The importance of Whole foods.
As people’s waistlines increase, and the rate of type two diabetes and obesity soars in New Zealand, it is time we as a nation start looking at what we are eating. There are around 200,000 New Zealanders that have type two diabetes and 18.6% of us have pre-diabetes which in many cases leads to type 2 diabetes. There are also a number of other diet related illnesses that are in the incline and that comes as no surprise when the number of pre packaged and processed foods on our supermarket shelves are increasing.
‘Processed’ is becoming one of the frowned upon words when it comes to diet. The rise of consumers who want to eat locally grown, organic, real food is beginning to thrive. Eating a clean diet full of whole foods has become a mantra for many of us. There has been a spike in the amount of people adapting to the Paleolithic diet, which is based around eating whole foods. Have you been on Instagram lately? My news feed is a wash with photos of peoples food adorned with “clean eating” hash tags. It is now trendy to “eat clean” and lets hope this current trend does not go away any time soon as it is a fantastic way to eat and one of the ways that we can combat diet related illnesses.
So what are whole foods? Whole foods are natural, unrefined and unprocessed. When a food is in its natural state it provides essential nutrients that the body needs to function optimally. Whole foods contain beneficial enzymes and nutrients that nourish the body from the inside out. Whole foods have high amounts of important nutrients and many of them are low in calories. Foods that contain all the essential vitamins and minerals have been proven to prevent cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cancers, skin issues, diabetes and obesity.They are foods given to us in nature, that haven't been tampered with in a factory and then stuffed inside a cardboard box.
Foods that have been canned, processed with artificial colors, preservatives, additives and flavors and that are genetically altered (GMO) are not recommended, as they will do more harm in the body then good. Generally New Zealanders eat a large amount of pre made meals and packaged foods. People are eating whole grains that come from instant rice, boxed cereals, refined white breads and pastas. All these foods contain little nutrients and are simply empty calories.
Eating highly processed foods can artificially stimulate dopamine (the pleasure neurotransmitter), which plays a role in addiction. You are eating foods that contain no nutrients but they will create a pleasurable feeling. Then a food addiction will start because you feel good when you are eating these foods.
Processed food is usually stripped of its fiber. Fiber lowers cholesterol levels, regulates bowel movements, slows down the absorption of sugar and regulates blood sugar levels and promotes weight loss. What’s not to love about that?
Potato chips, muesli bars, packaged cereals (you've probably guessed by now we hate them!), processed meats and biscuits start out as whole foods but then have dozens of synthetic chemicals, additives and preservatives added into them to increase shelf life, enhance appearance and flavour. Try eating a baked potato over potato chips, whole grains over boxed cereals, nuts and seeds over a muesli bar and fresh fruit over sugar laden canned fruit. Read food labels; if you can’t pronounce the ingredients then stay away.
Our body is an incredible organism, constantly repairing itself, filtering out toxins and supplying us with energy. It works 24/7 so we need to respect it and nourish our temple with the right food.
Our body contains over one hundred trillion cells, each cells converts the nutrients from food we eat into to the energy we need in order to function and survive. Because of this we need to be fueling ourselves with the right nutrients, our bodies depend on it. Good nutrition is fundamental to our very existence.
The key to optimal health is to feed and nourish our bodies with the necessary nutrients to achieve what they were designed to do.
By adapting to a whole foods diet you are able to get all of your required vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat. Eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, lean meats, fish, and healthy fats and oils to form the basis of a healthy diet. Cook from scratch. This means taking basic foods in their natural form and making them into wholesome, tasty, nourishing dishes. Next time you are at the supermarket ditch the biscuit isle, your body will thank you for it.
As the great Author Michael Pollan says, “Don’t eat anything incapable of rotting”.