Whole foods. I threw out this fancy term expecting it to be obvious, and I now realize everyone may not be on the same page about this. So what are Whole Foods? Am I talking about buying only food from the specific grocery store? Nope! Are we not allowed to cut anything into pieces, so it’s a “whole” piece of food? Nope! Whole Foods as a general rule refers to food that retains all of it’s basic parts when we eat it.
What are Whole Foods really?
Whole foods are unrefined/unprocessed foods. So no white sugar, no white flour, no potato chips, and bugles are out, too! We are taking food in their unprocessed form and turning it into a delicious meal. There are certainly some nuances here. Buying a piece of chicken such as a chicken thigh would still be considered a whole food, whereas buying a chicken nugget not so much.
While I am not a fan of buying precut vegetables, I would still in general consider that a whole food. We are paying way more for it, and we lose the chance to utilize the entire vegetable if we want, but it’s still basically in its raw form. Other than it has been trimmed and cut up, which we would do at home ourselves, it is still squash. It has not already been preseasoned or precooked with who-knows-what seasoning or cooking process. This would certainly be a better choice than buying potato flakes, which have been mechanically altered, to turn into “mashed potatoes”.
The goal is to start with, and stay as close to, the original form of the food as possible.
Why should I care?
The reason whole foods are preferred is because they are healthier and higher quality. When we start with, say, a potato in it’s original form, we have the chance to maintain as much of the nutrition profile and fiber as possible. Processors cook foods at much higher temperatures than we cook at in the home, destroying many of the micro-nutrients. Processors change or remove most of the fiber through the mechanical processes they use.
Possibly even more importantly we are keeping down all of the food additives that we consume. Additives are necessary to help keep the texture, flavor, and shelf life we desire out of processed foods. How good they are for our bodies, especially in the quantities that the average American consumes them, is certainly questionable at best. As people with food allergies, when we cook with whole foods, we are able to really make sure that we are not getting some random allergen from an additive that will make us sick.
Just a side note – my understanding of the eating plan Whole30, and just generally eating whole foods, are two different things. They have a rather restrictive list, although their plan would certainly be a good starting point if you are trying to use more whole foods.
Should you cook with whole foods? I would certainly recommend it. It enables us to get the most nutrition out of our food for the best price. Should you never eat a processed food? I would say rarely, but sometimes we need that French fry, or that fun treat for our road trip. All things in moderation my friends.
Make it a tasty day,