How do you know you’re eating healthy whole foods? How do you even know you’re eating whole foods, to begin with?
Nutritionists generally consider plant-based foods as whole foods because they are in their simplest form. They even consider them as “real” foods. These foods do not go through processing (or as little as possible) and do not have manufactured ingredients in them.
Legumes and whole grains, for example, retain their fiber unlike when food manufacturers add artificial substances which potentially remove these nutrients. Foods that undergo too much processing like canning, milling, or freezing sometimes lose phytochemicals that are beneficial to our bodies.
That said, food processing is necessary when the intention is to extend food’s shelf life. However, when food loses its nutritional quality, they only become food products. Whole foods are as fresh as they come, whether as a harvested crop or animal produce.
Cognitive Health and Wellness Institute is on a mission to help people have a quality life with length of life. In this article, we hope to share valuable information about whole foods so you can decide whether they are healthy or not.
What are whole foods examples?
Whole foods are fundamentally close to their original form or source in nature. This is why vegetables, fruits, root crops, and whole grains are the typical whole foods we know. For instance, you can freshly pick them from the garden without any additional processing. Just wash them or boil in clean water, add rock salt and pepper, and you’re good to go.
Whole Foods: Milk and Dairy Products
We know milk, and most dairy products, as a good source of minerals and vitamins. Milk is packed with calcium, and it keeps our bones strong. They also have sodium, phosphorus, and potassium, which regulate the heart’s rhythm and blood clotting.
Some studies reveal how enough calcium lowers blood pressure and even the risk of hypertension. On the other hand, some research links them to the reduction of obesity in children and improvement of body composition and effectiveness of weight loss for adults.
Despite the nutritional value of milk and dairy products, many are still skeptical of consuming them because of the high cholesterol and fat content they contain. It still boils down to a well-balanced diet that makes one benefit from the nutrition of these foods.
Whole Foods: Fruits and Vegetables
Incorporating fruits and vegetables into your diet is a better way to get the fiber of these whole foods. Supplements are good, but merely relying on them isn’t going to give enough nutrients for your body. You can even get vitamins like A, C, D, and E from fruits and vegetables.
Eating these foods and including them in almost every meal would allow you to obtain the macronutrients that your body needs for optimal performance. Just stick to the non-starchy vegetables and fruits such as pears, apples, and green and leafy vegetables.
On the fruits and vegetable spectrum, there are at least nine different families that you’d find. Each of these comes with various plant compounds, which could be advantageous to your health. The trick is to eat a variety of colors and kinds so that you give your body the mix of nutrients it deserves!
Whole Foods: Nuts, Beans, and Seeds
Nuts, beans, and seeds are the best mono and polyunsaturated plant oils, fibres, healthy fats, and protein. They are also rich in vitamins and minerals, which help in regulating body weight and burning energy.
Research suggests that adding these whole foods into your diet could also protect against chronic diseases, including diabetes and heart disease.
Nuts alone could help with satiation, fat absorption and energy expenditure. There are many nutrients and antioxidants in nuts. Nutritionists often prescribe nuts for weight loss even if they have calories. Why? Our bodies don’t absorb them. A part of its fat stays in the fibrous wall, which is beneficial for digestion.
Whole Foods: Seafood, Poultry, and Meat
Seafood, poultry and meat have protein that plays a significant role in growth and development. They have other crucial nutrients like iron, zinc, iodine and vitamin B12.
Picking unprocessed seafood, poultry and meat is the healthier choice, for this could minimize your consumption of salt and saturated fats. As much as possible, go for the lean cuts and follow the recommended portion size to realize their benefits in the body.
When it comes to this kind of food, moderation is still the answer. The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommends 455 grams of seafood, poultry and meat to consume the essential nutrients that they offer. This recommendation is for unprocessed red meat. Discretionary food choices usually list bacon, sausages, and salami, for example.
Benefits of whole foods
A Yale study showed that eating minimally processed foods, mostly plants, help promote health and prevent diseases. Whole foods help lower the risk of heart diseases, type 2 diabetes and cancer, for example.
Whole food starches like squash, sweet potatoes, and brown rice are satisfying but low in calories. They make you feel full and provide fuel for your body without adding unnecessary weight. On the other hand, fruits and vegetables generally help reduce the chances of getting cardiovascular diseases.
What can you do to enjoy the benefits of whole foods? You can start switching white bread with whole-grain bread, for instance. Instead of drinking fruit juices in tetra packs, why not eat the whole fruit equivalent? If you like ham and deli meats, you can roast chicken or pork as a healthier option.
What not to eat
Contrary to what whole foods are, simple carbs have refined grains and sugars stripped of their nutrients and fiber. This process often happens with pasta, dough, pizza, white bread, sweet desserts, white flour, and other breakfast cereals.
The body digests these refined carbs quickly, and since they have a high glycemic index, they could trigger the spike in blood sugar levels. They can also be responsible for fluctuations in energy and mood. They are also the culprit in the building-up of fat around the waistline.
Eating simple carbs floods the bloodstream with sugar, and this is a primary trigger to insulin surge. This is what stimulates hunger and cravings for sugary carbs. These are the reasons why people overeat, gain weight, and become insulin resistant.
When you prepare foods to consume without the need for cooking, they are ready to eat. They only need refrigeration, minimal heating, and shelving that require specific guidelines to avoid contamination and the formation of bacteria.
There might be advertisements claiming that RTE foods are nutritious; however, they are processed, feature unhealthy fats, with added preservatives, and are packed with refined sugar and higher salt content.
It is highly advisable to consume ready-to-eat foods in moderation.
Foods with added sugars/sweeteners
Many people have a “sweet tooth,” a fondness or craving for sweet food. Often, people eat food with processed and refined sugars like cakes and candies to satisfy “sweet tooth” cravings. These are calorie-dense foods that don’t provide healthy fuel to your body.
Sugars are simple carbohydrates. It is common to see them as an additive in various types of drinks and foods. It isn’t a secret that consuming a lot of them would cause serious health problems. They could trigger diabetes, weight gain, and tooth cavities.
It is still difficult to see the point of adding sugar into food and drinks because they have empty calories. They are not the best source of energy, and the body doesn’t digest them easily. Making this a big part of your diet may cause imbalances in your body in the long run. Worse, you might experience health complications.
Healthy foods to eat everyday
We cannot underestimate the benefits of eating real food. Getting them closer to their natural state is the best way to maximize their nutrition for your body.
Unprocessed, nutrient-filled, chemical/additive-free – a diet high in whole foods are not only effective for losing weight, but it would also free you from the risk of diseases. So, start consuming more whole foods!
Make clean eating a part of your lifestyle! Obtain as many critical nutrients as you can. Associate seeds, nuts, and legumes in your daily menu. Also, add whole grains, vegetables and colorful fruits to your plate.
Did you know that you can “train” your palates to like healthy food? Eat more whole foods and control your cravings for processed foods to see the difference. You’ll find that you will be craving more real food once your body finds absolute satisfaction in them.
For more healthy recipes, you can find more here in Cognitive Health and Wellness Institute. Enjoy better food, a body in motion, and the best diagnostics and continued community support for a healthy and quality life.