised chicken, turkey, and fish while opting for skim milk and low-fat cheeses.


American Institute for Cancer Research


March Prize Drawing (and last month’s winners)

Congratulations to the February HEALTHpoints winners of a $75 King Soopers Gift Cards.

  • Miguel – Leadville
  • Vicki – Pueblo
  • Tom – Eads
  • Araceli – Greeley


The key to healthy eating, is making nutritious homemade food. Every great chef, needs a great knife! If you earn 300 or more HEALTHpoints in March you could win one of four Wusthof Cook’s Knives!