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Fitness Challenge Nutrition Tip #3: Eat Fresh and Unprocessed Food

Eat Fresh and Unprocessed Foods Whenever Possible

What is processed food? It is food which has been chemically altered with additives such as flavor enhancers, binders, colors, fillers, preservatives, stabilizers, emulsifiers, etc.  Generally speaking, if any of the ingredients in food aren’t “natural,” it can be considered it to be processed. Extremely processed foods (think Twinkies) aren’t really even real food at all. They are edible “food-like” substances.

Processed food isn’t all bad. Processing has made the world’s food supply much safer to eat, and has made the storage of food a much healthier and more viable option. Processing kills pathogens, and extends the shelf life of food. If there was a food shortage or even a famine, processed food items would be remain edible and could keep you alive a lot longer than raw food, which would be rotten within a few days.

Despite these benefits, a diet exclusive in processed foods will almost certainly lead to disease. Our bodies thrive on natural, fresh foods; there’s no doubt about that. Fresh and unprocessed foods contain beneficial enzymes and nutrients that are destroyed through processing. Just because a pill contains the “nutrients” of a whole shopping list of vegetables, it doesn’t mean that our bodies would get the same benefit as we would from eating the vegetables themselves. Nutrients, enzymes, and other components of the foods we eat work synergistically. We really don’t know how well they work when they’re isolated from each other, or when we ingest synthetic versions.

So realistically, how can we minimize the amount of processed food that we consume? Here are a few examples and guidelines to apply whenever possible:

  • Have an apple instead of applesauce or apple juice.
  • Have Grape Nuts instead of Lucky Charms.
  • Have a baked potato or salad instead of french fries.
  • Use lemon or oil and vinegar sparingly on your salad instead of ranch and other “heavy” salad dressings.
  • Retrain yourself to eat real food like oatmeal, 100% whole grain bread, pasta, beans and legumes, (and of course fresh fruits and vegetables) etc.
  • Start looking at the ingredients listed on the labels of food and try to buy foods with fewer ingredients listed.
  • Make an extra effort to minimize foods that have lots of hard to pronounce, scientific names in their list of ingredients.
  • Avoid foods that contain high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (trans fat).

This tip’s challenge is to:

  • Replace all white flour products with whole grain products. Make sure the label doesn’t just say “Wheat or Multi Grain”. It must say 100% Whole Wheat or Multi Grain”
  • Replace white rice with brown rice.
  • Replace all over-processed breakfast cereal with a more natural, healthy choice.
  • Eat fruit instead of drinking fruit juice. If you want juice, try squeezing your own from fresh fruit.
  • Eliminate or minimize the use of high calorie condiments like butter and margarine, mayonnaise, BBQ Sauce, etc.

Good luck!

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