Wholefood is food in its natural state, unprocessed and still ‘whole’ in nature. A pear, a carrot, a wheat berry, an almond, an oyster; they are all whole foods.
Nature is very clever, as within whole foods are all the nutrients which are required to break them down so that they can be assimilated by the body. For example, a grain of wheat in its entirety has B vitamins, chromium and magnesium, all of which are needed to break down the carbohydrate in the grain. Similarly, potatoes, which are high in starch and carbohydrates, have high levels of lipoic acid in the skin which helps with carbohydrate metabolism.
Processed foods are the opposite of wholefoods, as they have been pulled apart, mostly for increased shelf life. By separating out the orignal components the nutritional value of the food is greatly diminished. These products can often be termed as ‘nutrient robbers’ as they use the bodys nutrient reserves to break them down, as is the case for refined wheat, which lacks its outer husks which contains B vitamins and chromium to break down the carbohydrate.
So how can we enjoy our current diet while basing it on whole foods? Here are some handy substitutions to get you started:
White, multigrain, wholemeal bread
White bread is devoid of any nutrition, multigrain is usually white with some kibbled grain added in and wholemeal is still processed as the meal is added to the white flour. Try breads made on wholegrain milled flour instead, as these use the whole grain.
Conventional pasta is made of highly processed durum wheat. A better alternative is spelt, kamut or rye pasta, which is available from a health food shop.
Cakes, biscuits and baked goods
Conventionally bought baked goods are generally very refined, using white flour and margarine. A better option is to make your own using wholegrain flours, or to look for products with a basic ingredient list – if you don’t know what the ingredient is then don’t eat it!
Conventional cereals are highly processed and often have added sugar! Try having a wholegrain cereal such as puffed brown rice, porridge or a wheat free natural muesli.
Sugar is the processed juice of the sugar cane. Raw, unprocessed honey is a good alternative, it has a lower GI and is high in beneficial bacteria and B vitamins.
White rice is generally highly polished which removes many of the vitamins and minerals. Brown rice is a great alternative, but remember you have to cook it for much longer than white rice, otherwise it will be chewy. Basmati is the next healthiest option, with a much lower GI than other white rice.
Processed meats – ham, devon etc.
Processed meats are turned to a liquid form, then have hardeners and flavourings added to make them more solid and meat like. A good alternative is some cooked chicken breast, canned salmon or sardines, cooked beef or lamb.