Term defined: Whole Food

Term defined: Whole Food

Have I mentioned that I am in the throes of nutrition courses at Hawthorn University? I’ve been geeking out hard core this past month, as I am clearly still in the honeymoon phase. It’s been a while since I’ve been a student- six years, in fact- but I definitely don’t remember it being this enjoyable. I must be doing something right, since I get home from work and the first thing I want to do is open a text book.

An added bonus with this whole getting-my-masters thing: a plethora of information at my fingertips and even more of a reason to share it with you folks.

Because 18grains is devoted to promoting a diet of whole foods, I thought I would explain a few terms that I use on a regular basis. Also, I had to do this for an assignment, see how it works out?

Nutrient richness: the total amount of vitamins, minerals and other nutritious properties contained in a calorie of food.

Foods rich in nutrients provide many health benefits, such as preventing chronic disease. It’s all about getting more bang for your buck. Take vitamin C for example. The Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) of vitamin C is 60mg, which we can get from consuming about a cup of broccoli (20 calories). We can also get vitamin C from fried onion rings, but to obtain the RDA of 60mg, we would need to eat 17,000 calories worth. This is what we mean by “empty calories.” An extreme example, yes, but you get the point: nutrient richness is the relationship between nutrients and calories.

To see more examples, here is a list of George Mateljan’s “The World’s Healthiest Foods”
Also, you may have noticed that Whole Foods Markets have advertised produce using the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI) score, here is a list of the top scoring foods

Whole food

A food that has not been changed from its original state from the time it was harvested to the time it reaches your plate. To be considered a whole food, nothing can be mechanically or chemically taken out or added, and there are no synthetic, artificial, or irradiated ingredients. In this form, the foods’ vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients also maintain their original state and our bodies are better able to break them down and assimilate them to use for energy. There are some whole foods that need to be altered (e.g. cooked or peeled) in order to eat them. Have you ever noticed that the whole, fresh foods are located on the outer isles of the grocery store? Examples: fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, eggs, and meat.

Whole grain

A cereal grain that contains bran, endosperm, and germ in the same proportion as they exist naturally. Each part of the grain provides different nutrients for our bodies. Examples: whole wheat, brown rice, whole oats, and quinoa.

Processed food

A food with varying degrees of processing that changes it from its original form. It can be as little as crushing and roasting peanuts to make peanut butter, or as much as treating sandwich meat with MSG and nitrates. Processed foods often contain chemical additives in order to enhance taste, shelf life, and appearance and they can be full of extra salt, sugar, and oils: these foods are clearly damaging to our health in large quantities. Not all processed food is bad for us, though- it just depends on the level of processing. Grinding grain, fermenting vegetables, or dehydrating fruit are examples of how processing a food is not necessarily health-diminishing. The important thing is to be careful and read the ingredients. Examples of processed foods: nut butters, whole-grain flours, and various packaged and frozen foods.

Refined food

A manmade or highly processed food that has undergone a chemical process and is stripped of its nutrients. Refined foods are detrimental to our health in large quantities and do not provide adequate nutrition for our physical and mental health, starting at a cellular level. Repeated consumption of these foods is also the cause of many food allergies. Examples of refined foods: anything with the word “enriched,” products with refined sugars or flour, white rice, white bread, soda, candy.

My advice: stay away from refined foods, be weary of most processed foods, and stick to a diet based on whole foods- and drink lots of water to wash it all down.

The hydration situation, part 1
Winter wild rice salad

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