Have you heard about the “whole foods diet” but not been able to find this exact diet plan? Don’t worry. You are NOT going crazy. Though there are a few books titled “The Whole Foods Diet,” this term is not trademarked by any company. So there is no one diet plan to follow.
A whole foods diet is simply one that focuses on consuming foods as close to their natural states as possible, but what that actually means is open to interpretation. Several companies have created diets that emphasize whole foods, but not all of them are created equal when it comes to health and weight.
In this article, we’ll discuss whole foods vs. processed foods and then briefly review 3 popular whole foods diets. We will show you how the setpoint diet stacks up against these other whole foods diets.
Are you ready to begin?
What are whole foods?
Whole foods are unprocessed or minimally processed foods.
They are as close to their natural states as possible. For example, vegetables you buy in the store are similar to ones you could have picked out of a garden. Or, in the case of meats, they are similar to fresh meat from animals you could have killed on a hunting trip. This means no preservatives or other chemicals. No sugars and salts, extra flavoring, or hormones. Just natural food.
Frozen fruits and vegetables are whole foods as long as they contain no chemicals, salt, sugars, flavorings, preservatives, and any other additives. Bread is not a whole food because you cannot pick a wheat stalk from which bread is made and eat it. Rather, wheat is extensively processed before it goes into the bread that appears on grocery store shelves. The same goes for cereals that contain grains.
You’ll find most whole foods in the perimeter of the grocery store. That’s where the produce, meats, poultry, and fish are displayed. Processed foods are typically in the center aisles of the store, which is, unfortunately, the largest area of the store.
Whole food VS. processed food
There are many advantages to consuming whole foods over processed foods. Here are some of them.
Studies show more than 70% of products on grocery store shelves are processed. It wasn’t always like this.
Before the late 1800s, people grew their own gardens and hunted and slaughtered their own meats or went down to the general store and bought fresh produce and meat. There weren’t good storage methods for these foods, nor did they have transportation methods to deliver these foods to far-reaching areas.
In the 1890s, trans fats were invented, which improved the texture and shelf-life of foods. Manufacturers used trans fats to produce processed foods, such as Crisco and Oreo cookies. The volume of newly created processed foods was slow at first but picked up production.
By the ‘50s, processed foods were everywhere, and homemakers were intrigued by them, eager to see how quickly they could now make meals for their families. And the rest is history. Though processed foods do offer the advantage of convenience — that hasn’t changed — they also offer many disadvantages.
Disadvantages of processed foods
- Filled with preservatives and other unhealthy chemicals
- Loaded with added sugars and high levels of sodium
- Stripped of all fiber
- Devoid of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients
- High in calories compared to whole foods
- The sugar, fat, and salt content of most processed foods — along with their lack of fiber — makes them easy to overeat, leading to weight gain.
By contrast, whole foods retain all their fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They are filling and nutritious. They not only improve your health, but studies show they also promote weight loss.
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people who ate whole foods lost significantly more weight over the course of a year. These individuals simply reduced their consumption of sugar, refined grains, and highly processed foods. They did not count calories or limit portion sizes, either.
Other studies show similar weight loss, as well as health benefits to consuming whole foods over processed foods. Here are some of the biggest benefits of whole foods.
Benefits of Whole Food
- Filled with vitamins, minerals, proteins,s and other vital nutrients
- Jam-packed with fiber (fruits and vegetables)
- Contains beneficial fats
- Have disease-preventive properties by virtue of their high phytochemical content. (Phytochemicals are present in plants, and if you’re on a whole foods diet, you’re likely eating many vegetables.)
- High-fiber content slows down absorption, preventing blood glucose spikes. This aids in weight maintenance or weight loss.
- More filling than processed foods
- Lower in calories than most processed foods
3 Whole Food Diets
Now that we’ve discussed processed foods and whole foods, it’s time to review 3 whole foods diets. They are:
- The Ketogenic diet (Keto)
- The Mediterranean diet
- The Paleolithic diet (Paleo)
1. The Ketogenic (Keto)Diet
A ketogenic diet consists mostly of high-fat, moderate-protein, and extremely low-carbohydrate foods. By starving the body of carbs, its primary source of energy, the keto diet forces the body to burn fat for fuel, boosting weight loss.
Because most people eat too many carbs, especially starchy carbs, their bodies run on glucose for energy. If you eat a very low amount of carbs, your body depletes its glucose stores very quickly. (You only have about 24 hours worth of glucose in storage, plus whatever is turned into glucose from the foods you eat daily.) Once glucose is gone, you start burning stored fat or fat from your diet as your fuel source. This is called ketosis.
To get and stay in ketosis, you must eat fewer than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day. You can eat any type of carbs, but starchy carbs are never recommended on the Keto diet. That’s because they are high in carbs. For instance, about ½ cup of white rice or half of a bun is about 20 grams. It doesn’t take much of these foods to exceed your limit. The Keto diet recommends you get your 20 grams of carbs in the form of non-starchy vegetables.
There are actually 2 general types of Keto diet: strict and modified.
Strict Keto Diet: 70%-80% of your total daily calories come from fats, 15% -20% from protein, and about 5% from carbohydrates.
Modified Keto Diet: 40%-50% of your total daily calories come from healthy fats, 30% from high-quality proteins, and 30% from complex carbohydrates.
Unlike other low-carb diets, the Keto diet does not emphasize protein because protein can slightly raise blood glucose levels, which they fear will slow the body’s transition into ketosis.
