We've all experienced the energy boost after consuming a nutrient-dense meal. You don't need to read countless studies to know the benefits to your body are real, so very real. But with new superfoods, health and wellness trends, and weight-loss diets announced weekly (sometimes daily, knowing which one works for us and if we should apply it to our lives can be incredibly confusing.
If you're drowning in best-selling diet books too, then we have some good news. In The Atlantic's report, science compared every diet, and the clear winner was real, whole food. In the paper, titled "Can We Say What Diet Is Best for Health," researchers found "no diet is clearly best." Co-author of the study Stephanie Meller wrote, "A diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention."
For more insight into a whole food diet, we tapped one of our favorite foodie's and plant-based advocate, Ellie Bullen of Elsa's Wholesome Life (her Instagram is brimming with delicious, real-food eye candy). When she discovered that only 5% of her fellow Australians eat their recommended five servings of vegetables a day (in the U.S., only 1 in 10 Americans eat enough fruit and veggies), she decided to do something about it. She now shares her quick and easy whole food ideas with close to 400,000 followers. "Vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals, fiber, water, and low in calories," she told MyDomaine. "They are our 'super' foods and much more affordable than supplements."
Ahead, Bullen shares more insight on whole foods, how to incorporate more of them into our diets, and her tactics for resisting our unhealthy eating habits. Keep scrolling for her exclusive sweet potato recipe!
MYDOMAINE: What does “whole foods” mean?
ELLIE BULLEN: Whole foods are foods that are in their most natural form or with minimal processing. So to me, this means eating an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains like rice, buckwheat and rolled oats, legumes, nuts, and seeds, a lifestyle that involves cooking food from the whole natural ingredient.
MD: What are some simple ways we can incorporate whole foods into our diets without changing it completely?
EB: Try to ensure your dinner plate is made up of 75% veggies. If you follow recipes, always add extra and lessen other ingredients. One easy way to get more whole foods into your diet at breakfast is to have a smoothie. Try this combo: banana (fruit), spinach (vegetables), oats (grain), calcium-enriched almond milk (dairy), 100% pea protein powder (legumes), and natural peanut butter (nuts).
MD: What are the common pantry ingredients that double as superfoods?
EB: Some that come to mind include: oats, peanuts, olive oil, dried lentils, and sweet potatoes.
MD: What are the new superfoods you are reaching for and why?
EB: These products are not exactly new; however, a lot of great evidence is coming out about the benefits of probiotics, so I am really digging sauerkraut and kombucha.
MD: What are the foods we should never eat?
EB: I think “never” is a bit too harsh. We definitely need to eat less from a box and more from the earth. Cutting back on packaged foods will inevitably reduce your salt, sugar, and saturated fat intake.
MD: How does eating whole foods improve your health and wellness? What changes have you personally noticed?
EB: Eating a healthy diet is like an insurance policy. I think a long-term healthy diet will benefit you down the track. You will have less illness and disease, be active for longer, and feel better. Personally, I know that my energy levels are so much higher eating a whole food diet, plus I have a happier mind and I feel more confident.
MD: What are some of your go-to whole food meals for weeknights?
EB: At the moment as the weather is really warming up here in Australia, I am completely obsessed with really simple and easy salads. I love that I can have a huge salad and feel completely satisfied without feeling overstuffed. One meal I have been especially hooked on is a salad of rosemary baked purple sweet potato, crisp cos lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, and avocado with crunchy rye sourdough croutons (baked in garlic and olive oil), hummus ,and balsamic vinegar. So damn satisfying.
MD: What are some of the pantry items we should ditch and why? And what should we replace them with?
EB: I am a massive advocate for switching out butter or margarine for olive oil. Olive oil contains unsaturated fats, which have been shown to reduce your risk of heart disease. Roasted and salted nuts often contain a lot of salt. Swapping these for raw nuts or roasted and unsalted is a great way to decrease your sodium intake.
MD: What are your favorite sugar alternatives?
EB: If I’m creating something that needs a little sweetness such as a cake, I add dates. That way you’re getting the benefits of the fiber in them as well. You can blend dates with water to make a thick paste. This can also be used as a really yummy caramel topping on your pancakes and waffles.
MD: What are your tips for resisting bad/unhealthy foods when we are trying to make the change to whole food diet?
EB: I think one of the easiest things to do is to ensure unhealthy foods are not in your pantry/fridge. Keep a stock of quick healthy foods in your home, such as fruit, rice cakes, nuts, and hummus, and always pack a healthy snack in your handbag if you’re heading out. Having leftovers or extra food prepped (and not skipping meals) can also help you to resist cravings for those unhealthy convenience foods.
MD: What are the best foods to naturally detox? How do you incorporate these into your diet?
EB: I don’t believe in detox foods. You have kidneys and a liver that naturally do this for you. I think the most important thing is just to eat a diet that is full of vegetables, fruit, healthy fats, legumes, nuts, and grains, and you won’t need to detox. And if you have had a period of unhealthy eating, just get back to basic simple home cooking and you will feel so much better.
MD: What is your healthy eating motto?
EB: Don’t get too caught up in all the superfood fads. The cheapest and easiest way to eat healthier is just to eat real whole foods. My motto is eat more plants!
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 can of black beans
1/2 small red onion
1/2 red capsicum
1 spring onion
Handful of fresh coriander
4 tbsp. cashew cheese
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place whole sweet potatoes on a baking tray in the oven. Bake potatoes for 40 minutes, until a fork can glide through with ease. Meanwhile, dice tomato, capsicum, and onions. Toss in a bowl with the black beans.
Remove potatoes from the oven, slice open, spoon out a few tbsp of the inside, stuff with the bean veggie mix, and finally top with sliced avocado, fresh coriander, and a drizzle of cashew cheese.
You may choose to return the potatoes to the oven for a further 5 to 10 minutes to cook the filling, or eat straight away.
For more delicious whole food recipes like this, shop Ellie's e-Book below.