Eating whole has many options and health benefits

Contributing ColumnistMarch 23, 2013 

There is a lot of buzz right now about eating "whole." Whole foods, which include organic and unprocessed foods, are becoming more popular. Adopting a new way of eating can change your health and your life.

While there are a number of diets and philosophies that many use in an effort to eat healthier, I most frequently recommend following a Mediterranean-style diet.

For centuries, Mediterranean people have enjoyed better health and wellness thanks to a diet that is whole, high in fruits and vegetables, and low in processed foods, red meat and trans fats. This simple philosophy is flexible and has many benefits.

Nine is divine

First and foremost, when starting a diet rich in whole foods, focus on fruits and vegetables. Nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day is optimal. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables ensures a diet rich in fiber and much needed vitamins and minerals.

Fruits and veggies can also do a lot to help fight and prevent heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and certain cancers.

Try to eat a mix of raw and cooked foods from this group.

Stay away from white

Eating whole grains is also essential. Whole grains digest more slowly than refined flours, providing hours of energy and a lower dose of sugar. Light stuff, like white breads, flour, white rice, white pasta and others, essentially break down as sugar in the body. Focus on whole grains—including brown rice, faro, quinoa and whole grain pasta. Switching to whole grain pasta may be a shock at first, but the taste buds will adjust, and your body will thank you.

In general, stay away from refined sugars. Try to use natural sugars, often found in fruits, when available. Don't deprive your body the fiber and nutrients that come from a ripe, red apple or other variety of fruit.

Some fats are good

Remember that some fats are good, like those found in nuts, seeds, olives and avocados.

Try eating fish at least twice a week. Certain varieties, like wild salmon, are high in omega 3s, which help reduce risk of heart disease, cancer, arthritis and other health concerns. Limit eating red meat to once or twice per week.

There are plenty of foods that are naturally low in fat. Seek out those items and build your diet with them in mind. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables are not only low in fat, but many are low-calorie and high in fiber.

According to the FDA, partially hydrogenated oils are used to improve the texture, shelf life and flavor stability of foods. Roughly half of the trans fat Americans consume is formed during food processing and partially hydrogenated oils are the main source of trans fat in the U.S.

Michelle Wrightson, M.D., is with Saint Joseph Primary Care Associates, part of KentuckyOne Health

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service