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Understanding Whole Foods

As a naturopathic physician, I know that nutrition is a foundation of health. Because of this, I encourage my patients to make whole foods the basis of their diets. Whole food is food in its natural state. It is unprocessed, unrefined and does not contain added ingredients such as sugar, salt, vitamins or fat. However, just because a food is whole does not mean it is organic, pesticide-free or locally grown (and vice versa). What it does mean is that the food contains a whole host of nutrients that the body can use to enhance health.

Examples of whole foods include:

  • Whole grains
  • Beans and legumes
  • Nuts, seeds and berries
  • Brown rice and wild rice
  • Herbs (such as basil, rosemary and others)
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Shrimp, lobster and crabs
  • Chicken, pork and beef

Processed and refined foods, in contrast, have lost many of their healthy nutrients during the manufacturing process. White flour and rice are two common examples. In the refining process, they lose their germ and bran, which takes away many of their nutrients. At the same time other components – such as sugar and fat – are often added.

Whole food benefits:

  • Take longer to digest, meaning more nutrients are absorbed in your body.
  • Have a higher fiber content which helps to regulate your blood sugar
  • Allow healthy bacteria to grow in your intestines, which helps get rid of disease-producing bacteria
  • Have strong antioxidant properties which may help to protect the body from developing cancer and from cancer recurrence. Source.
  • Provide the best source for vitamins and minerals As an added bonus, foods in their whole state are usually less expensive than processed foods. However, they can take longer to prepare.

Remember, make changes that you are comfortable with; otherwise you won’t stick with them. As long as you are striving to decrease the amount of processed foods and increase the amount of whole foods, you’re on the right track.


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