This article is the second in a four-part series on starting a whole foods diet – what are whole foods, a list of whole foods, tips to simplify shopping for them, and how to make eating them exciting so you’ll want to stick with it. By identifying what whole foods are, we can begin to see the relationship between them and our bodies, and how they affect our overall wellness.
In the last Starting a Whole Foods Diet article we learned that whole foods are one ingredient foods that are naturally grown or raised. If that sounds great to you, it probably means you’re sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, and you’re ready to “eat to live, not live to eat”, so we’re off to a great start! If that sounds boring to you, no worries, there’s lots of delicious seasonings that will spice things up for you – more on that in a minute.
First, here’s an example of a list of whole foods that make up a well balanced nutrient-rich diet.
Plant based vegetables are one of the most nutrient dense, alkalizing and detoxifying foods of all, loaded with phytochemicals, chlorophyll, and fiber. The more colorful the veggies, the better. Think deep rich greens and bright reds, oranges and yellows. Leafy greens and cruciferous veggies are top choices followed by low-glycemic veggies, and starchy veggies in moderation. See the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen to find out which produce is best to buy organic.
Leafy Greens and Cruciferous Vegetables
Arugula, beet greens, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, dandelion, endive, escarole, kale, lettuce (the darker, the better), mustard greens, parsley, spinach, sprouts, swiss chard, turnip greens and watercress. See my article here to learn more about leafy greens and how to prepare them in tasty ways.
Low – Glycemic Vegetables
Artichoke, asparagus, bean sprouts, bell peppers, carrots, celery, cucumber, fennel, mushrooms, okra, onions, peas, radishes, string beans, summer squash, tomatoes and zucchini.
Beets, potatoes, parsnips, pumpkin, rutabagas, winter, acorn, or butternut squash, yams or sweet potatoes.
Fruits make a great snack between meals and curb sugar cravings nicely. They are rich in nutrients, antioxidants and phytochemicals, and although they contain fiber to help slow the release of natural sugars (fructose), they do contain a fair amount of fructose, so it is generally recommended to consume them in smaller amounts.
A few good fruit options are apples, apricots, bananas, berries, citrus fruits, cherries, grapes, kiwi, mango, nectarines, papaya, peaches, pears, pineapple, plums and watermelon.
Protein helps keep us full longer and is necessary to repair and promote healthy connective tissues, and support the hormones and brain. Meat is the obvious source of protein, but there are so many other nutrient rich choices. The main thing to look for are high quality complete protein sources that provide all essential nine amino acids in adequate amounts.
Wild caught fish is a great source, and contains less mercury and PCBs than farm raised, the lowest or undetectable levels are found in salmon, cod, mackerel, cold-water tuna and herring. Other sources are eggs, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, nut butters, organic and/or raw dairy like kefir, greek yogurt, cheese and quark (raw cottage cheese).
When choosing meat, organic, free-range, grass-fed and hormone free is the way to go. It really only ends up costing a few dollars more, especially if only eaten in the recommended small quantities. Quality sources of meat are chicken, turkey, buffalo, venison, elk, rabbit and ostrich. It’s recommended to limit intake of beef or lamb.
Grains are a controversial food. Grains are recommended in moderation. Besides brown rice, I recommend sticking to low-glycemic ancient grains which are gluten-free, much more nutrient rich and less inflammatory. These types of grains are rich in amino acids, protein, B vitamins and minerals.
Quality grain options are amaranth, brown rice, buckwheat, millet, quinoa and teff.
Fat has gotten such a bad rap. Healthy fats, especially omega-3s and 9s are essential to virtually every organ in the body, especially the brain and cardiovascular system. We need healthy levels of the right cholesterol, healthy fats help regulate hormones and keep us at a healthy weight.
Quality sources of healthy fats include wild caught fish (especially salmon and sardines), avocados, nuts and nut butters, seeds (especially chia, hemp, flax, pumpkin and sunflower), oils (coconut, avocado, olive, sesame), ghee, grass-fed butter and eggs.
Don’t Forget the Water
With all this talk of food, another very important thing to mention is water. Staying hydrated is a super important part of a nutrient-rich diet. A diet rich in whole foods is naturally higher in fiber, so we need more water to properly bulk and move the fiber through our digestive tract regularly. Drinking lots of water is crucial for healthy elimination. See my review here if you need more help when it comes to healthy elimination.
Spice it Up
If you love seasonings to spice up your food like I do, some suggestions that enhance whole foods nicely are adding fresh herbs, and mineral rich Himalayan salt, tumeric, ginger, cumin, cayenne, coriander, cinnamon, curry powder, Bragg organic 24 herb seasoning, herbamare and gomasio. To add more flavor and B vitamins nutritional yeast is a great option. Other options are coconut aminos, coconut vinegar, tamari, Bragg apple cider vinegar, brown rice vinegar, and mirin.
“When you eat natural, whole foods you enhance the life-giving energy that knits thousands of processes into a whole person.” ~ Deepak Chopra
For my favorite meal planning resources that offer smart and stress-free solutions to get delicious real food on the table for you and your family, check out my meal plans page.
Next up in the series – tips to simplify shopping =)