What Are Whole Foods?

by Harriet Bond
(San Francisco, CA, USA)

The term “whole foods” is not synonymous with “organic foods” as some people believe. Whole foods are unrefined (or refined as minimally as possible), minimally or un-processed, and usually don’t have added ingredients such as fats, sugar, or salt.

Because many of the chemicals added in processing are designed to lengthen shelf life, whole foods may not keep as long as processed foods. However, while many people believe the worst villains in processed foods are the chemicals you can’t pronounce, added fats, sugar, and salt can be just as detrimental.

Scientists have identified a number of substances such as phytochemicals, fiber, and antioxidants, which help to protect the body against cancer, heart disease, and other chronic conditions. Studies have consistently shown that when foods are processed, some nutritional benefits are lost. And even if the known vitamins and minerals that processing removes are taken in supplement form, the supplements don’t appear to have the same benefit as the natural.

Some nutritionist point out that science is making new discoveries all the time, and it is possible that there are vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial factors which have not yet been identified.

Furthermore, while some essential or beneficial nutrients may have been removed from processed foods, some may have had potentially harmful substances added. For example, many foods processed to be “low-fat” have had sugar added to improve the taste. Processed meats have salt and preservatives added.

Whole foods include whole unpolished grains, raw fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Unprocessed meats, poultry and fish, and non-homogenized milk are also considered whole foods.

Whole foods are generally less expensive than processed foods,especially fruits and vegetables bought in season. As a rule, processing adds to the expensive.

It may take more time and effort to use some whole foods, but the health benefits are worth the investment of time.

Whole foods are generally recognized as “healthy”. And to consumers used to syrupy soft drinks, frozen dinners, sweet breakfast pastries, or processed deli meats, there may be a fear factor that the whole grain will have the texture and taste of a sheet of Styrofoam, that the fruit will taste sour, or that the vegetables will be bitter.

If you’re trying to improve your family’s eating habits, make changes gradual. If they are used to sweet snacks, don’t push celery as an alternative. Try apples, bananas, grapes, and raisins. If they prefer salty or savory snacks, peanuts, cashews or sunflower seeds are a whole food

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Updated: October 30, 2012 — 5:16 pm

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