Dear B.B.: “Whole foods” refers to fruits, vegetables and grains that are unprocessed or minimally processed, such as freezing or drying. These are foods as close to their “just picked” natural state as possible. Foods need not have been organically grown to qualify, though organic is an excellent choice when available. The idea is to have a regular intake of a variety of foods that have their full complement of healthful components. Some have fiber; others do not. Some may be green, but whole foods come in all colors.
To survive the rigors of nature, “whole foods” have had to evolve to make the substances they require to grow and reproduce, along with an arsenal of phytochemical components. Many of these compounds are essential, or at least beneficial, to our health as well — but you have to eat the whole food to gain the benefit. As a general rule, whole foods are preferable to their highly processed counterparts, as processing can destroy delicate phytochemicals and leave with you lesser amounts of nutrients.
The final part of the picture is to acknowledge that not everything “natural” is beneficial. There are naturally occurring toxins, as well as healthful whole foods. The reference to whole foods speaks to wholesome, traditional foods that have proven their safety and dietary worth over time.
Send questions to: “On Nutrition,” Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to email@example.com.
Sign up here to get the latest health & fitness updates in your inbox every week!