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What Are Whole Foods and Why Should I Eat Them?
Somewhere along the way we lost sight of what food was supposed to be. A cursory check of anything that comes pre-made in a packet tells you this. How confident can we even be that what is written in the ingredients list is what we are actually eating? A few years ago this seemed to be a ridiculous proposition, now, it’s practically a running joke. Should a tin of tomato soup really have anything in it apart from tomatoes and stock?
This is where whole foods come in. Whole foods are foods as close to their natural form as possible while still being fit to eat and are processed as little as possible (if at all). As a result they are free from the chemicals and added sugars which make food taste weird and unnatural but are packed with all the nutrients and taste that nature intended, with high levels of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre which keep us healthy and feeling great.
This could mean eating:
Whole grains instead of refined grains
A diet high in fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds which are easy to find unprocessed
A skinless chicken breast served with fresh, seasonal vegetables instead of chicken nuggets processed with extra fats, flavourings and preservatives
A baked potato made with spring onions and light soured cream instead of soured cream and onion crisps
Fresh berries with a natural breakfast cereal instead of breakfast bars
Choosing whole foods is an easy way to make sure that what goes into your body really is going to make you happy and healthy and busting with natural energy.
Most health experts now espouse the importance of a good diet to health with research now strongly indicating clear links between diet and obesity, disease and even mental health.
Incorporating whole foods into a diet can be a challenge initially. For many of us it’s easier to go to the local supermarket and grab something convenient for a hurried lunch but nowadays whole foods aren’t that hard to find. Familiarise yourself with any nearby health shops which will definitely stock a wide range of whole foods, many of the better greengrocers now stock a good range of whole foods along with fantastic organic and local produce and of course there are many great online health stores that stock a much wider range than the supermarkets, at better prices and all quickly and conveniently delivered to your door.
Why Eat Whole Foods?
Below we have 6 extremely good reasons why we should all be eating more whole foods:
According to recent studies, almost as few as a third of us get enough Vitamin C, almost half don’t get enough Vitamin A, more than half don’t get enough magnesium and over 90% don’t get enough fibre or potassium! Yet, according to the Cancer Research these are precisely the nutrients that help lower the risk of our major health problems – cancers, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
What’s the easiest way to correct this nutrient shortage? Two words: whole foods. “Almost all of the shortfalls identified by this survey can be corrected by eating a balanced, mostly plant-based diet”, says nutrition advisor Karen Collins RD.
What? Yes, phytochemicals. Over the last decade or so scientists have identified hundreds of biologically active plant-food components called phytochemicals which include the powerful antioxidant lycopene, a red-coloured carotenoid found mainly in tomatoes; anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant group that gives deep blue colour to berries; and pterostilbene, which appears to turn on a switch in cells that breaks down fat and cholesterol and is found in blueberries and, wait for it, pinot noir grapes!
The only way to make sure you’re getting the phytochemicals we know about – as well as the ones we haven’t even discovered yet – is to eat plant foods in their whole, unprocessed form.
When you eat a diet made mostly from whole foods it’s much easier to decrease the so-called bad fats (trans fats and some saturated fats) which are often added to processed and junk food. At the same time it’s easier to consume more of the ‘good’ fats which include your omega-3s (from fish and plants) and monounsaturated fats (from plant sources).
Fibre has been in the news a lot recently and is fast becoming the new poster child of the healthy eating movement. Most whole plant foods are rich in fibre. Most processed, junk or fast foods are not. Fibre helps your health in all sorts of ways, keeps the GI tract moving and helps you feel fuller faster. It is also crucial in the fight against heart disease and diabetes.
Eating fibre-rich foods is linked to the control of blood pressure, blood lipids and weight in adults.
Whole foods are as nature intended, without added fat, sugar or salt. Eating more whole foods will help you cut down on calories from the added fats and sugars we get from processed foods.
You might think the benefits of whole grains are mostly to do with fibre but there’s so much more to them that that. Whole grains are rich in a myriad of vitamins, minerals and phytochemical compounds that, alone or in combination, are likely to have significant health benefits that are beyond that from dietary fibre.
Want to lower your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes or improve your cholesterol levels? Switch to whole grains. Whole grain foods have been linked with lower levels of blood glucose and insulin after meals and research consistently supports the view that eating more whole grain foods lowers the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
So there you have it, a brief run-down on what whole foods are, the best way to get your hands on them and why they’re important to all of us. And remember, it’s not just about ‘eating healthy’, whole foods taste significantly better too!