When you have bad eating habits and rely on processed foods, you become more susceptible to lifestyle diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Food also loses essential nutrients when you prepare them the wrong way. However, if you include whole foods in your diet, you can prevent the risk of these conditions.
A lot is said about foods that are detrimental to our health and lifestyle diseases like heart diseases and diabetes, caused by bad eating habits. But less is said about what is right for our health and why.
Believe it or not, the answer is in your fingertips. Better yet, in your backyard garden, in the form of whole foods and plant-based foods.
Whole foods simply refer to any food that is minimally processed and as close to its natural form as possible. It’s mainly foods that are free of chemical additives and rich in nutrients.
Dieticians and medical professionals concur that vegetables and plant-based foods are deemed the most nutrient-rich whole foods you can ever find.
Change your lifestyle
According to registered dietitian Kelly Scholtz of K.S Dietetics, long-term prevention of lifestyle diseases like heart disease and cancer is significantly influenced by our routine food choices. Other lifestyle factors, such as minimal alcohol consumption, no smoking and regular physical activity, will also play a role.
“Improvements in diet quality and the consumption of whole foods or plant-based foods advances the prevention of heart disease, stroke, obesity and diabetes. An improved diet is an essential part of the medical treatment of these conditions even in instances where one has already diagnosed,” she says.
According to USA based clinical registered dietitian Katherine Marengo, research proves that heart diseases account for nearly one-third of all deaths worldwide. As such, a diet rich in nutritious, whole foods may also help reduce heart inflammation – one of the major drivers of heart disease.
So, what’s really good?
According to Scholtz, the following whole foods (among others) are very beneficial for your health – it’s even better if you plant it yourself:
- Beans and legumes – lentils, kidney beans, lima beans, split peas and chick peas
- Fruits and vegetables – all of them!
Scholtz shares the advantages of consuming whole foods:
- The fibre content of wholegrains, nuts and seeds, legumes, beans, vegetables and fruits contribute to a healthy digestive system. Fibre also helps with management of cholesterol and blood glucose, helping to treat and prevent lifestyle diseases.
- Traditional diets based on whole foods – like the Mediterranean diet – are associated with better mental health and resilience against anxiety and depression.
- Diets that include an abundance of vegetables and fruits are significantly protective against cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.
- Whole foods that are high in fibre are filling and help us to manage portion sizes of other foods, so they play a very important role in weight management.
- Whole foods contribute significantly to micronutrient intake. Refined and processed foods are often stripped of many nutrients, such as B vitamins, but also healthy fats and proteins.
- Real food is packed with antioxidants and nutrients that support heart health, including magnesium and healthy fats.
Don’t kill nutrients in preparation
More often people include whole foods in their diets, but the nutrients are sometimes overpowered by additives like spices. Scholtz advises that while it is wise to make your whole food enjoyable, it is important to avoid the use of excess fat during preparation.
“A small quantity of olive or canola oil is fine but try to avoid deep frying or making sauces that contain lots of butter or cream. Overcooking and boiling vegetables can also reduce their nutritional value. The best preparation methods for vegetables include steaming, roasting in a small amount of oil, or making stews or soup where you also consume the water the vegetables are cooked in, rather than draining that water off.
“If you can keep the skins on vegetables and fruits like potatoes and apples, you will get more micronutrients and fibre from those foods,” Scholtz concludes.