Many people aren’t sure exactly what whole foods are. Because so much of our food is processed and promoted as ‘organic’ or ‘natural’, we often don’t recognize whole foods or see their role in a healthy diet.
Whole foods are those we eat their natural state. Manufactured, refined or processed foods aren’t whole foods, no matter what other labels they have. Even staples like bread, peanut butter and jelly don’t qualify. That’s because all (or almost all) of their ingredients are machined to a far cry from their natural state. They’re fast and convenient, but do you wonder what’s in them and what this means for your health?
Why Processed Foods Are So Unhealthy
According to researchers, most Americans are essentially malnourished. By some estimates, 90% of the food we buy is processed. Because nutrients get removed with processing, we receive too little vitamin C, fiber, and other essential nutrients every day. When you look at the quality of food we eat, it isn’t surprising.
Processed food contains more fat, sodium, oils, and empty calories than their natural counterparts. Their ingredients also include artificial dyes and flavors, chemical sweeteners, and preservatives to extend shelf life. Products made from corn are often added, usually under many different names like citric acid. This causes problems for weight loss, because it concentrates more calories into what we consume than we need to eat.
Processing and refining ingredients removes the fiber, vitamins and minerals our bodies need to keep our muscles and organs working well, to fight disease, and use for energy. Worse – it throws out of balance the proportions of nutrients and calories we absorb during digestion, and the body stores more fat as a result.
When your body goes without the nutrition of natural foods, weight control and health suffers. Everything from metabolism to waste elimination to food cravings becomes maladjusted to too much fat, sugar, and too little vitamins, minerals and fiber.
But, how do you avoid this?
By eating more foods as they come from nature.
Why Whole Foods Help with Weight Loss
Whole foods are in their original state – or very close to it – when you eat them. Because they’re intact, you get more fiber and complete nutrients, and sugars and carbohydrates in natural proportions.
By eating whole foods, you feel satisfied without eating unnatural levels of calories per serving. Your body is better able to maintain a regular metabolism, decrease cravings, and avoid turning extra calories into fat. With the right fuel, you can lose weight more easily and feel healthier.
Examples of Whole Foods and Their Benefits
There are all kinds of great whole foods to choose from. Here are some examples:
- Nuts and seeds, such as walnuts, chia, and flax, contain omega 3 – an essential fatty acid that helps prevent heart disease.
- Fresh fruit and vegetables are a great source of vitamins, especially when they’re raw. They can help reduce the risk for many illnesses and lower blood pressure.
- Whole grains reduce the risk of chronic illness and obesity. You may have heard people say that whole grain is better than white bread, and it’s true! White flour is highly processed and lacks the nutrition in the entire wheat grain.
- Legumes such as black beans, lentils, and red kidney beans are a great source for fiber and protein. They help in reducing cholesterol and maintaining sugar levels.
Some nutritionists say that your body can better use vitamins from the food you eat than from pills and supplements—it’s certainly a lot more fun!
Eating whole foods is one of the best ways to take care of yourself.
It’s a simple change that can help boost your health.
About Dr. Betty Keller:
Dr. Betty Keller practices integrative medicine at the Optimal Wellness Center in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey. She is a board certified doctor specializing in weight loss, chronic pain treatment, medical acupuncture and disease prevention, serving Ridgewood, Wyckoff, NJ, and nearby areas.