Eating Whole Foods
In last week’s post, about feeding the body, mind and spirit, I shared a variety of topics with you, that I’ll be covering this year. Each topic is intended to feed the body, mind or spirit, with the intent to have a healthier and happier life.
I also had the pleasure last week of hosting an evening with quite a few moms who belong to the food & wine club at my son’s school. The focus for that evening was also nutrition and eating whole foods! I always feel blessed to be part of a community that is supportive, but I was overwhelmed with genuine interest and stories I heard that evening from many ladies. Common theme, we want to make better, informed decisions with respect to the food we eat.
Whole Foods, what the heck does that mean?
Another common question I heard that evening is, “what exactly is a whole food?” Is it about the store, Whole Foods? Not really, but you can understand where the store got its name! Whole Foods, in this post, is all about the food a person eats, which of course you can buy at Whole Foods.
Up until recently, not many people refer to what they eat as a whole food. There will be references made to their food being plant-based, dairy-free, gluten-free, paleo, etc. but a “whole food?”, not so much. Also, all mention of whole foods is not to be confused with the Whole Foods 30 diet, which is restrictive and only used for short-term (30 days) to help detect food allergies. Confused yet? Read further and I hope I’ll clear up any questions you may have.
So, what the heck is a whole food?
A whole food is found in its original state or in a state that has been the least altered. Whole foods are unprocessed, free of additives, flavorings, nitrates, etc.
Examples of Whole Foods:
- All fresh fruits & vegetables
- Frozen, canned or dried fruits and vegetables with no added sugar or preservatives
- Fresh legumes, nuts and seeds
- Whole grains such as wheat, corn, rice (brown), bulgur, barley, quinoa, sorghum, spelt, etc.
- High quality animal products that don’t contain nitrites or antibiotics.
Least altered refers to way some whole foods are produced for consumption. Whole grains are hulled (removes the outer inedible layer) but the whole kernel: the bran, germ and endosperm, is left intact.
Unfortunately, many grains used in packaged goods have been milled, which removes the bran and the germ. The bran and the germ contain the best nutrient of the grain. They contain the fiber, vitamins and minerals. When the bran and germ are removed, what’s left is the pure carbohydrate, which so many people want to stay away from these days!
That’s why most breakfast cereals and store-bought breads contain words such as, “fortified”. At some point, the nutritional facts started getting displayed on the packaging, and manufacturers knew they had to get the nutrients they took out during the processing of the grain back into the end product, hence additives.
Is the whole equal to the sum of its parts?
There has been some controversy (food, and what to eat, is a hot topic these days!) and question as to whether foods made from whole ingredients, such as bread, is really a whole food. In my book, the answer is yes. The trouble with information today is you will find varying answers at both ends of the spectrum.
I’m all about finding better alternatives that are realistic so changes can be life changes, not changes simply to lose weight or get better numbers on your bloodwork. While both have merit, studies have shown once a person reaches a goal (for weight loss or lower cholesterol), they revert to habits that got them there in the first place.
A good example of using whole food ingredients would be using whole grains to make bread. True bread has a few simple ingredients: flour, water and yeast. However, most packaged, store bought breads contain way more than these 3 ingredients. Also, most don’t contain the whole grain, or if they do, there have been preservatives and additives mixed in to prevent the bread from going stale as it makes its way from the processing plant to the shelf at the grocery store to your home.
A better choice would be to get whole grain bread made fresh from the store or bakery that contain no added ingredients. Many grocery stores have a bakery department and bake fresh bread daily, there is no reason for preservatives or additives to be used since the distribution is straight from the store to the consumer. If the ingredients aren’t listed, as a consumer, you can always ask what’s in the bread. The store Whole Foods and some retailers such as Wildflower have full disclosure that the breads they make contain no additives or preservatives.
So, while some can argue bread may not technically be a “whole food”, I disagree. If the product you are purchasing or making is made from whole ingredients, and no additives or preservatives are used, I say go for it. You are better off choosing a product that is made from whole ingredients, than choosing one that contains additives and preservatives.
Benefits of whole foods:
- Whole foods contain fiber which aids in digestion.
- Whole foods contain phytochemicals, which are nutrients that help our bodies fight off many illnesses and diseases.
- Whole foods are more nutrient dense than the foods that have been stripped of their original nutrient content.
- Eating whole foods can improve your gut health (be sure to look for next weeks post about gut health)
Some of the obstacles to eating whole foods:
- Time to prepare the recipe from scratch
- Eating a variety of whole foods (not just one group)
How much of my plate should be from whole foods?
Ideally, 100% of the food you eat should be from whole foods. Realistically, that may not always happen. Our busy lives today can interfere with all the good intentions to eat only whole foods. Some nutrition consultants will say to follow the 80/20 or 90/10 rule, where 80/90% of your foods is from whole foods and the other 20/10% is for convenience.
I believe there is no magic percentage. Listen to your body. Pay attention to how you feel after you eat a meal with only whole foods, and then compare it to how you feel after eating a meal that is not made from all whole foods. Notice your energy levels, any inflammation, any digestive issues?
Each person is different, and each person will react differently to the foods they eat. My goal is to help you determines the best foods for YOU!
Here’s to eating whole foods one meal at a time.
P.S. Send me an email if you have more questions about whole foods.