Thursday, October 22, 2009

Eating Whole Foods and Whole Grains

One of my readers was told to eat more whole foods and wanted to know, what are those, exactly? Thought that would be a good topic to explore because on a fertility diet, eating whole foods (as opposed to the over-processed variety) is a very good thing. An article on the Willy Street Co-op’s website, I thought, had a good definition: whole foods are those that are “as close as possible to their natural state. These are foods that have had little to no processing and retain their original nutrients, fiber and flavor.” The article includes examples: fresh apples instead of apple juice, brown rice instead of white. It also includes baked goods made with whole grain flour and natural sweeteners (such as honey) rather than baked goods made with refined flour (in which the grains have been stripped of their nutritious outer parts) and processed sugar, which we know is bad for us.

On the other end of the spectrum – what are NOT whole foods? Basically the processed variety, and especially the over-processed. This article (click here) lists great examples of what are NOT whole foods by listing whole foods along with their processed “equivalents,” including: boneless, skinless chicken (instead of chicken nuggets), fresh fish (instead of fish sticks), potatoes (instead of potato chips), whole grain bread, such as rye bread (instead of white bread), whole grain oatmeal (instead of almost any breakfast cereal).

Whole grains, by the way, are those which contain all of their parts: the outer shell (the bran), inner portion (endosperm) and the kernel (the germ). They include oatmeal, brown rice, whole-grain barley, wild rice, buckwheat, Kamut® and others. Whole grains can also be used as an ingredient in food, such as flour, cereal or crackers.

Whole grains provide more fiber and essential nutrients than refined grains, which are often stripped of their outer shell.

So why is eating more whole foods so good for you and your fertility? Because of what you’re getting and what you’re not getting when you eat them.

What you’re getting with whole foods is a lot more of the essential vitamins, minerals, micronutrients, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fiber, for example, than you would with non-whole foods. What you’re NOT getting is a lot of the ugly, unhealthy ingredients you often get in packaged or processed foods, such as sugar, hydrogenated oil (trans fat, very bad for you!), high fructose corn syrup (more sugar), mono sodium glutamate (MSG), flavors, preservatives, fillers and artificial sweeteners, to name a few.  Many of these ingredients impact fertility negatively. Sugar can mess with your hormones, for example.

So eat more whole foods! And cut out the processed stuff.

You can read more about processed foods vs. whole foods in this article.
For examples of whole food meals, check out this website.
(photo by