In a lot of my posts I mention eating whole foods to nourish and replenish the body, but the term “whole foods” can be a little bit confusing as food today is not quite the same as it used to be. We experience pleasure and nourishment when consuming foods, and the most nourishing foods are those closest to their natural form. This means recognisable, unprocessed or minimally processed foods such as fresh meats, whole grains, nuts & seeds, fruit, eggs, seafood and vegetables, these are whole foods. Before industrialisation and the shift in our food system from whole foods to a higher consumption of highly- refined and processed foods, these were the foods traditionally eaten in history.
When comparing this shift in dietary behaviours and the increased rates of obesity and metabolic disease in todays society, It clearly indicates theres a strong link between a higher consumption of processed, high-refined foods and an increased risk of disease. When analysing the isles of a grocery store, how many isles are actually dedicated to whole foods vs the isles loaded with processed, highly-refined and energy dense foods. When looking to improve health and prevent disease, a whole food approach is definitely something to take on board and start implementing into your dietary routine today.
Whole foods are nutrient dense, this means they naturally contain fibre, vitamins and minerals and that are often removed during processing of foods. This is why processed foods are considered energy dense, instead of nutrient dense, where energy dense foods provide many calories with a downward spiral in energy after consumption.
When trying a whole-food approach, it can be a little confusing when you don’t know what to look out for, thankfully for the food regulation and labelling requirements in our food industry today, its as simple as turning over the packet and reading those ingredients listed on the label. It may come to quite a shock to some to see what actually makes up the content of their favourite foods. Some of the common food additives typically used by the food industry are added sugars, salts, dyes for colour, preservatives such as thickness and levelling agents. To make it a little easier for your next shop here’s a little guide that can help you better understand what are whole food options and which are not.
What are whole foods:
- Fresh Vegetables from the outer perimeter of the grocery store
- Fresh or dried fruits without the added preservatives
- Dairy products including milk & yoghurts without added sugars or chemical flavourings such as natural yoghurts
- Fresh meats, poultry, seafood
- Beans, pulses, nuts & seeds
- spreads such nut butters that are 100% whole food without the added sugar, salt or unhealthy fats
What is not a whole food:
- Most prepared meals in the freezer isle
- Any products with too many ingredients including additives, preservatives and chemical ingredients
- Pre packaged highly refined foods such as sweets or crackers
- Sugary breakfast cereals, white bread
- Deli products such as hams & Salami
Some of your favourite foods may of been listed in the non whole food section, this doesn’t mean you need to cut out all the processed foods you like but simply replacing them with healthier options to create a balance. Some simple swaps could be a bowl of morning oats instead of a sugary breakfast cereal, whole meal breads instead of white bread, whole pieces of fruit instead of fruit juices and fresh meats instead of hams and other highly processed deli meats.