Principle #3: As food processing increases, nutrient density decreases.
Minimally-processed whole foods (such as grains, nuts, eggs, and fish) contain a vast selection of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients (plant nutrients), and zoonutrients (animal nutrients).
Though we’re still unraveling exactly which nutrients do what, a wealth of research consistently points to one resounding conclusion:
Humans are healthier when they consume more whole foods and fewer refined ones.
This is probably because the greater the degree of processing, the higher the likelihood that a food:
Minimally-processed whole foods are rich in fiber and/or protein—two nutrients that help bolster satiety. And they tend to have fewer calories per serving than highly-processed refined foods.
Both traits make it easier for us to control our weight.
One randomized controlled trial even found that people ate a stunning 500 more calories per day when they consumed a diet rich in ultra-processed foods compared to a diet rich in minimally-processed whole foods.12 That’s essentially the equivalent of consuming an extra meal a day.
In fact, minimally-processed whole foods may be what all successful diets share in common.
Recent studies have shown that participants experienced the same amount of weight loss
—regardless of carb or fat intake
—as long as they minimized their consumption of refined sugars, flours, and other processed foods while emphasizing whole foods like veggies.
They also experienced similar improvements in blood pressure, insulin, glucose, and cholesterol levels.13,14
What does this mean for you?
We’re 100 percent confident about the importance of whole foods, but we’re also extremely confident about something else:
Progress is much more important than perfection.
The goal with whole foods isn’t to get things “perfect.” Instead, focus on making them “just a little bit better.”
A rotisserie chicken from the supermarket may not be a pastured, lovingly hand-raised, heritage Chantecler roasted in a high-end convection oven… but it sure beats chicken nuggets.
References in principle 5