By Lauren Christman, Corporate Wellness Specialist, Independent Health

Are you looking to eat better in the new year? If so, we encourage you to try more whole foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and legumes.

Whole foods are full of natural vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that haven’t been altered, processed or minimally processed. In simple terms, if you are going to eat a potato, it should look like a potato, not the salted, deep fried, bagged version of itself to ensure the maximum amount of original nutrients.

Real whole foods often cost more than processed convenient foods. However, when compared to the costs of managing chronic conditions like diabetes and obesity, paying a few extra dollars to eat healthier is well worth it.

Many studies show that eating a diet high in whole fruits, veggies and grains can help you maintain a healthy weight. But that’s not all. Here are some additional reasons why you should consider choosing a whole foods lifestyle in 2022:

  • Boosts your immune systems – Phytochemicals and antioxidants found in unprocessed plants can help protect against cell damage. Processed foods strip many of these nutrients out.
  • Reduces your risk for disease – Whole foods help lower your risk of heart disease and stroke by improving your cholesterol levels, reducing your blood pressure and controlling your blood sugar.
  • Puts you in a better mood – You’ll see a difference in energy and absorption of nutrients with whole foods versus consuming foods high in simple sugars, which can trigger depression and fatigue.
  • Less aches and pains – Whole foods help fight inflammation.
  • It’s good for your skin – Studies suggest eating more vegetables, fish, beans and olive oil may reduce wrinkling and other age-related skin changes.
  • Stronger bones and teeth – Calcium and magnesium are important for strong bones and teeth, especially as we age.
  • High in healthy fats and fiber – Unlike trans fats found in processed foods, seeds are a good source of omega 3s. Other foods, like avocados, nuts and fish, contain healthy fats which boost brain health. Plus, added fiber helps with digestion and metabolic health.
  • It’s a great way to support local farmers – Come springtime, find a farmers’ market near you so you can enjoy locally-produced fruits and vegetables.

Remember, it’s not only important what you eat but how you prepare it, too. You want to make sure your body is getting the necessary nutrients that give you energy and help you to feel great, both physically and mentally. Adding more whole foods to your diet will help you accomplish just that.