I don’t know about you, but for me during the winter it’s easier for me to eat more processed, pick up and go type foods. I want more baked goods, more foods with refined flours and sugar and less of fruits and vegetables. There is a balance with everything, but at the beginning of the new year I like to try to get this part of my diet back in order. The reason?
More Nutrient Value
As many of you may know, processing foods strips the food of vital nutrients and can lessen the nutritional value. This can be any type of food preparation. Exposing it to oxygen, light, heat or water during cooking will lessen the nutrient value. There is always some nutrient loss when preparing food in general.
However, HIGHLY processed foods are foods that contain:
- Preservatives (to prevent rotting)
- Added Flavors
- Usually is high in added sugars (like high fructose corn syrup)
- Usually high in refined grains (which is stripped of fiber and nutrients)
These foods add calories with little to no nutritional value. Because of the artificial ingredients, high in sugar, and using highly processed and refined ingredients, it’s lower in nutritional value. They are more calorie dense than nutrient dense.
Eating whole foods like raw fruits, vegetables, and whole grains like whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa, barley, oats, etc. starts getting your diet and nutrition level back to a healthier level. More nutritional value, the better your body will work with you. Then later on when you want to make a big change, your diet is already on the right path.
I talk about fiber a lot in my recipe and nutrition posts but it truly is an important part of your overall health. We already talked about how much water is an important part of health, nutrition, and your digestive process. Fiber is almost just as simple and covers a wide range of benefits as well. There are two types of fiber. Below is what they both help with and then later is where to find those types of fibers in foods.
- Increases the feeling of being full and satisfied
- Lowers blood cholesterol by helping to bind with bile
- Slows glucose absorption
- Helps with weight management
- Lowers risk of heart disease
- Improves blood glucose tolerance and lowers risk of diabetes
- Lowers risk of colon and rectal cancer
Food Sources of Soluble Fiber
Barley, rye, oats, oat bran, apples, citrus fruit, legumes, seaweed, broccoli, carrots, corn, potatoes, seeds and more.
- Softens stools and aids in intestinal motility
- Increases feelings of fullness
- Reduce risk of constipation, hemorrhoids, appendicitis, diverticulitis, etc.
- Lowers rick of colon and rectal cancer
- Helps with weight management
Food Sources of Insoluble Fiber
Wheat bran, whole grains, brown rice, fruits, legumes, cabbage, brussels sprouts, carrots, nuts, seeds, and more.
Whole foods adds nutrients and fiber to your diet. Although processed foods are starting to add fiber more and more to their products, remember they will still have less nutritional value and usually more added sugars than eating whole foods. Not to mention process foods have food additives and that there is more of a chance it will contain allergens or be processed in a factory that also processes food allergens.
If you are wanting to start to change your diet for the healthier, start with introducing or getting back to eating mainly whole foods.
Easy Way to Start:
- Have a piece of fruit, not canned, with breakfast
- Have at least 1/2, if not 1/3, of your plate consisting of vegetables and whole grains or natural starches with your protein of choice
- Salad and a baked potato
- Roasted carrots and brown rice
- Broccoli and a baked sweet potato
- Have 1 of your servings of protein a day be a plant based source for added fiber
- Nuts and Seeds
- Keep in mind to have some sort of raw fruit or vegetable at every meal
Whatever might work for you, remember that having nutrient and fiber dense foods will help with your nutrition, digestive health and can help lower the risk of some major diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Getting your diet habits back on track with adding and increasing your whole foods will help when you are ready to make a full diet change later if you are not fully ready to do so. What are you waiting for?