Impacts of Good Nutrition on Health

The Health Benefits of a Wholefood-rich Diet

To understand how a wholefood diet works, it is crucial to understand what wholefoods are. Firstly, wholefoods are the opposite of processed foods, which are altered from their natural state. Cheese, bread, crisps, cakes, biscuits and many other guilty pleasures have been heated, pasteurised, frozen, mixed and/or packaged and are rich in preservatives, sugars, and unhealthy fats. 

By contrast, wholefoods have not been processed or are very close to their natural state. Examples include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, milk, wholegrains, fish, shellfish and eggs. 

The benefits of wholefoods

As they aren’t altered (or are minimally altered), wholefoods retain their nutrients, phytochemicals and fibre. According to research, a fresh and nutrient-rich diet has the following benefits: 

  • Better gastrointestinal health. Fibre prevents and relieves constipation and helps to maintain a healthy bowel. As lentils, oats, almonds, broccoli, and avocado – among other wholefoods – are high in fibre, they can help us meet our daily intake (at least 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men). In turn, this improves our digestion and gastrointestinal health. 
  • Stronger immune system. A diet lacking in fruits and vegetables and filled with processed and ultra-processed foods is associated with inflammation and poor gut health – two factors that affect our immune system. By contrast, wholefoods boost the body’s defences as they are good sources of vitamin C, zinc and other important nutrients. 
  • Chronic disease prevention. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and nuts have been associated with a lower risk of serious diseases, including cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. People who follow a diet rich in plant-based foods are also less likely to die from cardiovascular disease. 
  • Weight management. Finally, replacing processed foods with wholefoods can help us reduce our sugar and fat intake, leading to weight loss. 

Are there downsides to wholefoods?

When it comes to our health, wholefoods don’t have known “cons” and are suitable for most people. However, those who have underlying medical conditions should always double-check with their healthcare provider before making drastic changes to their diets. 

It has also been noted that following a wholefoods diet too strictly can lead to an unhealthy fixation. Therefore, people with a history of disordered eating should proceed with caution. 

Compared to processed products, fresh and organic food can be expensive and they might not be available in every grocery store. In addition, a wholefoods diet might require significantly more preparation and planning, particularly when travelling. 

How to find wholefoods

Some grocery stores have aisles exclusively for fresh and organic products – this is where to look out first. There might be minimally processed foods available too. So, reviewing the nutritional label will be helpful as it normally lists the amount of added sugars, saturated fat and sodium. Avoiding products with several unfamiliar ingredients is also recommended. 

Local markets are excellent places for finding unprocessed or minimally processed products. Nowadays, there are numerous stores (either virtual or physical), focusing exclusively on wholefoods as well. These are particularly useful for finding everything in one place.