This article shares Whole Foods basics and why they are important for your overall physical, mental and emotional health.
Even though the term “whole foods” has become quite popular in recent years, many people associate whole foods with organic food. Yes, organic food can be and should be whole food but that is not the case always.
So what is Whole Food?
A whole food is any food product that remains in its natural form, free of any artificial additives, preservatives, or other man made ingredients. Examples include seasonal organic fruits and vegetables in their raw form when they are picked at the right time i.e when they are fully grown.
While most of us are aware that whole foods are the way to go as it pertains to health and wellness, the exact word is important in the definition- Natural raw form.
What is not a whole food?
The mainstream diet of our modern busy society has significantly strayed away from whole foods. We emphasize on easy to cook, easy to consume and quick meals made from processed and packaged food ingredients. While marketers label the ready to cook meals as healthy, Non-GMO, 100% natural, are they really whole foods?
If they preserve the natural ingredients and provide nutrients to you, why do you often get sick?
That is becasue, many of the food products we consume are a far cry from their original form. They are loaded with harmful preservatives to have long shelf life and added sweeteners that are making you gain unhealthy weight. There is undoubtedly a correlation between this type of diet and the prevalence of many chronic health conditions such as obesity and diabetes.
Once you start consuming these food products, it is very hard to get off of them as they are addictive. Think candies, cakes, ready to cook meals. Below, we will discuss 5 reasons why a diet centered on whole foods is important to fuel your body with the key nutrients that your body needs to function optimally.
Top 5 benefits-
- You get Full Nutritional Benefits from Whole Plant and Fruit
Have you noticed why the processed foods taste so different than the naturally available unprocessed food? That is because overly processed food strips away valuable nutrients by adding preservatives and other artificial ingredients to improve the taste. This significantly reduces the full nutritional content available in its natural form.
In comparison to processed foods, when whole food is consumed in its purest form, it provides your body with a multitude of vitamins and minerals. It tastes better and makes your body stronger. You do not need to consume additional multivitamins if you consume healthy whole food everyday.
Agree that whole foods do not last longer like processed foods but that’s how they are supposed to be. Nature made them that way. Trust nature, not the food processors and vitamins manufacturers.
Because of the inferior selection of processed foods and busy lifestyle, many people rely on loading up their belly with vitamin supplements and pharmaceutical products to fill the void. In reality, these nutrients are NOT assimilated well by the body if there is inherent cellular deficiency of key nutrients. Only a good diet is meant to provide whole health. Whole foods are a great way to avoid this blind reliance on the vitamin industry.
- Whole Food contain less sugar that promotes healing
Have you looked at the processed food packaging recently? Take a look at the amount of ingredients listed there. Many of them are difficult to understand and pronounce. One of the main ingredients of these foods is some form of processed sugar.
As a society, we all are increasingly getting dependent on sugar. Even though some of us have to eliminate sugar due to lifestyle diseases like diabetes, many of us consume sugar without even realizing it. The labels often contain overly complicated names. Just because a product may not specifically list sugar within the ingredients list, it is still most likely present under a different name such as – dextrin, dextrose etc. Read this article to know about food labels.
Just look at the rising levels of autoimmune diseases and inflammatory diseases in our society. Sugar is a key player in the development of many of these chronic health conditions.
Whole food does contain sugar, but it is in its natural form. The actual amount of natural sugar is significantly lower in these foods. We humans are built to process this sugar without causing additional oxidative stress on our gut. This sugar gives a natural delicious taste to the food. You do not need to add any additional sweeteners or ingredients to improve the taste. When comparing a whole food to its processed counterpart, it is easy to identify a difference in taste.
Food manufacturers use our sugar addiction to their advantage, knowing that the sweeter and more satisfying they make a product, the faster it will fly off of the shelves. No wonder, they keep candies, chocolates, and other sweet foods at the normal eye level and check out lanes in all grocery stores.
- Fresh whole food fill you faster due to more fiber content
One of the main reasons people can not control their habit of fast food consumption is because it contains less fiber. If your body does not get enough fiber from the food, you load up more empty, processed foods in a short period. These foods are slower to trigger the brain into realizing you have eaten enough. Hence, people consume more fast food than natural fiber dense whole foods. That is also how we have obesity and weight gain related illnesses in our society.
