By Dr. Akua Woolbright, Senior Healthy Eating & Wellness Educator, Whole Foods Market



MANY OF THE CHRONIC diseases in America are diet related, and can be prevented, reduced, and even reversed by simply eating the right foods. On various levels we all understand this, yet it can be extremely difficult to make dietary changes. I believe this is in part due to the prevalence of inexpensive fast and processed foods, personal and societal stressors, lack of social and emotional support, and conflicting nutritional advice promoted by the media and health professionals.

We are all too familiar with the chronic disease and obesity statistics in the United States, and particularly in communities of color. Many agencies, institutions, health professionals, and policies have been focused on addressing these concerns. Yet, the epidemic continues.

As an African American nutritionist, I am particularly concerned about the negative impacts that poor dietary habits have on communities of color. I have seen far too often how such habits affect my clients and individuals close to me, and am personally committed to promoting efforts that will help to effectively address these issues.

In my opinion, the conversation has not gone far enough, nor have the strategies been bold enough. It is time to move away from messaging that focuses solely on portion control and everything in moderation, and start to make specific recommendations about which foods have the potential to heal.

I joined Whole Foods Market in 2009 to help create a healthy eating program for our team members, customers, and community members. The Health Starts Here program is an approach that highlights the many benefits of consuming more whole and plant foods. The program is based on four pillars of healthy eating: eat whole, unprocessed foods; go “plant-strong” by choosing more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, peas, nuts, and seeds; choose healthy fats from nuts, seeds, and avocados; and seek foods that are nutrient dense, meaning they contain more vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals.

By adopting these four pillars our meals become naturally lower in calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol. The benefit is a boost in nutritional quality that can help improve health outcomes for people of all communities.

Whole Foods Market has educational tools, recipes, cooking demos, and how-to videos available that can help anyone who is interested in making healthier lifestyle choices.