What are whole food? And we don't mean the supermarket chain.
In this case, “whole foods” refers to foods that are as close to their natural form as possible: whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, wheat flour instead of white flour and beans and other legumes.
In today’s blog post we’re going to look at whole foods – and whole food supplements – that can help your digestive system. We’ll also discuss how engineered foods – the opposite of whole foods – can affect your health.
What’s wrong with engineered foods?
Americans spend a large chunk of their grocery budget on processed foods, which often lack the nutrients that we need, such as fiber, antioxidants and what are known as “good” fats.
At the same time, eating these foods can give us far too much of things we don’t need, such as:
1. Trans fats
Found in a lot of snack foods, these fats boost our levels of LDL cholesterol – AKA the “bad cholesterol” – while lowering our levels of the “good” cholesterol, HDL. Having too many trans fats in your diet can put you at greater risk for a heart attack.
Pay attention to the ingredients listed on the packaging. The higher the phrase “partially hydrogenated oil” appears on the list, the more trans fats you’ll be eating.
2. Refined grains
These are the grains that give us white bread, white rice and white flour pasta, as well as rolls and low-fiber, sugary cereal. Eating them raises your risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart attacks.
Don’t be fooled by packaging that says a product is made with “wheat flour” or by white bread topped with some oats. It’s still white flour bread.
We need the sodium found in salt. It helps our bodies function. Unfortunately, most of the salt in our diet is hidden in canned foods, condiments, fast food and cured or preserved meats. Having too much sodium gives us high blood pressure. Aim for 1,500 milligrams a day.
4. High-fructose corn syrup
It’s no mystery why food makers would want to work with this sweetener: it costs less to make, tastes sweeter and is easy to integrate with other ingredients. Americans eat 63 pounds of it a year, and it’s in everything, from sodas to spaghetti sauce.
And research shows it’s bad for us. It upsets our metabolism, sends harmful triglycerides into our bloodstream and may even encourage us to overeat.
If these things are bad, what foods should we be eating?
We realize that it may not be possible to cut out processed foods completely. But it’s possible to add more whole foods to your diet with a few steps:
- Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Try to have them in every meal.
- Include beans in more meals and snacks.
- Drink non-sugary beverages such as water, green tea, fresh fruit juice and skim or soy milk.
- Opt for products made with 100 percent whole grains as often as you can.
- If you’re a baker, made your dishes with whole wheat flour, and use less sweetener.
How do these foods aid digestion?
One of the benefits of a diet rich in whole food is better digestive health. The types of foods we listed above can help in the following ways:
Foods that are high in fiber – which include whole grains, beans, bran, and nuts – keep our digestive track moving regularly and prevent constipation.
Water based foods – cucumbers, melons, tomatoes – promote a regular flow through the digestive track. These foods also work with the fibers absorbed from grains and beans to help them do their job.
Probiotics contain “good” bacteria that keep our guts healthy and can treat things like irritable bowel syndrome. Yogurt is probably the most popular probiotic food, but you can also find probiotics in kefir, tempeh and sourdough bread. You may also want to look for whole food supplements that contain probiotics.
If you’re looking for other ways to add benefits of whole foods and whole food supplements to your diet, Proper Nutrition is ready to help. Our protein-rich whole food supplements contain bioactive peptides designed to promote gut health.
Visit our product page to find a supplement that works for you.