by Bonny Styles
As people grow older, they become more concerned about their health. They decide to get more exercise and “eat healthier”. And one simple way to eat healthier is to eat more whole foods.
Whole foods are foods that are in their complete, natural state. The fiber hasn’t been removed and salt, sugar, fats, and chemicals haven’t been added.
There are several components of whole foods that help maintain good health and prevent many common chronic conditions.
Vitamins and minerals are the most well-known nutritional components. While many of these are available in supplement form, most nutritionists agree that healthy eating habits provide the best source of vitamins and minerals.
Another important component is fiber. Besides “promoting digestive health” be avoiding the extremes of constipation or diarrhea, fiber helps make you feel full and avoid the dangers of overeating.
Phytochemicals are found naturally in plants. Thousands of different phytochemicals have been identified; there are many more which are relatively unknown. Phytochemicals may help prevent heart disease, and other chronic medical conditions.
Some phytochemicals are antioxidants, such as carotenoids, lycopene, and flavonoids. Antioxidants have been linked with prevention of cell damage from free radicals. Some research suggests they may help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease or delay its onset.
While food manufacturers attempt to replace lost nutrients by enrichment, they can’t replace what science hasn’t identified yet. Thus, the processed product may be missing essential nutrients that are only found in the food’s natural state.
Processing also may add things to the food. Some chemical additives and preservatives are later found to be detrimental to health, such as early versions of a red food color thought to be safe, or monosodium glutamate.
One of the most insidious revelations about Big Tobacco was the fact that cigarette manufacturers added harmful chemicals to make cigarettes more addicting. One can’t help, but wonder if junk food manufacturers do the same.
Even “natural” additives may cause problems. The salt added to canned vegetables may elevate the blood pressure of someone diagnosed withhypertension. Packing fruits in “heavy syrup” isn’t healthy for the diabetic. Many food processed to be “low-fat” have sugar added to improve the flavor.
Adding whole foods to your diet can be as simple as paying attention to nutrition labels and buying fresh whenever possible. It doesn’t have to be a big production, and it won’t add to your grocery bill. And it can be an important first step in your program to eat healthier.