Whole foods, or “natural” foods, like they are called in the US, are foods that are not or only minimally processed, which makes them a very healthy addition to your diet. In this article, we want to talk more about what whole foods are, what the whole food diet consists off and talk about whether omega-3 supplements are whole foods or not!
Let’s start with the basics.
What is a whole food?
Whole foods are all types of foods, that are in their natural state and have not been processed or processed only minimally. Examples are whole grains, legumes, fresh fruit and vegetables.
No extra sugar or flavouring
The fact that they are almost not processed, means that they are very close to their natural state, and do not contain added sugar, starch, flavouring or other manufactured ingredients. These types of foods are consumed in their purest form without having been processed in a factory. It may sound daunting at first, but the selection of whole foods is really diverse!
From beans to legumes, lentils, nuts and seeds, to fruit and vegetables: there is a lot for you to choose from.
What about meat, poultry and dairy?
When it comes to animal products, opinions of people are a bit more divergent. While products like egg or milk are almost not processed, some types of processed cheese would not count as whole foods any more. Other products, like yogurt or cream cheeses without added sugar or chemical flavourings are considered whole foods. As a general rule of thumb, full-fat dairy products are less processed, it is good to go for the product with the shortest list of ingredients and ideally the dairy or cheese comes from grass-fed animals.
Most people who try to focus on eating whole foods, choose organic animal products, to reduce the amount of antibiotics or other additives the animals might have been fed or otherwise exposed to.
So, whole foods really are any foods that are not “highly” processed.
What is a whole food diet?
Following a whole food diet is more a lifestyle change than a diet you follow. What matters, is to focus on putting whole and unrefined products at the centre of your diet, with refined products and often also animal products, more on the side. It is not a vegan or vegetarian diet, but the focus of the whole foods diet is clearly not on animal products.
Things to eat
When it comes to oil, options like coconut oil or extra virgin olive oils are good options, because they are pressed, but not processed!
Eating a diet mostly based on whole foods leads to a natural high intake of fibre, vitamins and minerals, which is healthy for your body and mind.
Similar to the Nordic Diet we have mentioned before, the focus lies on seasonal and regional produce, while favouring foods like whole grains, vegetables, pulses and legumes for example.
Things to avoid
Overly processed foods like frozen meals, soda, baked goods and candy with a lot of artificial ingredients and white flour should be avoided when possible. This might require some more meal planning but even if you don’t manage to bring along your lunch to work for example, most supermarkets nowadays have a whole foods section where you can pick up some healthy options for you.
When it comes to canned goods, avoid vegetables or fruits that are conserved in sugary or salty water. Regarding beans for example, it is better to buy them dry and soak them in water before cooking, instead of using canned beans that contain much more additives.
Why a whole foods diet is good for you
So now that we know what a whole food diet consists off, why should we follow it? Research has shown that eating a whole food diet naturally increases your fibre, mineral and vitamin intake and fuels your body with all the nutrients it needs. Even protein food can come from plants, if you use foods like tofu or tempeh, so you won’t be lacking anything when switching to a whole foods diet.
The transition can be a bit tricky if you are used to relying on ready-made meals and the like, but you can start slowly by changing over one or two meals a week to a whole food diet until you get more used to this new style of cooking and have discovered some new ingredients to try!
Eating a lot of whole foods also leads to a smaller intake of saturated fats, which can have a positive impact on your overall health and well-being, as well as contributing to a potentially lower risk of heart disease , cancer and type 2 diabetes.
Are omega-3 supplements whole foods?
Omega – 3 supplements are often called fish oil, because they are made from the tissue of fatty, cold-water fish. Fish oil contains the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which have many health benefits for our body. Our body is not able to produce EPA and DHA on its own, this is why they are called “essential” fatty acids.
Omega-3 health benefits
They are beneficial for heart health, can lower blood pressure levels and even help with cognitive function and have a positive impact on our mental health!
While they are a manufactured product, here at Omega 3 of Norway we focus on limiting the processing to a minimum and our fish oil supplements contain the fatty acids EPA and DHA in their natural triglyceride form. This is the natural molecular constellation, that these fatty acids take in plants and animals and makes them easier to absorb in our body and tissue.
Ethyl esters vs triglycerides
There are many omega-3 supplements out there, that are so-called omega-3 concentrates, because they contain the EPA and DHA in the form of ethyl esters. This leads to the product having a higher concentration of EPA and DHA, but these fats in the form of ethyl esters are more difficult to absorb and process by our body, so it does not necessarily mean, that you will really take more omega-3s! Choosing the right supplement can be daunting, but if you have the right information at your disposal, you will be able to make the best choice for yourself with no problems. Here we wrote an easy step-by-step guide for you!
Focus on sustainability
Here at Omega 3 of Norway we also especially focus on sustainability, making sure, our fishing practices cause no unnecessary harm! We use wild caught anchovies and krill for our products, no factory farmed and bred fish or crustaceans. The anchovies we use are freshly caught and processed, containing high amounts of healthy omega – 3 fats, which even surpass the levels of omega 3 fatty acids in wild or farmed salmon. We wrote a whole article about that here.
Whole foods are all types of foods, that are only minimally processed and as close as possible to their natural state. Following a whole foods diet is associated with many health benefits and is definitely something, you should look into. It is not about a strict regiment, more about changing your relationship with food and focusing more on wholesome ingredients, which you then use, to cook from. Supplements such as omega-3 supplements can be a good addition to your whole food diet to make sure, your body gets all the necessary nutrients it needs.
Here at Omega 3 of Norway, we use modern technology to maintain our products as natural as possible and focus a lot on sustainability when it comes to our fishing practices.