By Trish Deboni – Personal Trainer
Is it really that important to eat whole foods? And what is a whole food anyway?
Whole foods are foods that haven’t been broken down or processed. They are foods that are exactly the way they are meant to be. No additives, no preservatives, just the way nature intended. Nature usually does a pretty awesome job at putting stuff together for us. (Like food and nutrition.) It is easier for our body to break down and process whole foods.
Learning to eat well isn’t just about taking away “bad stuff”.It’s really about adding more good stuff. I really can’t emphasize this enough. When you make a habit of eating natural, whole food, you don’t have to worry about giving foods up or following a strict diet. It’s all about consistency. You want to eat stuff that gives you more bang for the buck. More value. More nourishment. MOST OF THE TIME. Think of it this way. Your food should enhance your health.
Whole foods are good because:
- Whole foods are like nature’s medicine cabinet (a bunch of chemicals and compounds that promote health.)
- Whole foods usually contain these chemicals and compounds in a form that we absorb and digest
- Whole foods contain these chemicals and compounds in the perfect proportions
- Whole food nutrients work together in our body
- Whole foods are closest to their original form
- Whole foods match our hunger and fullness cues better
On the other hand, processed/refined foods have their nutrients stripped away, contain substances that we didn’t evolve to digest, absorb, or tolerate well. They
generally, contain lots of sugar, fake fats, sodium, and other additives. They can also mess with our natural appetite, hunger, and satiety signals — it’s really easy to overeat processed foods.
The good thing is, once your taste buds adapt, whole foods generally taste better —The flavors are more complex and nuanced. And if you’re eating slowly and mindfully, whole fresh food tastes great, while highly processed, chemical-laden food… doesn’t.
Fresh, seasonal, local food is definitely your best bet. You can find fresh foods at any grocery store. Start your shopping on the outside aisles. That’s where all the good stuff is. Stay away from the aisles with boxes and bags. The more the food looks like its natural state, the better. Buying and cooking foods that are in season is ideal. You will get the best quality foods when you buy for the season you are in. And buying locally is awesome. Find a farmer’s market and you will find fresh, seasonal, local, delicious food.
Colorful fruits and veggies are especially rich in naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, but almost all whole foods have something to offer.
When researchers compared people’s metabolic rates and the energy they expend after meals, they found that eaters spent 50% less energy digesting the processed food. Less energy spent on digestion means more calories absorbed and stored. More calories absorbed and stored adds up to weight gain for people who eat a lot of processed foods. The energy we use to digest whole, unprocessed foods means that fewer calories are stored as fat.
Whole foods require more energy to digest, which is a good thing.
So, there you have it. I hope I’ve sold you on whole foods. Remember you don’t have to follow a crazy fad diet, and you don’t have to give up a bunch of foods. Instead, add foods in! Buy fresh, seasonal, and locally. Try some new recipes. Find new foods you like and find new, creative ways to cook foods you already know you like.