Author – Mitravinda
In the era of rapid technological advancement, most of our food options are readily available and heavily processed. With huge amounts of food refinement, the food we finally consume loses its natural essence and has more chemicals and preservatives in it than nutritional value! Not only is such a diet harmful to us in the long run but, these processing units also add up to the environmental issues the world is facing today.
With increasing number of Indians going for desk jobs, they are having significantly low physical activities due to their sedentary lifestyle. So it becomes extremely important for us watch our daily diet and keep it balanced in order to maintain our fitness levels. Whole food diets rely on natural plant-based foods so they can help us in eliminating highly processed foods.
What are whole foods?
Whole foods are basically plant-based foods that are kept away from processing or refining as much as possible. This implies that your diet will be full of energy sources in its most natural form, without any harmful chemicals and preservatives. An average Indian diet can easily accommodate whole foods, considering the wide varieties of whole foods recipes we already use in Indian households.
Whole foods are broadly categorized into vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds. For people aiming to build muscles, Legumes are the appropriate type of whole foods because it contains proteins in high amounts whereas fats in the least. For a whole foods diet, we should consume nuts and seeds that are not artificially flavoured or salted. For more facts on whole foods check out the ‘whole foods factfile’.
• Raw vegetables – carrot, cucumber, cabbage, tomato, lemon, etc
• Ripe fruits – apples, bananas, peaches, mangoes, grapes, figs
• Legumes – black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, soya beans, lentils and split peas
• Grains – whole wheat, brown rice, hulled barley, whole rye, rolled oats, millet, oat groats, amaranth, corn, etc.
• Nuts and seeds – Cashew nuts, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame, linseeds
How are whole foods beneficial for our health?
Whole foods contain very little food processing, which makes them free from any chemical additives. Further, nutritionists highly recommended them because they are unrefined and are packed with loads of vitamins, antioxidants and fibers. Whole foods are rich in phytochemicals that include antioxidants like flavonoids, lycopene and carotenoids. These antioxidants help in the prevention of cell damage and strengthen our immune system.
Whole foods are also known to reduce the risk of acquiring many kinds of cancer, cardiovascular diseases as well as diabetes. Processed foods on the other hand not only have lesser amounts of naturally occurring nutrients, but also contain preservatives that can have adverse effects on one’s health.
How is whole foods diet eco-friendly?
Switching to a whole foods-based diet is not only going to support your health, but also protect the environment. This eco-friendly diet is a great way to embrace your environmental responsibility and give power to the local farming community. Wonder why?
Unlike the widely available processed foods, whole foods do not need huge factory set-ups and complex food manufacturing mechanisms. This implies that you are not participating in the entire cycle of uncontrolled factory emissions, toxic pollutants, or increasing carbon footprints due to the large-scale transportation of manufactured goods. The world is already facing extreme climatic conditions due to our negligence, so it is high time we start paying heed to global environmental change and our responsibilities towards it.
Grains such as millets and wheat are produced majorly in dry and semiarid regions. About 97% of millets seen in the market comes from developing countries, and by adopting a whole foods diet, you become a source of direct support to the numerous poor farmers living in drought-hit areas. By using whole vegetables, grains and fruits produced by local farmers you are boosting the fluidity of local markets and adding to your country’s advantage.
Most of the time, instead of buying fresh fruit/ vegetable juice or making fresh meals, we turn towards buying packaged boxes of juices or ready-to-eat meal boxes, which often come in cheap plastic packaging. These goods not only create huge carbon footprints due to their transportation from distant manufacturing units, but also are a cause for the massive pile-up of plastic waste and its mismanagement.
You might feel a change in an individual’s diet to be of trivial impact to the global environment, but at the end every positive step matters. So, start planning your whole foods diet and encourage others to take it up too!
Author’s Bio – Mitravinda Savanur is a Nutritionist at DietChart with a doctoral degree in Food Science and Nutrition. She is a teacher, researcher and an author. Her passion for nutrition prompted her to start writing blogs on topics such as vegetarian protein sources, diet chart for weight loss, health benefits of green tea, etc.