The term whole foods refers to foods that have not been processed or refined, including whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. Whole foods contain compounds known as phytochemicals that may reduce the risk for many diseases. In addition, whole grains, such as brown rice and whole wheat, include the whole kernel of the germ, which includes elements such as fiber that make them more nutritious than refined grains.
The typical North American diet, however, is high in processed foods like white bread, potato chips, and desserts made with white flour and white sugar. In these foods, the fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals normally found in whole foods are missing, at least in part. While processed foods used in moderation can be part of a healthful diet, a whole-foods diet provides nutrients and health benefits that the typical American diet does not provide.