31 Mar Confused about what to eat?
For optimum health, whole is the goal!
These days we are overwhelmed by a deluge of advice and tips from so-called nutrition “experts”. This month we hear something is good, and shortly after we hear it’s bad. There is so much conflicting information out there that it’s not surprising many of us just close our eyes and eat whatever tastes best.
The problem with most diet trends (such as low-carb, low-fat, and Atkins) is that they’re focused on the short-term: they are not nutritionally balanced as they cut out entire food groups that our bodies need to function properly. They also tend to have complex or restrictive rules that are difficult to follow, especially for those who lead a busy lifestyle and don’t have the time to cook at home.
The answer to this is simple: eat whole foods.
So what are “whole foods” exactly? It doesn’t mean that you have to eat your food whole; it means eating food that still looks as it did growing in nature, or very close to it. Basically, food that has not been messed with, or only minimally messed with. This is because everything (all the nutrients and fibre) in that whole fruit, vegetable, grain, legume, nut or seed has already been perfectly arranged: as the saying goes, “Don’t mess with Mother Nature.”
The power of this diet is simplicity. These days you almost need a PhD to decipher the nutrition labels on packets in the supermarket, and who knows what is going into your takeaway/restaurant food? If you eat food direct from nature, you don’t have to worry about trans fat, saturated fat, MSG or salt. If you focus on whole food, nutrients tend to take care of themselves.
You don’t need to avoid all processing: we process foods when you make juice from fruits or cook a meal – these are things that have been minimally processed, and the upside is that you have done it yourself so you know exactly what has and hasn’t gone in. You can also find minimally processed packaged foods at the store, such as: cooked whole foods (beans, tomatoes, vegetables); frozen fruits and vegetables; and non-dairy milks and condiments (spices, vinegar). The best choices will be those that do not contain any salt, sugar, MSG and oil.
Processed food products that are best to avoid (or go light on) are those that have been overly manipulated and are full of salt, sugar and oil, such as: potato chips and crackers, snack bars and candy, prepared and frozen dinners/desserts, most boxed cereals and breads, jarred sauces, and other refrigerated prepared foods. Fast and slow food restaurants also add a lot of salt, sugar, MSG and oil to their food.
In your quest to eat more whole foods, try keep the following in mind:
- Sooner is better: As soon as a plant is plucked it begins to deteriorate. Eating whole fruits and vegetables within a day or so of picking them or buying them will yield the most nutritional benefits.
- Local is best: Local farmers markets are ideal places to find an abundance of nutritious whole foods since the food has usually been picked within 24 hours. Supermarkets also carry whole foods, although will typically not be as fresh as what you’ll find at farmers markets.
- Whole on the go: Whole foods travel easily and fill us up. Consider packing a snack bag to take with you when you leave for work or go on a trip. Convenient whole food choices include: bananas, apples, grapes, carrots, dried fruits and raw nuts.
- Go for variety: Consume a variety of whole foods throughout the day to adequately meet your body’s nutrient needs, and aim to make your plate as colourful as possible.