There is no one-size fits all diet. Some people thrive on high-fat, low-carbohydrate diets, while others feel best fueling themselves with plant foods. Whether we fall into the low-carb, vegetarian, Paleo, or “everything in moderation” camp, one thing that benefits people in all the disparate diet camps is whole foods. That is, foods that are unprocessed, unrefined, and replete with their naturally-occurring nutrients.

When we consume foods in their natural state, our bodies are better able to digest, absorb, and assimilate their constituents. When foods are fractionated, isolated, hydrogenated, and otherwise chemically manipulated, they can present our bodies with unnatural and physiologically novel fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.

Consuming foods in their whole forms supports a healthy endocrine system. The clearest example of the benefits of whole foods verses their processed counterparts can be seen in refined carbohydrates. Whole food sources of carbohydrates typically include components that help buffer potential blood glucose spikes and also provide nutrients that aid in the metabolism of the carbohydrate itself. Take wheat for example; whole, hard red winter wheatberries are starchy, but that starch brings along with it a good amount of fiber, B vitamins, and minerals. Compare this to white bread, which has been stripped of its beneficial nutrients and presents the digestive and endocrine systems with a concentrated dose of carbohydrates and virtually nothing else. Even “fortified” grain products are only fortified with a handful of B vitamins, iron, and folic acid; rather than the full complement of nutrients that came in the whole wheatberry form.

Whole foods are naturally packaged with elements that help the body harness energy and bodybuilding nutrition from them. For example, eggs contain fat, which is necessary for the proper absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A and D, of which eggs are also a good source—provided you eat the yolks! They’re also a rich source of choline, which is required for healthy digestion and assimilation of dietary fat and cholesterol. Most nuts and seeds are high in polyunsaturated fats, and they also contain vitamin E, which has antioxidant properties and helps protect those fragile unsaturated fats from oxidation. Leafy greens are good sources of both calcium and magnesium—minerals that require a proper balance in order to support optimum health.

Most of us would agree that fruit is a healthy choice, but the best way to consume fruit is as whole, fresh fruits. Consumed as juice, the fruit loses its fiber content, and since it doesn’t have to be chewed or broken down in the GI tract, it presents an almost instantaneous assault on the pancreas and other organs of blood sugar regulation. On top of that is the issue of pasteurization, which is a partial sterilization process in which a liquid is heated in order to kill germs, and then quickly cooled. Most fruit juices are pasteurized in order to increase shelf life—even the refrigerated ones! The high temperatures of pasteurization can nullify vitamins that aren’t heat-stable, such as vitamin C.

The bottom line is this – whole foods provide a strong foundation for healthy living. They present well-rounded nutrient profiles that help maintain balanced endocrine systems, and everything that cascades from that: healthy body weight, balanced moods, and steady energy levels.

And where do supplements come in? Supplements do just what their name implies…they are designed to supplement a person’s diet. Supplements open up an entirely new dimension for the quest for optimal health by allowing an individual to obtain therapeutic levels of nutrients, levels that go above and beyond that which can be single-handedly obtained from diet alone. Learning how to wisely combine a healthy diet with a proper supplementation regimen is a key factor for health, and something that we will continue to explore and share with our readers.