Do not lose sight of the benefits of eating entire meals, even in this day of fad diets and trendy cuisine.
It can be challenging to make good food choices in the face of constant bombardment from new diets and quick-fix meal programmes promoted on television and social media.
Fasting, clean eating cleanses, and other attempts to improve one’s diet can add stress to what can already feel like an already difficult routine. But where do you even begin?
First and foremost, dietician Dr. Tim Crowe recommends eating more whole foods.
What exactly do we mean when we talk about whole foods?
Although the phrase is most commonly used to refer to plant-based meals, the term can also be applied to animal products that have undergone minimal processing, such as eggs, meat, and dairy.
Dr. Crowe explains that “it’s not as simple as cleanly categorising foods into two groups,” as in wholefoods and processed foods. Most of the foods we eat have been processed in some way, whether it be washing, cutting, drying, freezing, or canning, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
He provides the process of freezing food as an example, explaining how it protects the food’s quality and how it allows us to eat all kinds of different things at all times of the year.
This is in contrast to, say, canned peaches or corn that has been creamed, or fresh fruit that has been preserved in a sugary syrup. The nutritional value of the final product is sometimes diminished by these methods, and additional substances are often added.
So, what are some foods that are considered whole?
Wholefoods typically don’t have ingredient lists, and the few that do, like those found on hummus, cheese, whole-grain bread, and healthy peanut butter, typically only feature minimum additives.
Numerous categories can be found for whole foods:
Nuts and seeds (such as cashews, sunflower seeds, peanuts, almonds, and pumpkin seeds), grains (such as quinoa, rolled oats, wheat, brown rice, bulgur wheat, and barley), and animal items (such as unprocessed meat, eggs, and some dairy products) are also acceptable.
To simplify: not all processing is bad
While many people eat processed foods regularly, the gap between ‘ultra-processed’ and’minimally processed’ healthful foods that are close to their natural state is substantial.
The vitamins, minerals, fibre, and other vital nutrients found in whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables are all largely intact from when they were collected. However, Dr. Crowe adds that the nutritious content of food decreases with increasing processing and refining.
Greater processing means fewer vitamins and minerals, he says. “With more processing, the likelihood that less-beneficial components like fat, salt, and sugar are added goes up.”
That may lead us to consume more sugar and salt than we realise. What’s the catch? The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, led by the United States, indicated that about 90% of the added sugar in Western diets originates from highly processed foods. Additionally, an Australian study in 2020 indicated that eating these highly processed foods is associated with a higher prevalence of obesity.
What makes whole foods so beneficial?
A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes has been shown to improve health in numerous scientific studies.
Yale researchers discovered that advocates of trendy diets like the low-glycemic, Paleo, and vegan models often inflated the health benefits of their plans. “a diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, mostly plants, is decisively connected with health promotion and disease prevention,” was the only consistent conclusion.
Several studies have shown that eating a diet high in whole foods or minimally processed foods can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and various types of cancer. And research out of Tufts University in Massachusetts found that those in their fifties who focused on eating whole foods saw “lower increases in waist size, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels as they aged.”
The synergistic effect of a wide variety of nutrients is another another perk of a diet focused on whole foods.
Dr. Crowe says that phytochemicals, which are found in abundance in whole foods like fruits and vegetables, can help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and other illnesses.
Eating fruits and vegetables in their natural state is the greatest method to ensure that you are getting the nutrients and fibre they provide.
Get more of the healthy fats in your diet.
It may be simpler to limit your intake of unhealthy fats like trans and saturated fats when your diet consists primarily of whole foods rather than processed or quick foods.
However, you’ll be increasing your intake of healthy fats like omega-3 oils found in fish, nuts, and plants (like linseed and chia), and monounsaturated fat found in plant sources like avocado and nuts like almonds, cashews, and peanuts.
“Nutritional information might be perplexing at times,” Dr. Crowe explains. However, there is no need to follow the latest food trend because all that is required for a healthy diet is a well-rounded plan that emphasises whole, unprocessed foods. In this method, you can consume foods in the nutritious composition that Mother Nature intended.
Visit Nutrition Australia to learn more about how to make healthy changes to your diet.
Substituting Wholesome Foods
To get the benefits of eating more whole foods, it is not necessary to give up all processed foods. In place of, you may try:
a bowl of porridge topped with bananas and berries instead of sweet cereal
white bread with wholemeal or wholegrain bread, fruit juice with whole fruit, deli meats, like ham, with roasted chicken or pig, and a handful of mixed nuts.
Do you want to slim down?
It doesn’t matter what age or life stage you’re in, carrying excess weight can be taxing. For this reason, we have collaborated with Prima Health Solutions to provide you with free access to our Healthy Weight for Life programme, which is designed to help you adopt healthier lifestyle choices, shed excess pounds, and enhance your overall health and well-being.
Members of HCF who are overweight, have osteoarthritis, or are at risk for acquiring chronic illnesses are eligible for this programme at no cost. In order to qualify for this programme, you must have used an approved hospital product for at least 12 months.