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Why to Eat Whole Foods

9.20.12

source: User’s Guide to Inflammation

There’s been a bunch of talk in the media lately about the importance of eating whole foods. But despite all the hubbub, most of us haven’t changed our diets. We’ve had no reason to. The explanations in favor of whole foods typically fall on the vague side. “It’s good for you.” So we feel no urgency to switch up our eating habits.

But today, I have shocking proof as to why eating whole foods is substantially better in every regard. Proof so powerful you’ll want to immediately trash all processed grub and fill your fridge with only foods considered whole — at least that was my reaction.

The circles above are called NutriCircles. They visually show how many vitamins, minerals, amino acids and other nutrients are present in a food. If you look closely at the example, you’ll see a raw strawberry possesses tons of vitamins and minerals; whereas, strawberry jam, not so much. In fact, its nutrient content is pretty pitiful.

Why does that matter?

Eating processed food is like filling your car with watered down gas. Your car may run, but not all that well. And if you paid full price, you got ripped off.

And when we eat processed food, we pay full price. Actually, we typically pay way more, in calories, that is. Just look at how many more calories there are in strawberry jam than in strawberries. More than double. Yet strawberries have nearly 20 times the nutrients.

So if you’re choosing processed foods like strawberry jam over whole foods like strawberries, you’re ripping your body off — nutrition wise — and are far more likely to be overweight due to all those extra, empty calories you’re putting in your mouth.

Granted, switching to a diet composed completely of whole foods isn’t easy. For one, what are whole foods?

I foolishly thought strawberry jam would be considered a whole food. After all, it comes from strawberries. So I figured, hey, it must be healthy. Obviously, I was wrong.

The only things that qualify as whole foods are those that are completely unprocessed, meaning they came out of the earth or an animal that way. Fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, raw meat, raw seafood, nuts, seeds, unprocessed dairy, eggs and unprocessed grains all qualify as whole foods.

Basically, if it doesn’t come in a box or a bag, it’s a whole food.

But then, there’s the taste. Most of our favorite foods come in a box or bag. Bread. Cookies. Potato chips. Ice cream. Sugar. Switching to whole foods means giving those all up, which to most is a death sentence in itself. But only because we’ve screwed up our taste buds.

During college, I decided I needed to eat healthier. So I started eating a cup of berries everyday. Only, they weren’t sweet enough. So I’d add a big dollop of cool whip on top. Real healthy, I know. But it was what my taste buds wanted, so I did it.

A couple years later, I discovered I had more food allergies than you could count. Gluten. Corn. Cane sugar. The list went on and on. Overnight, I had to eliminate all processed foods from my diet. The first month was brutal. I’d dream of pancakes and waffles every night.

But then something miraculous happened. Over the next handful of months, my taste buds changed. Suddenly, berries were as sweet as candy. Papaya was a godsend. And peaches. Don’t even get me started on peaches.

By eliminating the unnatural corn syrups and cane sugars from my diet, my taste buds recalibrated, and I began to taste the true flavors of food. I began to enjoy food — real food — for the first time in my life. And I would never go back.

Of course, that’s easy for me to say. I was blackmailed into it. It takes far more will power to deny your taste buds what they crave simply for the greater good of your health. But it is possible. Experts say it takes roughly a month, which isn’t all that long in the grand scheme of things, especially considering the benefits. And there are plenty.

You’ll sleep better. You’ll have more energy. You’ll feel more optimistic. Your digestion will run smoother. You hair will look shinier. Your nails will grow longer. Your skin will appear more vibrant and dewy. You’ll reduce your risk of colds, cancer and dozens of other illnesses. All because you’ll finally be giving your body the nutrients it needs to run correctly.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my health battles it’s nothing feels as good as being healthy. And eating whole foods is one of the most important ways to get there.

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To see more NutriCircles, visit Nutrition Data and start searching for your favorite foods. The NutriCircles there aren’t nearly as pretty or easy to read, but they’ll give you an idea.

If you’re interested in discovering more about the importance of whole foods, I’d recommend getting the book The User’s Guide to Inflammation by Dr. Ronald Hunninghake. He’s by far the best doctor I’ve ever had, and the only one who was able to properly diagnose me. Not to mention, he’s a genuinely kind and caring man, who truly wants the best for his patients.

2 Responses to "Why to Eat Whole Foods"

  1. Arturo Benzing says:

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  2. Dale Cary says:

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