Eat whole, eat fresh, eat colors
I love food! I love the taste. I love the texture. I love the beauty. I love everything about food. And, I love to cook. You see, I grew up in the South where food is king. In the South, food is at the center of everything. Food is the common ground for social gatherings, and comfort for all emotions. I have so many happy memories from my youth that involve cooking with my mother and my grandmother. But like all relationships, a relationship with food can be good and bad. On the one hand, food is necessary to sustain life. On the other, it can lead to health problems that decrease life expectancy.
I am a Nurse Practitioner, but I am certainly not a licensed nutritionist. But because I have always been very active and concerned about my health, I have done quite a bit of reading and research on healthy eating in my lifetime. And, of course, this research has changed dramatically over the decades. I remember in the eighties the “healthy” food revolution included the recommendation to not to eat any fat of any kind and eggs became taboo. More recently healthy fats are in, and carbs have become the outcast.
There is always some new food fad and diet craze. But what I’ve realized over these many decades is that when I start to gain weight, or feel crappy, because I’m eating like crap, it really only takes getting back to basics to feel better on the inside and look better on the outside. You don’t need a giant research study to know we should eat as Mother Nature intended, and to do that requires three simple principles: eat whole, eat fresh, and eat colors. But what does that mean?
We have a really popular store called Whole Foods now. But what does it really mean to eat whole foods? Well, it’s actually pretty simple. Whole foods are foods that have not been processed, refined or had ingredients added to them. Eating whole foods means eating foods in their most natural form and includes fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, meat, fish and eggs.
Eating fresh means eating food that is in season and grown close to home. It also means not overprocessing or overcooking the food. (Be prepared I’m about to start talking science again). You see heating food changes it chemical composition. You can see this with water. Heat ice and it turns to water, and then to steam. Heat a piece of fish and it changes from raw, flexible flesh to a more firm and flakey texture. Heat has the power to kill bacteria and microorganisms in food that can make us really sick, and breaks down the food so it’s easier to chew and digest. This is particularly important when preparing most meats. In some cases, heating makes certain antioxidants more available to your body than they are in raw foods, like beta-carotene in carrots and lycopene found in tomatoes.
But heat can also destroy some of the nutrients that make us healthy. For instance, although lycopene becomes more available in tomatoes when they are cooked, the available vitamin C is reduced by about 30%. In fact, the following nutrients are often reduced during cooking:
- water-soluble vitamins: vitamin C and the B vitamins — thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), folic acid (B9), and cobalamin (B12)
- fat-soluble vitamins: vitamins A, D, E, and K
- minerals: primarily potassium, magnesium, sodium, and calcium
But whether you cook your fresh vegetables or not, the fact of the matter is eating fresh food instead of a packaged meal or a large order of french fries from McDonald’s (which I love btw) is part of the foundation for improved health and weight loss.
As we’ve heard time and time again, processed foods (which are the antithesis of fresh foods) are not healthy and will contribute to weight gain. So what qualifies as processed foods. Well, think of any food that comes in a package, like prepared meals in the freezer section. But also think about things like bread. Bread is made from wheat that has been ground down, mixed into a batter, and cooked into a loaf. A loaf of bread doesn’t look anything like what wheat looks like in its natural state.
Eating colors is easy. Whenever I go shopping in the fresh produce section, I am always in awe of the amazing colors produced in nature. The fruits and vegetables are so beautiful. It’s always hard for me to believe that some people (like my husband) don’t like to eat vegetables. I mean the colors are like eye candy and so inviting. The colors represent the different nutrients. Just think, the more colors you eat, the more vitamins and minerals you consume. You don’t even have to try. Just pick out a few colors and start eating your way to health.
This may sound crazy, but it actually makes me sad to think that some people aren’t exposed to eating fresh fruits and vegetables when they are young. It’s really hard to change the way you eat as an adult and the beauty and taste of fresh, whole food is so special. And the way you feel after eating fresh food is so much better than when you eat processed meals and fast food. I know it’s easy to go through the drive thru at lunchtime, but trust me if you start eating fresh foods the difference in how you feel on the inside and how you look on the outside will make you glad in due time, and will probably extend our life.
Two of my intentions for 2022 included simplifying and improving relationships. As I stated earlier, I ended 2021 feeling pretty crappy. I was eating crap food and drinking too much. I gained weight and felt bloated. So in January I started following this philosophy of eating whole, fresh, colors, in simple ways that improved my relationship with food. I didn’t limit my calories. I didn’t limit the amount of food I ate. And I didn’t change my exercise routine. I also didn’t try and lose weight, but I knew I would. And sure enough, after about six weeks I felt so much better and I lost about eight pounds. To put that into better context, some of my pants actually got too loose and started to fall off, so I had to buy a smaller size. Remember a lot of the weight was probably excess water weight and bloating, as well as fat, that you carry around the middle.
But here’s what really proved to me this way of eating is healthier. A few weeks ago I saw two people on two separate occasions that I had not seen since the end of last year. Neither of them knew anything about the changes in my diet. And they both commented on how good my skin looks. I knew immediately it’s because my internal organs, particularly my liver, were getting a well-deserved break from the toxins of excess potato chips and wine, and my skin reflected it. Like I said, if you are healthier on the inside, it will be evident on the outside.
I understand that people are in a hurry and want to eat food that is fast. But fresh food does not have to be slow or difficult to make. In the next few weeks I’ll be launching a series entitled, Four Twenty, where I’ll show you how to make really simple, delicious recipes using four fresh ingredients to create beautiful, healthy and delicious meals in 20 minutes or less. Perfect when you have the munchies.