Whole Foods - What are They?
by Cliff Smith
With the recent accent on healthy eating, there is a confusing array of so-called healthy foods available in mainstream stores. There is also much confusion about what exactly is the healthiest, with so much being described as `natural`, `organic`, `balanced`, `pure` and so on. In fact, the healthiest things for humans to eat are whole foods; these being natural food items which have not been refined or processed and have no added ingredients.
The list of vegetarian whole foods includes fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes and beans (kidney beans, lentils etc), seeds and nuts (e.g., sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, all types of nuts) and whole grains (oats, wheat, brown rice etc). Animal whole foods include shellfish, small fish eaten complete (anchovies, whitebait, smelt etc), eggs, poultry (chicken, turkey etc) and larger meat animals (goat, beef, lamb etc). The intention with the latter categories being to make use of as much as possible of the animal (e.g., making stock from the bones).
Whole grains are an example of excellent whole foods as they are among the best protectors against disease. One reason for this is their ability to slow down digestion, thus allowing more nutrients to be absorbed. During the digestive process they make `changes` within the intestine which allows good bacteria production, hence a better immune system. Whole grains also contain phytoestrogens and other phytochemicals, which are known to break down carcinogens.
Non-whole foods are known as `fragmented foods`, meaning that they have been deprived of part of their nutritional value through the refining process. Some are obvious; such as products made with white flour, white rice and refined sugar. Others are less obvious; fruit juice (lacking fibre), bran (lacking starch) and refined fats, both animal and vegetable (missing trace elements).
Who needs whole foods and why?
Research has shown that the human body can differentiate between whole and fragmented foods, even if the `missing` nutrient is consumed separately as a vitamin or mineral supplement, and will benefit more from whole foods. This is why it is considered ideal for a human diet to contain a minimum of 70% whole foods, which maximizes the benefits of an intake of natural nutrients.
Even if 70% is not achievable, every person should try to improve their nutritional health by eating some whole foods every day. Nutritionists recommend the following on a daily basis: one serving of animal protein, one serving of beans, two portions of whole grains or nuts and a variety of fresh vegetables and fruit. All schools and hospitals are now required to follow this advice when preparing meals and to follow guidelines in terms of the commercial catering equipment that they use: fat fryers are now used minimally, vegetables and fish should be steamed rather than boiled and meat should be grilled.
A way to achieve this 70% mark is to add concentrated whole foods and juices to your daily routine. Concentrated formulas make it possible to obtain more valuable nutrients in fewer calories, with less time, effort and energy.
Author Cliff Smith is one of the owners of this online health food store that offers concentrated whole foods and health drinks not sold in conventional stores. Get more health food and diet tips, or just browse the site.