Whole Foods are a Whole Lot Better says Jacksonville Chiropractor
By Dr. Jon Thomas D.C PSc.D, Board Certified Chiropractic Physician
Processed foods are bad. Period. But processed foods dominate the American diet. Approximately 70% of the U.S. diet to be exact. What exactly is processed food? This sometimes causes confusion, but it’s actually pretty simple. Processed foods have been chemically altered and usually consist of a long list of ingredients that you cannot pronounce nor be able to purchase in a grocery store. You definitely wouldn’t have those ingredients in your kitchen.
Do you have a box of macaroni and cheese in your pantry? Does cheese usually come in powdered form? Do you have low-fat cheese or yogurt in your refrigerator? These products go through an extensive process that removes the fat while chemicals are added to simulate the texture and flavor of the natural fat.
Processed foods are usually loaded with added sugar, or even worse, high fructose corn syrup. It’s pretty well known by now that sugar, taken in excess, wreaks havoc on your body. Sugar consumption is linked to some of the most deadly diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and obesity, to name a few.
The problem is, processed foods often taste good and can lead to addiction. Eating highly processed food can artificially simulate dopamine (the pleasure chemical), which entices you to come back for more. You are in essence, eating foods with little nutritive value, this gives you a happy feeling which in turn, makes you crave more.
Processed foods are made for long shelf life, not long human life. Most highly processed foods have little to no nutritive value and are basically empty calories. (You’d be better off eating the box in many instances.) The result is that processed foods are making Americans sick and obese. Did you know when Western junk food and fast-food restaurants are introduced to other cultures, those countries, see higher rates of heart disease and other chronic illnesses? It’s time to stop the madness and say no to processed food.
WHAT ARE WHOLE FOODS ANYWAY?
Whole foods are edibles that have not been refined or processed, or have undergone very little refining or processing. They are mostly found in their natural state, with the exception of dairy products. They don’t contain unnatural, harmful additives that are not meant for consumption. They typically contain fewer calories and more nutrients than their processed counterparts, so you can consume more and maintain a healthy diet. Take a stroll around the perimeter of your grocery store because that’s where you will discover the world of whole foods.
Plant-based whole foods can be divided into several categories: vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds and grains. Meat and fish that have not been processed provide many nutrients and balance out a healthy diet.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF EATING WHOLE FOODS?
Eating fresh, whole foods as part of your daily diet results in a lower risk of many types of cancer and chronic diseases, promotes healthy aging and higher energy levels while reducing the risk of obesity. Whole foods are packed with more nutrients, including vitamins and minerals that your body needs to run efficiently. Your body does not have to work as hard to process whole foods, which slows the aging process. Whole foods are fresher, taste better and frankly, look much more appealing.
ANTIOXIDANTS AND PHYTONUTRIENTS
Whole foods contain antioxidants. Antioxidants are chemicals that can prevent or slow cell damage. Natural antioxidants are mainly found in fruits, vegetables, legumes and other whole foods. They contain a spectrum of powerful antioxidants including vitamins C and E, and phytonutrients which protect the plant as well as you. The brighter the color of the fruit or vegetable, the more phytonutrients it contains and the better it is for you. Think bright red tomatoes, deep purple blueberries and dark green leafy kale.
Most whole, plant-based foods are rich in fiber which is an essential component in any healthy diet. It can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. High fiber foods tend to contain more nutrients, less calories, and help you feel full faster. Fiber slows the absorption of sugar in your body, keeping the blood sugar at reasonable levels rather than spiking up and down. Next time you dine out, skip the mashed potatoes and ask for the broccoli instead. You’ll be glad you did.
NO MORE BAD FATS
Eating a diet of rich, whole foods helps you to eliminate the bad fats that are found in processed foods and many fast food establishments. These bad fats are major contributors to obesity and heart disease. You don’t want them and you don’t need them. Stick with fatty fish (salmon anyone?), flaxseeds and almonds rich in Omega 3’s to keep your heart healthy.
YOU NEED TO MAKE THE TIME
If you’re like most people, you work non-stop and only have time to nuke a processed dinner full of fat, sugar and additives. Maybe you believe adding meat to your Hamburger Helper is cooking. Really? A little planning goes a long way toward incorporating whole foods into your diet. You may even enjoy it.
Plan your meals for the week on the weekend. Get the family in on it. The menu doesn’t have to be set in stone, but it does have to include a majority of whole foods. List everything you will need and go on a shopping extravaganza.
Cook at least one recipe (like vegetarian chili) in a large quantity and freeze it in smaller containers to eat on alternate days. Cut up fresh vegetables with seasonings and store in freezer bags to keep them fresh. How about some string beans, fresh garlic and sliced almonds? Marinate chicken breasts in olive oil, lemon juice, fresh garlic and parsley, and freeze them. Take them out the day before you need them and they’ll be ready to sauté when you come home from work. (YouTube is a treasure trove for healthy, easy to prepare meals.)
THE LITTLE THINGS YOU CAN DO
Incorporating more whole foods into your diet, is a good way to start.
Eat a green, leafy salad with dinner. Make it a staple of your diet.
Add tender, leafy greens like spinach, arugula or watercress to sandwiches. Add a sliced tomato or thinly cut julienned peppers.
Add sautéed greens like broccoli rabe or swiss chard to pasta. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Delicious.
Look up one new vegetable based recipe a week and experiment with it.
And there you have it. You’re on your way to a healthier, happier you by eating foods that your body needs to perform at its maximum efficiency. I bet you can’t wait to start.
This article extols the benefits of eating a fresh, whole foods diet. Processed foods make people sick and overweight. Whole foods provide the nutrients you need to live a healthy life and reduce the risk of many deadly diseases that are often caused by a diet consisting of highly processed foods with chemical additives.
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At Vibrant Life, we address all of the key elements to add vibrance and vitality to your life. This includes nutrition, chiropractic care, and fitness. If you need to consult with a chiropractor about your neck, back, or any other health concern, please contact our office to set up an appointment.
Dr. Jon Thomas is a Board Certified Chiropractic Physician. His practice, The Vibrant Life Health Center, is located in the Mandarin section of Jacksonville. His interest in health and fitness started early, and his athletic pursuits have included BMX racing, Professional Snow Skiing, Water Skiing, Baseball, Weightlifting, and Martial Arts. After studying and learning from some of the top health experts throughout the world, Dr. Thomas dedicated his life to helping people of all ages to transform their lives. The objective for each patient is to initiate the body’s healing and to work progressively toward a body that functions optimally. Dr. Thomas is seen regularly on TV on First Coast Living, where he discusses the transformations of his patients. He also speaks at events throughout the community and writes informative articles to improve the health of residents throughout Jacksonville.
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