One of the benefits of eating whole foods is that those foods are nutrient-dense: They are rich in micronutrients like iron, zinc, folate, calcium, and vitamins A and C (among others). Combining whole foods offers the most nutrients, and that’s true not only because you’re getting a variety of nutrients from different sources, but because combining certain nutrients actually increases their absorption. Iron absorption, for example, is enhanced when it’s eaten with vitamin C—pair your leafy greens with lemon juice, or dip vitamin C-rich bell pepper strips into iron-rich hummus. Vitamin D and calcium, two nutrients that vegetarians and vegans often focus on, are another set of nutrients that are best eaten together; vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium.
Benefits also include lower rates of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. Whole foods tend to be lower in sugar and higher in fiber, which helps balance blood sugar. They also contain healthy fats, which boost cognition, as well as prebiotics and probiotics that improve gut health. They’re also packed with important nutrients that help your body function optimally.