Eating well has gotten complicated, but all we really need to know is that whole foods are the answer to any eating regimen.
There is no doubt that our grandmothers and great grand-mothers never had to decipher the meanings of organic or conventional farming. They never had to make decisions about whether 2% milk or regular milk was best. They never had to choose margarine over butter. And, I’m pretty sure they all knew intuitively what foods were good for our health.
Michael Pollan said that we handed over our good sense about food to doctors, nutritionists and corporations with agendas. However it happened, it happened and we’re stuck with a lot of often contradicting information. So, what are we to do and how are we to eat?
I went to culinary school and this is what I found out.
Regardless of the diet you choose. Regardless of whether you cook or eat out a lot. Regardless of anything really, the one thing you want to be sure of is that you are consistently eating whole foods. Annemarie Colbin defines it best: whole foods are foods that have all of their edible parts intact. Let that sit for a second and then take this quiz.
Which is a whole food?
- A. white rice or B. brown rice
- A. milk or B. skim milk
- A. fresh carrot juice* or B. carrots
(Answers: B/A/B) The difference between white rice and brown rice is that in the latter only the husk has been removed, whereas the bran and endosperm have also been removed from the white rice leaving behind just the starchy kernel. Same for the milk in that some fat was removed from the skim milk and in the carrot juice, the fiber was left behind.
Whole foods are intact because they haven’t lost their vitamins, minerals, fiber or phytonutrients. They still have their original fat and carb content. They haven’t been manipulated, stripped, refined or fortified. The advantage to eating whole foods is that we get all those goodies working synergistically, interacting with our bodies.
This way we incorporate said nutrients into our bodies and efficiently digest them, too. Our bodies can achieve a state of balance because we are working with what is whole as opposed to partial foods where our bodies are scrambling to fill in the gaps. Non-fat yogurt, fat-free cheese, sugar-free anything; all these ‘foods’ are missing things our bodies desperately try to make up for.
Studies have shown that eating a diet rich in whole foods (think whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, real butter and cheese) can reduce the risk for serious illness including but not limited to type 2 diabetes, several cancers and cardiovascular disease. Not to mention what whole foods will do for a trim waistline. Seems like a no brainer, doesn’t it?
If this sounds like another article with yet another set of food rules, take a breath and think about each and every time you eat. How much of what you eat comes out of a box, a plastic bag or a can? How much of what you eat looks like it did when it was harvested or caught? The best way to think about it is this; if it occurs in nature, then you’re probably on the right track.
Whole foods make eating simple again, don’t they?
*I am in no way suggesting that you not drink fresh fruit and vegetable juices. They are a regular part of my diet, in fact. Just make sure that you get those same fruit and veggies in their original form, cooked and raw, too.