My number one piece of advice when talking to people about nutrition is to adopt a whole foods diet. It can make a world of difference and unlike the plethora of conflicting nutritional advice out there, this is consistently agreed upon amongst nutritional experts.
So what are whole foods and why are they so important? Whole foods are food items that were once alive. Another way of looking at them is that they either grew from the ground or had parents. They aren’t packaged in boxes and typically only have one ingredient. Carrots, apples, chicken, kale, fish, broccoli and cabbage are all examples of this. You’ll often find these around the outside aisles of a grocery store, in the produce, meat and refrigerated sections.
The opposite of this would be processed foods. These are foods that have an ingredients list, which too often include artificial preservatives, flavours and sweeteners, as well as refined sugars. You’ll often find these items have a long shelf life, are packaged and located on the inner aisles of the grocery store. The artificial ingredients found in processed foods have a whole host of negative effects on the body. The sugars used can make these foods highly addictive and lead to fat gain. Additionally, these foods are usually void of nutrients, so they provide little to no benefit.
So you’re probably getting an idea as to why it’s so important to focus your diet on whole foods and to try to avoid processed foods, but let’s go deeper in case you’re not fully convinced. As I mentioned earlier, processed foods are void of nutrients and contain addictive ingredients such as various sweeteners and salts. Both of these cause people to eat more and more of them, leading to a buildup of empty calories and therefore increased body fat. Whole foods, on the other hand, are much more nutrient dense (meaning that they have more nutrients per calorie than processed foods) and do not contain the addictive additives that processed foods have. Hence, it’s much easier to eat an appropriate amount and not overindulge. They will also satiate because of their increased fiber and water content. Overeating potato chips is not a difficult task. Now try overeating broccoli. That’s a much different challenge.
Hopefully this has given you food for thought as to why to avoid having processed foods in your diet and to focus on eating whole foods. For those of you who think that you might have a hard time transitioning, I’ll go over strategies in a future post to help make the transition smooth and easy. In the meantime, try eating more whole foods and less processed, then notice the difference in how your body feels and looks.