Why Real, Whole Foods are so Important
This is one of my favorite topics! I love to think about the complexity of food and how all of the macro and micro nutrients work together to fuel our bodies, heal disease, and keep us well. Let’s go over some of the reasons real, whole foods are so important!
What do I Mean by Real, Whole Foods?
Whole foods are foods in the state that God created them in. It’s that simple! Generally speaking, the closer you can get to where the food originated from, the better!
If you have a garden in your backyard and go out and pick a carrot or tomato, that is a whole food. If you have a goat that you go out and milk every day, that milk is a whole food. The eggs from your chickens are whole foods. The berries from the woods are whole foods. The apples from the tree behind the house are whole foods. A whole food is a real food!
That one percent milk that you bought at the supermarket the other day, however, is not a whole food. It has been through processes that have altered it’s natural food state. Homogenization and pasteurization, as well as the process of removing some of the fat from the milk, all tamper with it in a way that affects its nutritional content.
Deli meats and processed cheeses and boxed cereals and vegetable oils are not whole foods, either. Foods that are processed and otherwise altered are not real foods.
What Happens to Food that is Altered?
The chemistry of food is a delicate balance of fats, carbohydrates, proteins, enzymes, minerals, vitamins, and other substances that work together as a complete unit. They were created to work together and to need each other. They cannot function independently and still be as healthy for us. If our bodies had a digestive system but no lymphatic system, they would be incomplete. They would not be whole. We would not be able to operate as an entire unit without some serious help!
The same is true of the foods we eat. Our flour is processed to the point that it is just white fluffy carbs instead of a whole food. Often it is “enriched” with nutrients to make it healthier. Why not just leave the nutrients there in the first place? We could get our B vitamins and protein and other nutrients from the bread we eat instead of from a capsule that, by the way, is not going to be absorbed and processed by our body very well, because it is not a whole food. It is lacking in the other necessary components that would work with it to make it actually usable by, and beneficial to, the body.
(Side note: maybe if we actually left all the good stuff in our grains and stopped processing and modifying everything, most of us could actually eat bread again. Maybe it would be good for us again and our bodies would, once again, recognize it as a food! Just a thought. I like bread.)
The Whole Milk Scoop
It is fairly well-known that milk can be hard to digest. If our great-great grandparents saw what we do to milk these days, they would probably say “Of course you can’t handle that stuff! That’s not real food!” Milk, in its natural state (like straight out of the healthy, grass-fed cow into the fridge) has certain enzymes that aid in the digestive process. Without these enzymes, our bodies have a very hard time knowing what to do with this substance we are calling milk. Heat kills enzymes (as well as other nutrients in our food). This means that pasteurization makes milk hard to digest! Who’da thought??!
Reducing the fat percentage of milk also has its own downside. There is a very good, healthy balance of sugar (lactose) and fat in whole milk (whole in both senses of the word!). When that balance is tampered with, we again have the issue of a food that is lacking in some of its parts. An out-of-balance food. Less fat in your milk means more sugar! And as we are now learning, after years of being told that fat makes you fat, that sugar is actually a much bigger culprit than fat is (healthy fat, at least).
Eat Whole Produce
Another sad phenomenon we are seeing increasingly more of these days is compromised gut health. As we are learning from the researchers who are tackling this issue, poor gut health is at the root of so many (some might argue, all) health issues.
One of the chief contributors to a sluggish gut is the lack of good, diverse microbiome that are found in plants. We need a variety of these, not just a probiotic capsule that is advertised as the solution to all our digestive issues! While probiotics can help, this is yet another case of our attempting to get our nutrients from an incomplete food. Ever wonder why we need to take our supplements with a meal? One reason is that nutrients need to work together with other nutrients to get the job done. If it seems like I am repeating myself, I am. It is that important!
I am definitely not saying that there is never a place for quality supplements. I personally take vitamin D, fish oil (I regularly use Dr. Mercola’s wild-caught salmon oil - it is a high-quality oil from a brand I trust - you can check it out here) and a probiotic on a daily basis. With everything that has been done to the health of our soil, it is very hard to get enough nutrition without some supplementation. And for those among us (myself included!) who live in Northern climates and don’t get a lot of sun, vitamin D is pretty much a necessity!
The point is, we should, whenever possible, be getting our nutrition from foods. Whole foods. They have a whole lot more nutrition than incomplete foods, and it is also much more usable by, and therefore beneficial to, the body.
After all, our food doesn’t grow out of the ground in the form of small white capsules. No, it grows in the form of beautiful, delicious, healthy food! And we are meant to consume and enjoy it in that state.
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