The simplest advice your mother ever gave you (aside from “don’t touch that”) may have been the best: eat more fruit and vegetables. But let’s give that a modern update: eat more whole foods. Whole foods can be simply defined as anything—fruits, vegetables, meats, grains—that are brought to you unprocessed, in pure form. They are, simply, food, not food-derived products that claim to be vitamin enriched or calcium fortified and dominate modern supermarkets. More than anything, a whole foods diet will help you live healthily, but it can also help protect the environment.
Whole foods provide nutrients in their most natural state, when they are best able to absorb into the body and help prevent illness. Omega-3 enriched orange juice, for instance, may be appealing, but you’re better off getting your vitamin C from the orange and your Omega-3 fatty acids from a natural source, such as fish or nuts, as these whole foods contain helpful combinations of other vitamins and minerals that are best for your body.
Eating whole foods can also cut major carbon emissions. The most recent EPA estimates attribute over 24 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions to the food industry, a large portion of which comes from processing and packaging. By sticking to whole foods, you can avoid these emissions altogether.
A diet of whole foods can be extremely easy to follow, and you don’t have to shop at Whole Foods. Simply avoid processed and packaged foods and refined grains and sugars. For the most part, this means looking for whole grain bread and pasta products, avoiding low-fat and enriched foods that have been modified out of their original forms, and staying out of fast food restaurants. By not accepting these additives and modifications, you can live better while reducing your environmental impact.