But did you think this journey would also tantalize you with delicious food and flavors in all colors of the rainbow?
I’m here to inform you that this is the case, thanks to the world of whole foods! You can look forward to improved energy levels, better digestion, clearer skin, normal blood sugar levels, normal blood pressure, healthy weight, normal triglyceride and cholesterol levels, to name a few outcomes experienced by people eating a whole foods diet.
Think of food as medicine. Whole foods are essential to supporting a safe and healthy journey to reversing metabolic syndrome because of their quality of being “whole” and therefore containing the nutrients you need for healing and thriving.
But what are “whole foods”?
Whole foods are fresh foods that look almost exactly as you’d find them growing at the farm or in the garden.
If you haven’t been to a farm or garden in a while, imagine instead what you’d find in the produce section and in the meat section of your grocery store. You’d find foods that look quite similar to plants and animals in their original forms.
In this “whole” form, foods have the highest amount of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, complex fibers, and naturally-occurring anti-inflammatory compounds. They provide the fuel for your body to function optimally. Just as nature intended.
Rather than a specific diet, whole foods provide the foundation of any healthy eating plan. For example, use the food choices from the Mediterranean diet when crafting your menus.
About the delicious, colorful and tantalizing part…
Every color and each vegetable represent, at the chemical level, a different set of many nutrients. So, a variety of color means getting a variety of nutrients. These nutrients are most available when they are whole and unprocessed or minimally processed. The flavors are as endless as the colors.
Whole foods also include beans, grains, nuts/seeds, fish/seafood, meat, and eggs. “Whole food” meat means fresh, whole cuts. Choosing USDA organic, grass-fed beef means more nutrients and fewer harmful chemicals in your body.
On the other hand, when whole foods are heavily processed, the nutrients are lost or no longer in a form that nourishes the body.
To create the products like those you find in shelf-stable packaging, whole foods are heat-treated and often ground up and reformed, and sometimes sterilized again at the end. Some are frozen, thawed, and cooked again before you eat them.
This processing results in the nutrients in the foods degrading or being washed away. In addition, most processed food products contain chemical additives to alter color, flavor, and shelf-life, and have high levels of unhealthy fats (e.g., partially hydrogenated oil), salt, and sugar. The ingredients in many of these products are designed to make you want to eat more than you need.
All of these factors reduce or eliminate the nutrients the original whole foods once had. When consumed regularly and in excess, they can negatively affect digestion, hunger hormone signaling, and contribute to the imbalances and inflammation that leads to metabolic syndrome and other health issues.
So how do you eat whole foods?
As to vegetables, eating them raw is best, and a delicious salad can be a meal in itself. Different stages of “whole” results in different nutrients being available or “unlocked” as a result of the chemical reactions when exposed to heat. Lightly steamed, sautéed, roasted, or slow-cooked, as a soup, casserole or stew, how vegetables are prepared also transforms them in taste, texture, and aroma. Using healthy cooking oils, such as olive oil, with herbs and spices gives foods even more nutrition and pizzazz.
Whatever your personal preferences, there are colors, flavors, and nutrition plans to suit your lifestyle and goals. The process is as colorful and enriching as the whole foods you’ll be eating!