Whole Foods Diet

Reference: Arizona Center of Integrative Medicine

Reference: Arizona Center of Integrative Medicine

The Center for Integrative Medicine would like to introduce our nutritionist, Laura Palazzolo. In this article, Laura will introduce you to a whole foods diet.


The basis of the nutrition I teach starts with a whole foods diet.  This has nothing to do with the expensive market bearing the same name.  It simply means eating real food.  What do I mean by that?  Well, there are some questions you can ask yourself if you are not sure if the food you are about to consume classifies as a whole food: 

  1. Can I imagine it growing? Should be yes!  No cheeto trees.
  2. How many ingredients does it have? A whole food only has one.
  3. What has been done to the food since it was picked? Should be nothing.
  4. Is this product part of a food or the whole food? The whole food.
  5. How long have humans been eating this food? Since before you or your grandparents could remember.

If your answers are different than above, then you are eating a processed or refined food.  Now, not all processing is necessarily bad.  If you cook, you process your own food.  Usually it is the level of processing which dictates the foods inherent benefit verses lack of benefit.  For example, olive oil would not be considered a whole food because it is only part of a food – the oil from the olive.  However, olive oil processing usually requires pressing of the olive to extract the oil. One step (give or take) depending on the oil.  Now let’s look at high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  This recipe is hard to find, however, Maya Weinstein has produced her own HFCS in her kitchen for about 10 steps, which involves chemicals and enzymes for the extraction of the sugar from the ground corn.   Her product is “artisan” and unfiltered.  The industrial process likely has many more steps.

If we think about food on a very basic level, it is supposed to provide us with energy and other nutrients we need for survival. The further you process foods, the more nutrition you are going to strip from the food.  Most of the time the macronutrients are going to remain (fat, protein and carbohydrate), but what is lost are the micronutrients (vitamin and minerals).  These essential compounds are needed each time our body converts macronutrients into energy or does any vital process.  If we consistently uses these compounds, but do no replete them with the foods we eat, then our systems function less than optimally.  We also loose fiber and phytochemicals through processing.  Though these are not “essential” nutrient (meaning if we do not get adequate amounts we show signs of deficiency), they provide the body with immense benefit as we continue to learn more about the foods we eat. 

Sadie Barr published a study in Food & Nutrition Research journal which demonstrated an increase in calories burned with the consumption of a whole foods meal versus a processed food meal of the same calorie content.  Could this be a piece of the obesity puzzle?

Bottom line: a whole foods diet is the optimal diet to provide the body with all the essential requirements plus more in order to function optimally.

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