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April 2015

Choose Whole Foods First: From Produce to Grains

When it comes to nutrition and health, choosing whole foods or foods that are minimally processed is your best bet.  From produce to whole grains, these foods are nutrient-dense and linked with an array of health benefits. They may reduce the risk of cancer, inflammation, heart disease, lower blood pressure, and even boost our mood!!

More on Whole Foods
Food can range from whole, to minimally processed, to highly processed.

Whole and minimally processed foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.  They also contain naturally occurring phytonutrients, which are health protective compounds. 

Identifying whole food is pretty simple. It is a food that is in its most natural form. It is easy to pick whole foods at your local farmers market and the produce aisles in the grocery store.

It is the degree of processing that should be the focus. To determine the degree of processing, check the ingredient label. The fewer the better. Ingredients should be familiar such as: whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Additives including: salt, sugar and fat should be at a minimum. 

Processed Foods
Not all processed foods are bad, as processing is a way of preserving food. It can keep the food supply safe and provide convenience.

Highly processed foods are generally low in nutrients since nutrients are often removed during processing and other ingredients are often added.

Processed Food Guide
Choose Whole and Minimally Processed Foods Most Often

FOOD Whole/Minimally Processed Highly Processed
Vegetables Whole Fresh Vegetables, Baby Carrots, Frozen/Canned Vegetables (no added salt or fat) Potato/Vegetable Chips, Dill Pickles, Packaged Vegetables with added sauce and salt
Fruit Whole Fresh Fruit, Frozen/Canned or Dried (no added sugar) Dried Cranberries, Banana Chips, Canned Fruit with added sugar
Grains Whole Grains: barley, oats, quinoa, buckwheat, whole grain bread, corn tortilla, popcorn (kernels) Donuts, Pastries, Cakes, Cookies, Tortilla/Corn Chips
Dairy Nonfat Milk, Plain Nonfat Yogurt American Cheese, Cheese Spreads, Flavored Creamers
Protein Eggs, Fresh or Frozen: Fish, Poultry or Meat without added ingredients. Cold Cuts, Deli Meats, Hot Dogs, Sausage
Beverages Water, Coffee, Tea, Herbal Tea (no added sugar) Soda, Lemonade, Flavored Tea with Sugar

The Bottom Line
Whole GrainThe Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourages food and beverages that are nutrient-dense and ideally in forms that retain naturally occurring components. In keeping with these guidelines, choose whole foods first. Choose minimally processed foods next, with highly processed foods kept at a minimum. If you buy prepared or processed foods, check the ingredients and Nutrition Facts label. Sodium should be 1500 mg. or less for the day!  Enhance prepared foods by adding fresh or frozen vegetables.


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