One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from those who advocate a whole foods plant based diet is super simple – whole food is the stuff that nature made for us to eat. It’s the stuff our ancestors grew and harvested to fill their bellies. It’s the stuff in the grocery store that you’ll find in the produce section (or freezer section if you’re sticking to fruits and veggies).
Packaged by mother nature, it has a perfect balance of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fat), micronutrients (vitamins, minerals), and fiber that are capable of providing optimum health and fueling your body’s organ systems in ways we cannot even comprehend much less duplicate.
Food is NOT the stuff you find everywhere else in the grocery store. That stuff is all man-made, or more likely, factory-made. Almost always, it was designed in a lab by people whose job it was to make sure it tasted good and was addictive enough to make you want to keep buying it. Any claims you read on the packaging are designed to make you buy it, not to make you healthy! If something is labeled low sodium, low sugar, low fat… well it’s not a whole food. You can pretty much count on that. Separating food into parts (ie fruit juice or olive oil) gives you a concentrated dose of sugar without all of the fiber that comes with it.
The stuff you can buy in boxes and bags in the grocery store is almost always processed in some way. That’s how it fits in the box and can sit on the shelf for months or years without spoiling! They strip the nutrients out of the original food source, and then add some of it back in the form of supplements. Ever wonder why cereal is fortified with vitamins? It’s because the nutrients that used to be in the wheat and corn are no longer there. Since ground up corn all by itself isn’t the most palatable thing, they add gobs of sugar, make it thin and crispy, form it into pretty shapes, and end up with a sugary breakfast cereal that you just crave every morning.
Sugar isn’t the only addictive substance at play in processed food. Salt and oil are equally prevalent and just as detrimental to your health. More on that later.
For now, I’m focusing on thinking twice about what goes in my mouth. If it’s whole food, I dive right in. If I can recognize it as a vegetable, fruit, nut, seed, or whole grain just by looking at it, it’s probably ok to eat!