Health Tip #4
Maximize whole foods…minimize food products
This sounds simple and it is just that. This could have been my one and only health tip and it would encompass just about everything and take care of much of the other advice I can give. The more whole, natural state foods we eat, the better. In a nutshell, the more humans have tried to change, update and capitalize on food, the worse it has gotten for us.
From a historical perspective, humans have been eating whole foods for most of our existence. It has only been recently that people have eaten food in any state other than whole and natural. Agriculture spread worldwide a few thousand years ago, we began processing foods a few hundred years ago, the last century saw some food products, and then the last few decades saw the creation and domination of man-made food. Part of the problem lies with business trying to continually produce cheap, profitable food, another aspect is convenience, and a third problem is nutritional science. Food companies found that making food products were more profitable and laster longer, people demanded cheap, easy and quick food, and nutritional scientists were able to break down some elements of eating and health, which created a world focused on nutrients instead of food.
As a good guide, if man made it, don’t eat it. If your great grandparents didn’t eat it, think twice. You could also use the box/wrapper guide: if it’s in a box or a labeled wrapper, it’s probably a food product. The more ingredients something has, the less whole it is. In theory, whole foods should have exactly ONE ingredient. These aren’t black and white rules and there are always a few exceptions and a gradient between foods and food products, but it is a good guideline.
The human body works best when it ingests food in its natural state. Whether you want to look at this from a philosophical, religious, biochemical or ecological perspective, whole food is best. Nutrients are an important part of what we eat and they fuel and build every cell of the human body. However, we are not a collection of nutrients and we should not look at our food from that perspective either. There are so many components of food that are still unknown and although nutritional science uncovers more information every year, there is still more unknown than known. It is widely accepted that vitamin C is vital to our health. What we don’t know is if it means anything by itself. In other words, is the vitamin C important solely or is it only important and potentially useable in the context of the papaya, bell pepper, broccoli or orange and their other components? What many people are starting to believe, scientists and researchers included, is that the essence of the food in it’s whole state is the important factor. So, next time you drink orange juice because it is a good source of vitamin C, think about two things: are the nutrients as effective when removed from the orange itself, and is it good to be getting all of the sugar from two or three oranges without the fiber and fullness you would get from eating them whole?
So, to some practical application…
Whole Food Processed Food Made Man Food
Orange Orange Juice Orange Drink
Chicken Packaged chicken breast Chicken Fingers
Potatoes Pureed, prepared potatoes Fries, potato chips
Pig<span> </span> Ham, Bacon Bacon Bits (often made from soy protein)
Apple<span> </span> Applesauce <span> </span> Apple fruit snack
Almonds (Raw)<span> </span> Dry Roasted & Salted<span> </span> Smoked Almonds (often roasted with soy/canola oil)
The list goes on and on. There is probably a thousand examples of this in your local grocery store. The key is to keep it simple and work on whole foods. Shop the perimeter of the store and buy food in it’s whole state. You can’t by a cow but you’ll be able to get cuts of meat. Processed but primarily in the whole state and one ingredient (unless you get seasoned or cured meat, then watch out for what else went into it). Dairy is processed as well so stay with the versions that are simple and have minimal ingredients. Michael Pollan, the author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, suggested the five ingredient rule. Anything more than that and it’s a food product.
The more whole foods you choose to eat, the more whole your health will be.
Thanks again, let me know if you have any questions or comments.
It is CHEAPER to eat whole foods than food products.
There will be another tip later about the benefits of organic, pastured and local food.
Be aware of what you eat. Pay attention to what you put in your shopping cart.
The more food products we buy, the more we are supporting big food companies to continue to push real food out of our stores.
Western culture has been at the forefront of this, with the United States leading the way, suffering the downfall and influencing every society/country that adopts this food philosophy.
If you haven’t seen these, check them out…
Food Inc. (movie)
We Are What We Eat (movie coming soon…http://wearewhatweeatthemovie.com/short.htm)