What Exactly are “Whole Foods”?
Health professionals are constantly touting the benefits of whole foods. Want to feel energized, healthy and ward off disease? Eat a diet rich in whole foods. This is true but the term “whole foods” is somewhat vague. Many foods are labeled “all natural”, “organic” or “no artificial ingredients added” but are in fact, highly processed. Misleading claims make grocery shopping more like detective work these days. We now need smartphone apps just to navigate through the grocery store aisle! And don’t assume an item purchased at a natural food store is “whole”. Organic doesn’t mean unprocessed. A steak and cheese sub from Whole Foods Market while delicious, is not a whole food.
Here’s a little clarification. A whole food is one that is closest to how you would find it in nature (i.e. less processed). Examples include unadultered fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts and unprocessed grains like brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread and oats. White flour is a great example of a highly processed grain. It’s formed by breaking the original grain down into two components, wheat germ and wheat bran and then bleaching and fortifying it. The result is a refined, less nutritious flour.
Ideally, you do want to include mostly whole foods in your diet, leaving some room for those occasional treats like the steak and cheese sub mentioned above. Read labels and look for things with fewer ingredients. When shopping for bread, make sure the word “whole grain” is listed before whatever type of flour is used and as the first ingredient(ingredients on a label are listed in order of content). For those individuals who absolutely cannot stand wheat bread, consider a new variety on the shelves called “white wheat”. White wheat bread is made from flour derived from a naturally occuring albino wheat grain. Find out more about white wheat bread in this USA Today article.
Learn more about whole foods here Healthy Whole Foods: Making Nutrient-Rich Choices For Your Diet.