Make the change to eat foods that are not processed or as minimally processed as possible. Easy right?
Yup. It’s pretty simple. Stop eating packaged and processed foods. There’s a little more to do than that, but that is another article for another day which will include:
- Limiting sugar – this includes fruit juices
- Eating a wide variety of different foods as well as different fats in your diet (we need essential fatty acids for our bodies to correctly function)
For now though, just know that approximately 70 percent of the calories in a typical American diet come from processed foods, according to an interview published on the PBS website in April 2013. This means switching to a diet with no processed foods, sometimes called “clean eating”, would be a big and positive change for most Americans.
Whole foods are foods that are closest to their natural state and that means they give us more nutrients than packaged or processed foods. Whole foods include unprocessed fruits and vegetables; whole grains (like millet, oats, rye, buckwheat, quinoa and corn meal); beans and legumes (including soaked and cooked lentils, chickpeas and kidney beans); and nuts and seeds. Whole foods of animal origin include eggs, dairy, fish, seafood, poultry and red meat such as beef and pork. Eating foods that have not been processed ensures that we consume the maximum amount of nutrients, in the correct proportions.
Do you remember amino acids from our science classes? They are the substances that make up the protein for every cell in our body. Our bodies use 22 amino acids. Nine of these cannot be synthesized by our bodies and must be supplied through our diet. For example, valine is one of these essential amino acids. It’s needed for muscle metabolism and also tissue repair. Whole food sources include cheese, beef, lamb, chicken, pork, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, mushrooms, and whole grains.
Many nutrients in food have to work together to ensure the healthy functioning of our bodies. Eating food in its natural state ensures we benefit from these synergies. The amino acid tryptophan, for example, is the precursor to the “happy” hormone serotonin, but it needs B vitamins in order for it to be converted into serotonin.
Whole foods are also rich in antioxidants, which neutralize free radicals. An overload of free radicals has been linked to problems such as heart disease (and so has sugar by the way). Enough about being healthy, what about losing weight? Well…it’s all closely related.
Here’s what to do now – avoid those processed foods and switch to a whole foods diet. “Oh no!”, you say…as you are currently envisioning that this means you’ll be cooking from scratch a lot. You remember that you hate cooking or that you don’t have the time nor the energy to make such a huge change! That’s why you buy processed food in the first place!
Well, here’s what to do about it. Start planning your meals and cooking batches ahead of time can make this easier for those with a busy schedule. As you eat more unprocessed foods, concentrate on the flavors. Eat slowly and without distractions. Changing our diets right now will put us on the road to losing weight as well as giving our bodies a much needed break from unhealthy processed foods that do nothing to help our waistlines.