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Is It REALLY Better To Eat Whole Foods?

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Want to eat clean without the price tag? Learn the difference between natural and organic food, how to save money, what labels to look for at the grocery store, and whether or not whole foods REALLY make a difference in our overall health.  

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Want to eat clean without the price tag? Learn the difference between natural and organic food, how to save money, what labels to look for at the grocery store, and whether or not whole foods REALLY make a difference in our overall health.  

Without Googling it, tell me what is whole food nutrition.

Stop for a minute and take a quick stab at this.

The phrase “whole food nutrition” is tossed out like candy in the fitness and nutrition industry, but the fact is that many people, even within the said industry, cannot accurately define the term.

So what is whole food nutrition?

Whole food nutrition is a broad term that essentially means food in its most natural or whole state.  “Whole” meaning it is minimally processed, modified, or refined without additives or chemicals.

There are two labels the food industry has created in order to delineate that it is whole food.  These labels are “natural” and “organic.”  

For more health and wellness tips be sure to check out:

    What Are Whole Foods and Does It Really Matter?

    Natural Foods

    “Natural foods” tend to be those that are minimally processed and do not contain any hormones, antibiotics, or artificial flavors. In the United States, however, neither the FDA nor the USDA has rules or regulations for products labeled “natural.” 

    Take meat, for example. Beef can be labeled “natural” but the cows could still have been given growth hormones or antibiotics. 

    Fruits and vegetables are certainly all-natural, but they could still have been sprayed with pesticides or come from a farm that has been genetically modifying their crops over the years to yield a larger harvest.  

    What Are Whole Foods and Does It Really Matter

    What Are Whole Foods and Does It Really Matter?

    Organic Foods

    The label “organic”, however, is strictly defined by Federal regulations.  When you see that green and white “organic” label, it is expected that the product was created with a set of farming and production practices defined and regulated, in great detail, by the USDA.

    Items grown from the earth must be certified by regulatory agencies that perform soil tests, and in order for a farm to become certified their soil must have at least 3 years of no pesticide treatment.

    The organic label guarantees no toxic synthetic pesticides, toxic synthetic herbicides, or chemical fertilizers are used in production, and no antibiotics or growth hormones are given to animals. 

    What Are Whole Foods and Does It Really Matter?

    Dirty Dozen and Clean fifteen

    There are certain foods more worth their organic price tag than others, and one of the best resources that is updated every year is the organic Dirty Dozen™ and Clean Fifteen™ lists that are updated yearly from the Environmental Working Group (EWG).  These are lists to help decide when you should splurge for organic fruits and vegetables, and where you could save based on yearly reports of pesticide residue.  

    What Are Whole Foods and Does It Really Matter
    Dirty Dozen Organic Buying Guide (EWG, 2021)
    What Are Whole Foods and Does It Really Matter
    Clean Fifteen List Organic Buying Guide (EWG, 2021)

    When looking at meat labels if you are not buying organically then try to find in the fine print if they mention that there were no growth hormones given.  

    When buying packaged foods if you aren’t going for the easy organic label be sure to read the label and make sure there aren’t any artificial ingredients.   

    There are apps that you can use to scan labels and it will give you a list and let you know if there are additives etc.  

    The Best Apps for Decoding Food Label Ingredients

    Does It Really matter?

    In my 6 week FASTer Way to Fat Loss Program I do a training video outlining some of the research behind artificial ingredients and food additives and the way they are contributing to disease, but for those interested in a much more in-depth look at the potential metabolic and physiologic effects of a processed diet check out the article below. Click HERE to read the full article.

    Although the detrimental effects of fat and sugar are undeniable, industrialized food is composed of many other substances of which the metabolic effects are usually ignored. Emulsifiers, thickeners, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives may have direct and indirect effects on cells of the immune system, contributing to metabolic dysregulation. Moreover, safety evaluation and estimates of food additives toxicity are usually based on tests of single compounds, thus underestimating the effects of associating two or more additives. Therefore, policies that aim at curbing the evolution of obesity must take into account not only calorie content of food but also all the other components and their effects.

    Front Immunol. 2017; 8: 1478.
    Published online 2017 Nov 6. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2017.01478
    PMCID: PMC5672138
    PMID: 29163542
    Effects of Food Additives on Immune Cells As Contributors to Body Weight Gain and Immune-Mediated Metabolic Dysregulation

    The takeaway is this – our bodies were not designed to metabolize and optimally function with artificial food.

    Take a car for example. I know very little about the inner workings of a car, but I do know that they get me from point A to point B, anything less than 4 cup holders is a sham, and the remote start function is the secret to happy mom life.

    I also know that if you put gas into a car with a diesel engine you could destroy the car. Why? Because the engine was not designed to “optimally function” with that kind of fuel.

    The same is true of the human body.

    It is not a far reach to suggest that loading our bodies with fuel that we were never designed to metabolize could result in dysfunction and slowly “destroy our engines”.

    What Are Whole Foods and Does It Really Matter

    “If it is from the earth or it can give birth, then it is fair game.”

    Ahna Fulmer // HammersNHugs.com

    A tip to maneuvering whole food versus processed foods when shopping is to consider that the majority of processed foods reside in the center aisles of the grocery store.

    Approximately 80% of your groceries should come from the perimeter of the store.

    Let me be clear that eating organically is not the end all be all.

    Hemlock, despite being organically grown, will still kill you if you eat it.

    Eating organic burgers every night for dinner is not preferable to a mix of natural salad greens, vegetables, and grilled chicken.

    Be sure to keep the right perspective.

    I do not claim that eating organically will certainly prevent disease, but I do believe that prioritizing whole food nutrition and limiting or eliminating processed foods within your home will help to promote a better quality of life.

    The organic label simply makes the thought process easier.

    What are your experiences with whole food nutrition versus a processed diet?

    For more health and wellness tips be sure to check out:

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      What Are Whole Foods and Does It Really Matter?

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      One Comment

      1. A lot of good information here, Ahna! I have to admit I am not as good as I should be about reading the labels. Thanks for sharing this and the good reminder!

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