I am a big proponent of eating a whole foods diet for maintaining optimum health. What exactly does that mean? It means eating foods that are as close to their natural state as possible.
For example, eat an apple instead of drinking apple juice or eating a store-bought pastry filled with apples. Eat whole grains like oatmeal or quinoa instead of a box of cereal made from oats or crackers made from grain flours. Eat a tomato in a salad instead of a frozen pizza.
Here a few reasons to adopt this way of eating:
It helps us to eat the freshest foods possible. A fresh, ripe apple is very high in nutrients, but we know that it has a very limited shelf-life that is easy to determine by the overall condition of the apple. Processed foods on the shelves are produced so that their shelf-life is extended, often way beyond what would be considered normal.
It allows us to get the full nutritional benefit from the food. For example, whole grains like wheat have an outer bran that’s loaded with fiber and nutrients that are often stripped away when it’s made into flour for cereals, breads, cakes, cookies. If the box says “enriched”, it means that important components have been removed.
Eating whole grains like oats, barley, quinoa, and buckwheat give us the full spectrum of nutrients in their natural state. This is important since these beneficial compounds are often part of a complex of nutrients that may get processed and absorbed by the digestive system more efficiently than isolated vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. The same goes for fruits and vegetables.
It ensures that we’re not getting additional ingredients that our bodies don’t want. Most processed foods contain added sugars, salts, unhealthy fats, and chemicals that stabilize the food or make it taste great (often making them addictive!). By eating whole foods, we can give our bodies exactly what it needs and prevent it from getting things that it not only doesn’t need, but it doesn’t know what to do with, that can build up, and that can be harmful.
Today, pick one processed food product in your diet (if there is one) and replace it with a whole foods alternative.