What’s the easiest way to improve your health and prevent disease? It’s simple: Eat more whole foods and less processed foods.
Most of us know that it’s better to eat a handful of nuts instead of a nutty granola bar. Or to build a meal around a skinless chicken breast rather than a chicken nugget. Or to include a side of cooked red potatoes instead of potato chips or French fries. It’s even preferable nutritionally to enjoy cooked green soybeans (edamame) compared to soy powder or some soy-based sausage or product that has been processed.
That was pretty much the bottom line in my book, Food Synergy. Whole foods have more of the nutrients we want and less of the added ingredients we don’t want (sugar, sodium, saturated and trans fat, etc.), but they also have important nutrients and phytochemicals in natural amounts and combinations.
So what are whole foods?
These are foods that are eaten as close to their natural form as possible, with minimal processing and refinement. Examples include fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, unprocessed fish, lean meat, oats and other whole grains. They can be cooked, mind you, without being “processed.”
Eating a meal comprised mostly of whole foods (compared to processed food) is more likely to:
- Offer a powerful combination of important vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein and antioxidants.
- Contribute smart fats — omega-3s from fish and plants and monounsaturated fat from plants. (The bad-for-you fats are often added to processed foods and fast food.)
- Pump up the fiber, which helps you feel full faster, helps fights heart disease and diabetes, and helps keep the GI tract moving and happy.
- Make it easier to cut down on extra amounts of calories, sugar, sodium, trans and saturated fat.
- Amp up antioxidant plant components or phytochemicals.
Have you made the switch to eating more whole foods? What specific steps have you taken? Tell us on the Food and Cooking Community.