Whole Foods, Defined


In this post, Level 1 Life contributing author Christine Wilcox, M.S., shares three factors that make a whole-food whole, and how to tell the difference between whole and processed foods. Christine is a 200-hour Certified Yoga Instructor and Holistic Health Coach in Syracuse, NY. If you have questions for Christine, let us know on our “Connect” page! 


 Think apple, broccoli, almond, hemp seed, lentil, brown rice, egg, sardine, chicken, and steak! A whole food is one ingredient and is fully in tact in its natural form, or processed and refined as little as possible. Processed foods contain more than one ingredient. They typically include additives, preservatives, stabilizers, artificial food colors and sweeteners, salt, sugar, GMOs, chemicals, and other toxins. Some foods are minimally processed in order to preserve them or to obtain the maximum amount of nutrients. A few examples include extracting oil from olives, soaking and cooking beans, freezing fruit, and fermenting cucumbers to make pickles. When eating minimally processed whole foods, be sure to read ingredient labels – ingredients should be recognizable and easy to pronounce!


Nutrient dense whole foods are lower in calories and provide the body with necessary nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids. They provide the body with energy and protect us from disease. Processed foods are higher in calories but provide little to no value to the body in the way of nutrients. Foods that are highly processed – such as cookies, cake, cereal, bread, pasta, candy, ice cream, crackers, chips, juice, condiments, and even some brands of peanut butter – are potentially harmful to our health, causing inflammation and promoting the development of some chronic disease states over time.


Whole foods are a product of nature. They grow in the ground and once ripe or harvested will naturally begin to decompose, often within a matter of days. Food additives are added to processed foods for the purpose of extending shelf life and to “improve” taste, texture, and appearance. Highly processed foods are not recognized as food by the body, giving the body great difficulty in digesting and eliminating them.

Stay healthy by avoiding processed foods and replacing them with more nutritious whole foods!

berries, berry, blackberries

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