Making healthy food choices can reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases. Eating more unprocessed foods can provide your body with the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. Unprocessed foods have not undergone any chemical changes and are in their most natural form.
Whole fruits are a healthy unprocessed food. As a nutrient-dense food, fruits are low in calories and high in vitamins A and C, potassium and fiber. Eating more fruits decreases your risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Including more whole fruits in your diet can also help you manage your weight because fruits' fiber content helps you feel full longer. Healthy whole fruits to add to your diet include strawberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, watermelon, apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, plums, peaches and cherries.
Fresh whole vegetables are also healthy unprocessed foods you should include in your diet. Like fruits, eating more vegetables lowers your risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers, and also helps with weight management. Fresh vegetables contain high amounts of potassium, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E and fiber. Eating more natural sources of potassium helps to lower blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. Aim for 2 and 1/2 cups of whole vegetables everyday. Healthy choices include spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, kale, sweet potatoes, carrots, corn, beets, artichokes and asparagus.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends you include non-meat sources of protein like legumes in your diet to provide an alternate source of important nutrients. In addition to being a good source of protein, legumes provide fiber, potassium, folate and iron. Women of childbearing age need adequate intakes of folate to prevent birth defects. Healthy unprocessed legumes include lentils, garbanzo beans, peas, kidney beans, black beans, black-eyed peas and lima beans.
Unprocessed raw nuts provide your body with a source of monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, protein, fiber and vitamin E. Including more nuts in your diet decreases your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia, gallstones and macular degeneration, according to John Livesey, Ph.D., of the department of endocrinology, Christchurch Hospital in New Zealand. Healthy choices include walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, pecans, hazelnuts and Brazil Nuts. In addition, walnuts are one of the few foods that provide the essential omega-3 fatty acids. Including more omega-3 fatty acids in your diet reduces inflammation and may also reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer and arthritis.
- American Dietetic Association: Is There Truth in Packaging? American Dietetic Association Offers Help in Translating Food Marketing Terms
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Fruits and Veggies Matter
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- American Heart Association: Potassium and Blood Pressure