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Whole Foods, Processed Foods, and Refined Foods Explained

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

What’s in Your Basket?



To help in the understanding of biochemical individuality, nutrigenomics, and epigenetics, it is important first to have a working knowledge of the bioactive food categories that make up the nutritional part of the human diet. The modern diet is broken down into three categories; whole foods, processed foods, and refined foods. Whole foods are defined as being as close to its whole, natural state as possible. That means that tomatoes, grapes, and pumpkins are all whole foods. These whole foods may be sliced, diced, and combined with other whole foods. Homemade salsa is considered a whole food as all the nutritional components are intact. Animal products such as steak, chicken breasts, and fish are also whole foods, provided they have not been altered in a way that extends their shelf life, cooked, or preserved using chemicals. Refined foods differ from whole foods in that they are altered and void of some or all the original nutrients. The more refined a food is, the less nutritional value it holds. Some common examples of refined foods include pasta, white breads, pizza, and grains that have had the bran removed. Highly refined foods are not supportive of health and regeneration and can be described as “negative nutrition”. This “negative nutrition” happens when our bodies do not have the necessary nutrients to carry out the many biochemical processes constantly going on, therefore leaving the body to pull the nutrients from muscles, bones, and other body tissues. Often these refined foods are fortified with synthetic versions of the vitamins and minerals lost during processing. Beginning as whole foods, processed foods are altered by cooking, juicing, removing the skin or peel, and refining. Processed foods are not necessarily void of nutrition but are often missing key components to their whole. Eating an apple provides nutrients in the form of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and carbohydrates, whereas drinking a glass of apple juice, which is processed, still delivers vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates in the form of fructose. The key component missing in this example is the fiber from the skin and flesh of the apple. The fiber is beneficial in helping to stabilize the blood sugar levels after consuming the fructose. Like refined foods, processed foods are often saturated with additives, chemicals, dyes, preservatives, and most often fortified with synthetic nutrients in order to meet federal guidelines and insure a longer shelf life. Refined and fortified foods often contain artificial sweeteners which are known as excitotoxins and research is showing us their detrimental and crippling effects on the human body. Choosing a diet rich in whole foods helps to make sure you are supplying your body with the most nutritious foods possible. By choosing more whole foods, you are also helping to minimize the chemicals, artificial colors, preservatives, and a long list of other unhealthy ingredients, while maximizing the health benefits. So, the next time you go to the grocery store, think about what you’re putting in your basket, because what you put in your basket is what you put in your mouth. References available.

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