One of the first steps to incorporating a healthy lifestyle is to embrace whole foods. If you struggle with weight loss, chances are that processed carbohydrates are a big culprit and a top reason for your weight gain. If it comes in a bag, box, can, carton, or container, more than likely you should avoid it. There are a few exceptions to the rule, but thatâ€™s where reading the label is key. When it comes to whole vs processed foods, understanding the four basic macronutrients is beneficial to losing weight and keeping it off!
Whole vs Processed Foods
Whole Foods: unprocessed and unrefined; they are foods in their natural state, that have not been altered. They include fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits, unsalted nuts, fresh lean meats and seafood, eggs, low-fat milk (skim or 1%), plain yogurt, low-fat cheese, cottage cheese, legumes, brown rice, and quinoa.
Processed Foods: foods that have been changed with some form of processing using manufacturing methods to transform raw ingredients into packaged goods that have a longer shelf life. Such as fruit or vegetable juices, fruits canned in heavy syrup, salted/seasoned nuts, sweetened yogurts, processed cheese, refined bread, pasta, crackers, veggie or potato chips, cookies, sweets, and sodas.
Whole foods maintain more of the four basic macronutrients â€“ water, complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fat â€“ all of which play a key role in not only losing weight, but most importantly, maintaining weight loss. When foods are processed, many of the naturally nutritious and wholesome components are either broken down, making them less useful to the body, or substituted for artificial and unhealthy fillers.
Water: maintains the balance of bodily fluids which aid in digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients, and maintenance of body temperature. Aim for at least 64-80 oz of water intake daily or drink at least Â½ your body weight in pounds in ounces of water.
Complex carbohydrates: are converted into glucose providing energy for your bodyâ€™s cells, brain, and red blood cells or is stored for future use in the liver, or in body fat. Consume 25% of your daily calories in vegetables and fruits and 15% in whole grains, such as spouted grain bread, brown rice, or quinoa.
Lean Proteins: are the building blocks that make up body tissues, muscles, skin, and organs. When consumed, protein is broken down into amino acids providing the body with energy for various vital functions. Lean meat, seafood, and low-fat dairy products should account for 35% of your daily calories.
Healthy Fats: the most concentrated source of energy, needed throughout the body to support growth and provide energy. Heart healthy fats account for 25% of your daily intake; avocados, nuts, seeds, and olives are a few of the preferred choices.
When shopping at your local grocery store, around the perimeter of the store is where you will find the whole foods. Limit your time in the aisles, as that is where the majority of the processed foods are. Your grocery list should consist primarily of vegetables, lean meat, low-fat dairy, and whole grains with just 1-2 aisles needed per trip.
So start being cognizant of the types of foods you are consuming and make an effort to avoid processed foods whenever possible. This small and fairly simple adjustment just might be enough of a change to put you on the right track!