A whole foods diet contains foods that are not very far removed from their natural state. This includes foods like vegetables, fruits, meat, eggs, milk, and whole grains. Our bodies are designed to digest food as it’s found in the world. Our guts know how to digest and utilize an apple; they’re not sure what to do with an apple-flavored pop tart.
The opposite of a whole food is a processed refined food (like that apple pop tart). These are foods that have been broken down to the molecular level, isolated, thrown back together with other stuff, had other things added back in, messed with so much that our bodies can barely recognize them as food!
Here are some guidelines to help you find whole foods at the grocery store:
Shop the perimeter of the store. Whole foods are easy to find in the produce, bulk, meat, and dairy departments. Venturing into the inner shelves of the store will probably just lead you to items like sugary breakfast cereal.
Buy foods with no packaging. Whole foods usually involve little or no packaging. Examples are: apples from the produce department, whole chickens from the meat department, brown rice from the bulk bins.
If you are buying a packaged food, check the ingredient list. The ingredient list should be short, and you should recognize what each of the ingredients is.
If you don’t know what an ingredient is, don’t buy it! If a food has long complicated chemical names, those are food additives and preservatives. If you don’t know what something is, do you really want to eat it?
Consider how many steps it took to make that food. If you can imagine making the food in your own kitchen it is most likely whole. If you can’t imagine making the food but you feel like you might need a Hadron Particle Collider to do it, it’s probably not whole.
It’s important to remember that the value of a food is not just the sum of its nutrients. We get more from carrots than just a big dose of Vitamin A. Whole foods are a complete package of nutrients, antioxidants, water, and other components that are balanced in just the right way for our bodies. We were born to eat this way!
I know we weren’t talking about Whole Foods the grocery store, but I really enjoy this song about the trials and tribulations of shopping there so I’ll leave you with this video.