God makes good things. Of the many wonderful things he created, whole foods are one of them. But just what are whole foods? And then there are processed foods. What are they? How does one tell the difference between the two? My purpose here is to help you understand and identify both. Then you will be well on your way to making good choices for your family dinner table!
Apples, eggs, steaks, whole milk, butter, lettuce, carrots… Hungry yet? These are all examples of whole foods. Foods that are considered whole are foods that God created, and they are as close to the way he created them as possible. The list above is a good example of this. Whole foods are natural and they haven’t had anything done to them to change them much from the way they are in their original state. For example, you could buy a carrot in the grocery store in a cellophane bag, or you could buy a bunch tied with a rubberband with the green tops still on, or you could buy them sliced/diced and frozen. They can be eaten raw or cooked. But these are all easily recognizable as carrots and they are a whole food.
Whole foods are not always identical to each other; within one food group there is a lot of room for variety, shape, color, size, texture, taste, etc. Apples are a good example of this: there are red, green, and yellow apples, some are sweet, some are tart. Another example is whole raw milk. Depending on the breed of cow, her feed, health, and the time of year the milk may be creamier at times than others, it may have a creamy color or it may be slightly yellow, and it may taste sweeter than at other times. And if the cow has gotten into a patch of onion grass, the milk will taste like it! Raw honey is also a whole food with many variations in flavor and color depending on what flowers the bees visited.
Whole foods will provide a variety of necessary vitamins and nutrients when eaten alone, or you can take whole foods and combine them together for even greater nutrition. This is synergism, which I will talk about later. Whole foods always contain the specific vitamins and nutrients that God intended for them to have, because he created them for the purpose of nourishing our bodies, which he also created. Another aspect of whole foods to consider is that different whole foods are produced through the earth at different times of the year, and in different regions, as opposed to being available year round. This is all part of God’s plan.
And now let’s look at the opposite of whole foods: processed foods. After reading this I hope you will understand that the phrase “processed food” is actually an oxymoron. The following items are all processed: boxed cereals, soy milk, canned soups, Velveeta, American cheese, toaster pastries, soy hot dogs and other concoctions, white flour, white sugar, boxed mixes, low-fat and skim milk, animal crackers, Crisco, and the list goes on and on and on … Examine this list and you will see that none of these items occur naturally. Whole foods become processed when they have had things done to them that change them dramatically from their original state, altering their original God-given nutrition. The end result is always not only less nutritional but often damaging to your health in the long run. Also note that many processed items have had vitamins added to them – flour and cereal are enriched, low-fat and skim milks have vitamin D added, etc, because vitamins cannot survive the process of processing. There is no processed food that can grow from the ground or that can come directly from an animal. All processed foods originate in a lab, then go to a factory and finally arrive neatly packaged at the grocery store, gas station, or vending machine. Processed foods are always the same, box after box, with no variation. Processed foods are available everywhere, all the time.
White flour, white sugar, and table salt are good examples of processed foods. White flour originates with wheat that grows in the field and is then harvested and ground into flour. But there is another part of the process: the germ and the bran are mechanically separated from the wheat. What is left over is then often bleached to make it a snowy white. This is white flour and it is all starch — no nutrition — so synthetic vitamins are then added back into it to keep people from getting debilitating vitamin deficiency-related diseases (pellagra, for example, and even insanity in some cases). But don’t be fooled. Of the 90+ vitamins that are removed, only about 4 are added back and they are not in the amounts or forms that God created. The germ and the bran are what contain all of the nutrition and are sold off for other uses – animal feed, or neatly packaged jars of wheat germ, or bran cereal, etc. Business executives have made a lot of money from this. White flour is a processed food. The same is true of white sugar. Sugar cane actually has some nutrition in it, but all of it is stripped away in the process of making white sugar. What is left is bleached and refined so that you have freely flowing, snowy white sugar granules that have zero nutrition. Then there is table salt. Real salt is coarse and gray with colored flecks in it and is full of naturally occurring minerals. But this beautiful food that God created is put through many processes, including intense heat and bleaching, which results in the healthful benefits being lost and gives the consumer a freely flowing snowy white product known as table salt. White flour, white sugar, and table salt are well known to have adverse health effects such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. The list of documented problems with just these three items has no end. And you will find at least one of them, often all three, in almost every processed food item available.
Here are more examples of foods God created and are healthful in their whole state, but are ruined through man’s processing: Raw honey is loaded with nutrients. It has living enzymes and is also anti-bacterial and anti-viral. Pasteurized honey has no nutrition. Corn is a healthful, seasonal vegetable but corn syrup is dangerous to your health. Fresh, whole, raw milk is loaded with beneficial bacteria and enzymes that are good for your digestion, and it is also antibacterial. Pasteurized, homogenized milk has lost all of these qualities and can actually be harmful to your health. Low-fat and skim milk have dry milk powder added back to make it thicker and add color. I could write pages about ways man has messed up God’s perfect creation by processing it.
There are some areas where it may be difficult to identify whole or processed foods with confidence. Dairy is one of those areas. Milk has already been discussed. Cheese was mentioned briefly; cheese is basically a whole food however many cheeses have had undesirable things done to them and added to them leaving them nutritionally deficient. Yogurt is a whole food yet most yogurts available are highly processed as they have had many undesirable ingredients added to them. When faced with uncertainty, it is extremely important to read the labels!! If it is full of hard to pronounce ingredients that you know didn’t come from the farm, then you are looking at a processed food.
Whole foods have synergy. The different parts work together as part of a whole package. Processed foods cannot do this. According to Webster’s dictionary, the term “synergy” means, “combined action or operation.” Think of each component of a whole food as a synergist – “something that enhances the effectiveness of an active agent.” This is how you get “synergism” … the interactions of each “agent” (think: nutrient) working together results in a “total effect…greater than the sum of the individual effects.” (Quotes are from Webster’s Dictionary) Let this sink in a moment. We marvel at the amazing parts of God’s creation, such as the ocean, the stars, the many animals … yet we tend to totally ignore his incredible creation of food that is so diverse and has such potential to nourish and heal us, if we would only let it.
“And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) God created us. God created the earth. God, in his infinite wisdom and with his intimate knowledge of us, created perfect foods to nourish us. To God be the glory!