Western medicine is increasingly recognizing that a natural, or whole, foods diet is instrumental in preventing and healing most disease states. Modern humanity in the industrialized world is faced with epidemic rates of obesity, diabetes, cancer, and a host of diet related (and preventable) health issues. We have simultaneously witnessed a marked increase in consumption of processed and packaged foods.
Neighborhoods that once had a fishmonger, farm stand, butcher and baker are now bereft. Supermarkets carrying packaged foods of questionable provenance have replaced these small businesses, and in many communities locally raised food is unheard of. Genetically modified foods have taken center stage in big agriculture, hormone-laden meats and fruits and vegetables saturated with pesticides have invaded our market shelves. Chemicals and sugar are lurking in foods that traditionally contain neither. What on earth are we to do?
Education is the first step. Once we recognize that our health (and that of our families) is compromised every time we open a microwaveable meal, a cake mix, or a processed packaged food, it’s time to learn what the alternatives are. So what makes food “whole”? The basic concept is that whole food is unprocessed and unadulterated, and comes to us straight from nature.
Whole food is not genetically modified, processed, colored, made by synthetic means, or laden with hormone additives. White flour, sugar, white rice, most cold cereals, crackers, and packaged foods are processed. Whole foods include grains (such as whole grain flours, brown and wild rice, quinoa, millet); organic or minimally treated fruits and vegetables; wild caught or sustainably farmed seafood; organically raised meats; organic, unprocessed dairy products and free-range eggs.
Whole foods do not contain preservatives, and consequently have a shorter shelf life. Due to advances in food preparation techniques, various methods of preserving food are available to us (such as dehydration, dry roasting, canning and freezing) and can be incorporated –in moderation- during the times of year when the growing season is dormant.
Many people comment that eating organic food is prohibitively expensive. Making the commitment to have a small garden (even in containers) helps us rework our relationship with food. Joining a Food Co-op or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is a great way to save money. Last, but by no means least, a dominantly plant based diet is actually NOT expensive. Grains, legumes, and vegetables do not ultimately cost that much. What we need to recognize is that the more we are driven by false food and counterfeit flavors, the more likely we are to develop an illness. So is the cost of a wholesome diet really so high? It’s an investment with long term gain, and can hold the key not only to our own health, but also to that of our children.