Advantages of Eating Whole Foods
There are many advantages of eating whole or real foods, which are foods consumed in their natural state, without processing or adding artificial ingredients. Since they are unprocessed, they still contain all of the nutrients required by the body for optimum health. Processing foods strips them of many of their nutrients.
Whole wheat flour contains bran, an excellent source of dietary fiber, as well as wheat germ, which contains a multitude of essential nutrients including protein, thiamin, manganese, potassium, folate, iron, copper, selenium, and a host of others. Both bran and wheat germ are removed when whole wheat flour undergoes the refining process to make white flour, thereby removing most of the nutritional value.
Fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables provide far more nutritional value than their canned or otherwise processed counterparts. Additionally, processed fruits and vegetables often contain high amounts of salt, sugar, and preservatives.
Raw milk is considered to be healthier than the standard pasteurized, homogenized milk in a number of ways. The pasteurization process is intended to kill harmful bacterial and prevent milk from souring. However, the process also kills beneficial bacteria and destroys other nutrients. Conventional processed milk also frequently contains growth hormones and antibiotics.
Eggs from free-range chickens contain less cholesterol and saturated fat, and higher amounts of omega-3-fatty acids, vitamins A and E, and beta-carotene than eggs from commercially bred, confined hens.
For those who eat meat, the healthiest type is grass-fed beef, which is lower in fat and higher in omega-3-fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Conventionally raised cattle are routinely given steroid hormones. Processed meat such as hot dogs, lunch meat or bacon, contains large quantities of salt and chemical preservatives.
Another big advantage of eating whole foods is that they taste better. There are few things more delicious than a vine-ripened tomato, a fresh peach, or a slice of flavorful whole grain bread.
Health Risks of Processed Foods
In addition to retaining the beneficial nutrients, whole foods do not contain additives that can pose a health risk. Many of these food additives can cause allergies, asthma, digestive disturbances, behavioral problems, and more serious diseases including diabetes and cancer. Preservatives, nitrites, MSG, sugar, salt, high fructose corn syrup, antibiotics and hormones are just some of the additives found in processed foods.
How to Include More Whole Foods in the Diet
An excellent way to include whole foods in the diet is to start a vegetable garden. Growing your own fruits, vegetables and herbs is enjoyable and economical. If gardening space is limited, many fruits and vegetables such as strawberries and tomatoes can be successfully grown in containers.
Farmers markets provide fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables straight from the fields. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs offer opportunities to receive assortments of locally grown, seasonal produce. When produce is out of season, the best choice is to purchase frozen, which has not undergone processing.
A good selection of whole foods is available in most major supermarkets and natural food stores. Grains, rice, beans, dried legumes, and whole grain pasta are a few types of whole foods that are readily available in bulk. Buying bulk also saves money and eliminates unnecessary packaging.