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Whole Foods vs Processed Foods

You may be wondering what people are referring to when they talk about whole foods and processed foods. Are whole foods better for you than processed foods? What are the dangers of processed foods? We are here to shed some light on this topic so that you can make more informed choices in your daily life.

In short, whole foods remain in their natural state and have not been altered by manufacturing processes whereas processed foods have been refined for commercial purposes and no longer retain the original properties they once possessed.

What are whole foods? Whole foods retain their natural composition as well as contain no artificial additives or preservatives and have gone through little or no processing (i.e. cooking, grinding, or blending). Whole foods contain vitamins, minerals, water, fatty acids, amino acids, carbohydrates, fiber and much more.

Whole foods are usually unpackaged, have a short shelf-life, can be picked straight from the earth and consumed in their raw form. Examples of whole foods: Fruits Vegetables Grains – wheat, wholegrain rice, quinoa, bulgur wheat, rolled oats & barley Beans and legumes – lentils, kidney beans, lima beans, split peas, chickpeas etc Nuts and seeds (unroasted, unsalted) – peanuts, almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, linseeds, pumpkin seeds etc *These must be untreated / raw for them to remain within this category

What are processed foods? Foods with heavy processing which alter them from their original state, thus disrupting their cellular nutrition. It also applies to foods that have the addition of processed foods in their makeup. Processed foods can also be entirely synthetic foods and are made from genetically modified ingredients. Scary.

Heavily processed foods can be extracted from whole foods (e.g. oils, sugars, MSG, food dyes, extracted proteins, other food stabilising additives, etc) or artificial sources (e.g. artificial food dyes are by­products of burning coal tar). Most food processing also involves natural or artificial agents (salt, sugar, sodium or potassium benzoate, parabens, etc.) to preserve freshness and prevent spoiling.

While eating whole foods will give you unspoiled fatty acids, extracted lipids can become very unstable and oxidize quickly during processing, which produces dangerous free radicals and degrades proteins and vitamins. Solid fats and added sugars are known to excite our taste buds, however they provide nothing but empty calories (e.g. pizzas, conventional pastry and breads, cakes, candy, and other artificial and sugary drinks) and can cause long-term, irreversible disease which significantly jeopardises health.

In addition to being incredibly dangerous, processed foods pose a threat to the environment as they require heavy processing plants and factories with huge carbon emissions. On top of that, processed foods are all individually packaged with mainly single-use plastic which ultimately ends up in landfills.

Are there any healthy processed foods? Light processing like cooking, freezing, blending, soaking, fermenting, dehydrating or drying can be quite safe if done using whole foods and avoiding the addition of artificial additives and preservatives.

Examples of healthy processed foods: Dried herbs are high in antioxidants and beneficial to our health. Fermented foods have been shown to be highly beneficial for our gut as well as brain health and are being used in nutritional psychiatry. Sprouting grains increases their digestibility, improves amino acid profile, B vitamins and sugar composition. Activated nuts and seeds are also much easier to digest making their nutrients more bioavailable. The bottom line For thousands of years the human diet consisted solely of 100% organic, whole foods. It has only been for the last 100 years that commercial principles have permeated the consumer market and begun the rapid manufacturing of processed foods. In correlation to the introduction of processed foods, so to has a plethora of serious diseases taken over humankind. If you care about your health, the health of your family and the planet – you should avoid processed foods at all costs and aim for an organic, whole food diet wherever possible.


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