The worst part is it starts at an early age in the form of milk formula. I will write a detailed article on the benefits of breastfeeding later. But for now know that, your gut is your second brain and the biggest muscle in the body. It can not function properly without enough fiber. With processed foods, you have indigestion, bloating, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and many digestive complications. No amount of fiber supplements or laxatives can help address this root cause.
The only option for improving digestive health is to consume a fiber rich whole foods diet. By sticking to whole foods, your risk of overeating and excess caloric consumption is reduced. Most patients I see in my clinic have some digestive complaints underneath their current illnesses. More often than not, treating their current illness with just medication does not help. I hate to see my patients coming to me for the same complaint over and over. When I ask them about their diet, almost 70% of them have the need to improve it. Now, when patients come to me for chronic long term illnesses, my first question is about their diet. I have also developed a comprehensive whole body-detox program for my patients who need to get their digestive health back to normalcy. Check it out here.
- Whole plants and fruits gradually reduce Inflammation
Inflammation has recently gained a negative connotation. Many health care advisors and nutritionists treat inflammation as some kind of an enemy. But it is not the real enemy of healthy individuals.
In fact, at the appropriate times and for short duration, inflammation is a natural reflex action of your body to defend against various infectious agents and heal on its own. This is how the body talks to us. So acute inflammation a.k.a symptoms are good for us.
A healthy person can bring about acute symptoms such as fever, cold, cough and moderate weakness when ill. Our body has the ability to recover from this sudden inflammation on its own in a relatively shorter period of time.
Ayurveda suggests whole foods, spices and commonly available herbs to help speed up the recovery from such sudden inflammation. We avoid giving suppressing medicines such as cough syrups, pain relievers or fever reducers to not silence your body’s natural defense mechanism.
Modern medicines however, treat these acute inflammation as soon as fever, cough or weakness comes. They tend to suppress illness quickly, giving you temporary relief, but prepare your body for an underlying weakness.
This underlying weakness is the main reason for chronic inflammation. It has a devastating effect on overall mental, emotional and physical health. Chronic inflammation is linked to an enormous number of diseases including diabetes, obesity, hypertension, auto-immune diseases and even cancer.
Many of the artificial additives and sweeteners present in processed food are clinically proven to cause an exaggerated inflammatory response in the body. This response comes in the form of food allergies such as severe rash, fever, diarrhea eventually weakening the body to fight off any invasion on the body gradually. If people with weaker immunity continue consuming food additives on a regular basis, their body inherently realizes the issue right away and responds the only way it knows how, by triggering the painful long inflammatory process.
Eating whole foods is an effective way to avoid excess inflammation in your body and spare it from constantly feeling the need to protect itself.
- Invest in Good Whole foods rather than medicines
Now you will ask “ Doctor, I understand what you say about whole foods, but I just can’t afford it. What do I do?”
I would tell you to find out how much you spend on processed foods on a weekly basis. Notice why whole foods are more costly to buy than processed food, even though there is absolute no processing done on whole foods? That is because less farmers are bringing these whole foods to consumers like you. Most farmers have gravitated towards supplying their healthier produce to food processors. They get paid better that way, sometimes in advance. It is an entirely different debate- and I will write about it sometime. But it is somewhat ironic that buying something in its natural form is more expensive than other products that have basically gone through a genetic mutation before reaching your nearby grocery store.
You pay less for mass produced artificial food once. But in reality you consume it more than whole foods. If you eat every dinner or lunch out of packets, you will consume more meal packets in a week than home cooked meals made from fresh whole veggies and fruits. Additionally, when you visit me or any other doctor or just pop up the pills and vitamins to fight common cold, flu and other chronic diseases, you eventually pay more by constantly consuming less costly processed food.
Given that we have discussed the adverse effects of consuming artificially processed food items on a regular basis, think about spending more on whole foods as paying now instead of later.
While you can certainly save some money up front by purchasing cheap processed food at the supermarket, do you really think the reduced price at checkout is worth the enormous medical bills down the road?
When I say this, I know my patients will visit me less often when they get healthier with natural whole foods. And I will be one happy doctor because I believe in the principles of “ First, do no harm” and “ Let food be Thy Medicine”.
The sole purpose of this article is to provide information about the traditional healing techniques of Ayurveda for your personal knowledge only. This information is not intended to replace the professional medical advice of trained health care professionals. The information mentioned here is generic in nature and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concerns, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your health needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained Ayurveda doctor, contact us by email or phone details provided on the Contact page. As always, we emphasize that you check with your doctor before taking any herbs, medicines, foods, and essentials oils when pregnant or nursing.