What Are Whole Foods?

Whole foods are unprocessed, unrefined, traditional foods without ingredients. They are superior in nutrition and taste to processed foods, are nonaddictive, and exist in tremendous variety.

List of Whole Foods

Fresh fruit
Fresh vegetables

Whole grains
Beans and other legumes
Nuts and seeds
Seaweed (sea vegetables)

Unprocessed meat without additives
Organ meat without additives
Fish and shellfish without additives
Raw milk


  • Unprocessed and unrefined
  • No ingredients
  • No additives: nothing has been mixed in, cooked in, baked in, sprinkled on, or injected
  • Not in boxes, bags, jars, or cans


No nutrients have been lost to processing. The food contains all its original protein, fiber, healthy fat, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and unique nutrients.

The "complete package" enables us to absorb the food's entire nutritional value. Fiber, for example, helps the body to process the food's sugars without an insulin spike. The food is greater than the sum of its parts; its unique mix of nutrients increases the nutritional value of all its components. This is called food synergy.

Here is a somewhat technical journal article, Nutrients, Foods, and Dietary Patterns, about the synergy within foods and within the entire diet. It reports that whole foods, and traditionally-inspired whole-food diets, contribute more to health than the sum of the individual foods do.


The taste is full, distinct, and unique to itself. In addition, the taste represents the nutrition that is in the food.

In contrast, we've all had the experience of eating candy or cake and spoiling our dinner. Processed foods suppress taste and over time spoil our sense of taste.

When you eat whole, healthy foods, your sense of taste is enhanced.


You know when you are full when you eat whole, healthy foods. They are naturally filling and pleasing. For this reason, it is difficult to overeat foods that have their original fiber, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.

It may be that we overeat processed foods because our bodies are trying and failing to find the missing nutrients. In any case, processed foods are engineered with sugar and additives to trigger overeating. They fool both the senses and the appetite "thermostat."

Variety and Choice

Historically, many thousands of edible species have served us as food.

This variety represents true choice and an opportunity to develop wider tastes and taste discrimination.

Whole, healthy foods are endlessly customizable, as shown by the many cuisines throughout history and around the world.

Related Pages

Guidelines - Ten simple rules for healthy eating

Processed Food - What is processed food?

Whole Food Diet - Lots of very different healthy eating programs are based on real food