The Setpoint Diet Approach
Point #1: Fat Consumption. The setpoint diet recommends a moderate amount of whole-food fat consumption. Studies show that whole-food fats are healthy and satiating and will not make you fat. Further, if you replace starchy carbs and sugars with whole-food fats, your body will start burning fat for energy. If it needs more energy after it burns the fat you just consumed, it will munch on your fat stores.
The Keto diet is correct in including healthy fats, but the recommended amount is way too high. Though the body has switched over to fat-burning mode, it can only burn the fat you’ve just consumed. It will never touch your fat stores because you’re eating too much fat.
Point #2: Protein Consumption. The setpoint diet recommends a relatively high level of protein consumption, 30-50 grams per meal, for many reasons. The first is that every time you consume protein, it sends signals to long- and short-term satiety hormones. This means protein fills you up fast and keeps you full for a long time. This prevents you from overeating.
Protein also takes more calories to digest than either fat or carbohydrates, so a high-protein diet automatically boosts your metabolism. Lastly, eating at least 30 grams of protein at a time causes your body to refresh and renew lean muscle tissue, called muscle protein synthesis. This protects against age-related muscle loss, as well as the muscle loss that can come from dieting. The more lean muscle you have, the higher your metabolism, so this also increases your metabolism. The Keto diet, especially the strict version, is too low in protein to offer any of these benefits.
2. The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is modeled on the eating habits of Greece and other Mediterranean countries in the ‘40s and ‘50s. The diet recommends a high consumption of olive oil, unrefined grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. Fish consumption is encouraged, and you can also eat poultry, but red meat is discouraged. (If you must eat other meats, it is recommended that you limit the amounts eaten.) You can also eat yogurt and cheese, and you can drink a moderate amount of wine.
There are variations in the types of foods you should eat, but this is the basic diet.
The Setpoint Diet approach
Point #1: Olive Oil Consumption. The setpoint Diet recommends consuming olives and other whole-food fats instead of oil. A whole-food fat has all the water, fiber, and protein your body needs to heal your hormones and lower your setpoint weight. Plus, as previously mentioned, when you replace sugars and starchy foods with whole-food fats, they make your body good at burning fat rather than storing fat.
Point #2: Grains Consumption. The setpoint diet recommends eliminating all grains from your diet, even whole grains. These are inSANE foods that are not filling. They do not fill you up quickly and do not keep you full for a long time. They also make glucose levels go through the roof, leading to fat storage, and they contain fewer nutrients than non-starchy vegetables. Consuming grains also elevates your setpoint weight.
Point # 3: Legumes Consumption. The setpoint diet recommends 0-1 serving of legumes or beans per day. (A serving is about the size of your fist.) Legumes and beans are starchy carbs that spike your blood glucose levels, increasing fat storage and raising your setpoint weight. By calling for moderate consumption of legumes, the Mediterranean diet could cause you to gain weight.
Point # 4: Fruit Consumption. The setpoint diet recommends 0-3 servings of low-fructose fruits per day. It is important that sugar intake is kept low because sugar elevates setpoint weight even when consumption is kept within an acceptable calorie limit. (Though fruit is healthy, it still contains sugar in the form of fructose.) The Mediterranean diet does not specify the types of fruits that should be eaten in this plan, but it recommends a moderate amount which, again, could cause you to gain weight.
The Paleolithic Diet (Paleo)
The Paleo diet is based on a simple premise: if cavemen didn’t or couldn’t eat it, neither do you.
The paleo diet revolves around lean meats, vegetables, fruits, eggs, fish, nuts, and seeds. With the Paleo diet, you eat foods as close to their natural states as possible. This means no processed foods and grains. (Grains are processed.) The focal point of a Paleo diet is non-starchy vegetables. (These vegetables and small amounts of fruit should be your main source of carbohydrates.)
You can also eat moderate amounts of fish, meats, and eggs; and small amounts of fruits, nuts, seeds, and olive or coconut oils.
You cannot eat dairy, legumes, artificial sweeteners, and sugar. You are allowed to eat raw, unprocessed honey, however, because it is a natural food that was probably eaten by cave people and offers nutritional benefits.
The Setpoint Diet approach
Point #1: Honey Consumption. The setpoint diet recommends that you reduce or eliminate sugar from your diet. Whether unprocessed or not, it still causes a spike in blood glucose levels and still causes an elevation in the setpoint weight.
The Setpoint Diet: the SANE difference
There are whole foods diets, and then there are effective whole foods diets. Though it’s true that people do lose weight and become healthier, to a certain extent, on the above diets, the setpoint diet, has been scientifically proven to lower your setpoint weight, which helps you lose actual weight.
The four main food groups and recommended serving amounts are as follows;
- Non-starchy vegetables: 10+ servings per day. You can either fill half your plate with veggies or whip up delicious, hormone-healing green smoothies!
- Nutrient-dense protein: 3-5 servings per day
- Whole-food fats: 3-6 servings per day
- Low-fructose fruits: 0-3 servings per day
For examples of SANE foods for each group, click here to get your quick-start guides!
Try to eat the first three together at every meal, as they have been scientifically proven to health the hormones and lower setpoint weight.
Though we give recommendations for the setpoint diet, you don’t have to be perfect. Just remember the SANE motto: “Progress, Not Perfection.” Every tiny step you take, every time you replace an inSANE food with a SANE one, you are moving in the right direction. You are lowering your setpoint weight with each little bit of progress, and those little bits of progress add up.
Next step: Eat whole food the SANE way
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