The concept of a “Whole Foods” diet is being regurgitated on everyone by fitness gurus and diet bandits in the online world. Apparently eating anything other than whole foods is cancer causing, terrorizing and blatantly wrong.
According to many, eating whole foods is essentially eliminating processed foods where the logic is to remove exposure to chemicals and other claimed dangers of foods that are processed.
Most people buy into this because when we are told that a specific food has a claimed harmful chemical added to it, we automatically give it a bad rep. Consumption of this food or anything processed for that matter becomes a physiological crime scene.
This article is about to look at both sides of the whole food diet and give you a double sided perspective on what this method can or can’t offer you.
Processed vs Unprocessed Debate
In a whole foods diet, one typically eliminates any source of what is to be considered processed food, but here’s the thing… Nearly every food known to man and woman has been processed on some level.
Water is processed in a treatment plant until it is considered cleared for consumption. Wine, beer and hard liquor are all processed, yet not considered to be processed foods by the majority of the population. Meats and vegetables have all been processed in order to end up on your plate for consumption.
While some people are going to suggest that the term processed leans more towards adding chemicals to foods for preservation, it’s important to understand something. The way in which we define processed determines what it is and nearly every definition of processed indicates that it is “any mechanical, chemical operation that either changes something or preserves it”.
Due to a misunderstanding of the word processed by many, it is evident that making a claim that a whole food diet utilizes only unprocessed foods is bizarre, as all foods have been processed to some extent.
Let’s look into what a whole foods diet can and can’t do for you.
The Argument For Whole Foods
The main claim to fame of consuming whole foods is the health benefits they offer through promoting better nutrition and preventing harmful diseases. You can’t get around the fact that choosing whole foods like those not found in boxes, will indeed enhance your nutrition.
By consuming foods in their most natural forms, one is strictly consuming the food they are eating. This could be potentially correct, however a better point that gives strength to the consumption of whole foods is the fact that these foods offer nutritional benefit in terms of better overall food selection practice and nutrient uptake in the body.
Adhering to a diet based off whole foods will allow one to make better food selections in obtaining the necessary nutrients needed for health. This is the obvious reason to why consuming so called whole foods is beneficial. This stems from the idea that nutrients are better absorbed in the body if they are coming from foods in their most natural state.
Bottom line, consuming whole foods is an effective way for improving healthy nutritional needs. Sticking to whole foods allows one to select foods that are typically going to have a larger spectrum of nutrients . In choosing healthier whole foods, there is more available nutrients to the body that can be better absorbed and used to maintain healthy bodily function.
The Argument Against Whole Foods
This might break the hearts of the guru’s trying to sell you on a whole food diet, but just because a processed food contains a “chemical” that they said causes cancer or some other pathology, you may want to analyze the literature. In fact, most of these chemicals are not provided in high enough doses to have a severe health effect and it is not even known whether they do or not. You are at just as much of a risk of cancer from breathing or sitting on a toilet.
Again, just because something is correlated with an adverse health effect, does not mean it causes the adverse health effect!
Many of us, if not all of us heard that artificial sweeteners cause cancer.
Artificial Sweeteners like those found in many forms of diet pops were correlated with an increased risk of developing cancer; HOWEVER, on average, people that consume large amounts of diet pop also do not exercise and are typically overweight along with many other risk factors for developing co-morbidities.
This makes it extremely hard to say that diet pops were the cause, as there are way too many other confounding variables involved to be able to pinpoint one specific variable responsible for the increased risk of cancer. Not to mention the dose required to elicit the harmful effect seen in the rats that were studied would be somewhat equivalent to a human drinking 100 litres of diet pop in one sitting..
Case in point – “Correlation is not Causation”, and no diet pop will not give you cancer just like eating a whole food diet will not save you from all things dangerous to your health.
Take Home Points
- Eating a “whole foods” type of diet by definition does not mean avoiding processed foods, rather it should mean potentially choosing foods that are more nutrient dense that have a larger nutrient palate.
- Could be an excellent way to lose weight because typically foods that have less calories and more nutritional value are not found in a box or other packaging.
- The argument that whole foods will save you from cancer and other pathologies is flawed and more or less a scare tactic.