"Whole foods" isn't just the name of a high end grocery store chain. The term describes foods that are unprocessed, unrefined, with the ability to be eaten without additives or modification in their natural state—and therefore more nutritionally packed. When foods are processed, they lose a lot of their beneficial vitamins, minerals, fiber and water.
Contrary to popular belief, whole foods aren't necessarily organic (which are produced, manufactured and handled using organic means and are defined as such by the USDA). And whole or "natural" foods can include eggs, certain cuts of meat and fish, as longs as they are free of additives and preservatives (the pasteurization process of milk doesn't count, however)—but they aren't always free of chemicals and pesticides. Organic foods are regulated closely and are often in higher demand than whole foods because of this—but both offer much healthier alternatives than processed foods.
According to writer and receipe developer, Heidi Swanson, who states in her cookbook, Super Natural Everyday, the term 'natural foods' "is used in many different contexts, and it means different things to different people. By 'natural foods,' I mean ingredients that are straight from the plant or animal. Or that are made with as little processing and as few added flavorings, stabilizers and preservatives as possible, keeping nutrients and original flavors intact."
She suggests visiting natural food stores or co-ops, stores that source produce from local farmers and farmers markets.
Here are some suggestions of whole or natural foods to add to your pantry:
Oils and Fats
Extra-virgin olive oil, butter or brown butter, extra-virgin coconut oil, toasted sesame oil, cold-pressed nut oils.
Quinoa, bulgar wheat, millet, whole grain rice, farro, barley, wheat berries, rye berries.
White whole wheat pastry flour, rye flour, quinoa flour, oat flour.
Honey, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, cane sugars, fine-grain natural cane sugar, unsulphured molasses.
Noodles and Pasta
Soba noodles, whole wheat pastas, quinoa pastas, brown rice pastas.
Beans, Lentils, Dried Beans
Variety of split peas, variety of lentils, heirloom beans, variety of other beans. Dried beans.
Nuts and Seeds
Marcona and regular almonds, pine nuts, white and black sesame seeds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pepitas, sunflower seeds, pecans, poppy seeds.
Curry powders and homemade pastes, mustards, red pepper flakes, chile powders, freshly ground black pepper, sea salts, naturally fermented shoyu (soy sauce) made from whole ingredients, tamari.