“Food is all those substances which, submitted to the action of the stomach, can be assimilated or changed into life by digestion, and can thus repair the losses that the human body suffers through the act of living.” – The Physiology of Taste by Jean Brillat-Savarin
Eliminate ALL processed foods from your diet in favor of whole foods for better body composition and well being. Eating whole foods is one of the easiest and most effective ways of shedding fat and getting the physique you desire. The cool thing about eating only whole foods and eliminating processed foods is that you can eat much more food for the same amount of calories and you will have more energy than ever before.
Some nutritionists and nutritional organizations will tell you that eating some processed foods is okay, or even good for you because you can get fortified vitamins and minerals from processed foods and they can be quick, cheap, and convenient. Don’t listen! If you really care about body composition, long-term health, and repairing the losses that the human body suffers during training and life, eliminate ALL processed foods. Here are seven good reasons to convince you.
1) Eliminate Processed and Refined Foods to Lose Fat
Lose fat by eliminating processed and refined foods. A new study in Journal of Nutrition found that older women who ate a mixed macronutrient diet with all their grains coming from whole grains while on a 12-week restricted calorie diet lost more total fat and more belly fat than women who ate the same diet but with all their grains coming from refined grains. The whole grain group lost 3 percent of their body fat and 4 percent of their visceral belly fat compared to the refined grain group that only lost 2 percent total fat and 2.8 percent belly fat.
Whole grain foods have more fiber than refined grain foods such as white bread or pasta, and foods with more fiber are more slowly digested so that they have a more gradual effect on blood sugar response. In addition, the body uses much more energy digesting whole grain foods than refined foods. The combination of higher fiber and greater calorie burn during digestion likely produced greater fat loss in the whole grain group.
2) Eat Whole Foods For a Better Body Composition: Burn More Calories
The more your food is in its natural state as when it came from the tree, plant, animal, or fish, the more calories your body will burn digesting it. The thermic effect of food is the amount of calories required to break down food, produce enzymes, and perform the metabolic responses to get the nutrients where they need to be in the body.
A general estimate of the thermic effect is about 10 percent of your total resting energy expenditure. Protein burns the most calories because it triggers protein synthesis and requires so many enzymes to break down, followed by carbohydrates, and then fats, which burn the least calories.
A fascinating study in the journal Food and Nutrition Research found dramatic differences in the thermic effect of a whole food meal compared to a processed food meal. Researchers compared a processed cheese sandwich meal (processed cheese product and white bread) with a whole food cheese sandwich (whole grain bread with sunflower seeds and cheddar cheese). Both meals contained the same amount of calories and a similar proportion of carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
The thermic effect of the whole food sandwich was almost double that of the processed food sandwich—that’s right, participants burned 50 percent more calories after eating whole foods! Equally significant is the fact that the participants who ate the processed food meal had their metabolic rates drop below their average resting metabolic rate (RMR)—the average energy needed to keep the body functioning at rest—during the sixth hour after eating, while the whole food meal group never fell below the RMR. Also, the amount of time required for the body to digest the whole food meal lasted an hour longer than the processed food meal, which also contributed to the greater amount of calories burned.
Researchers note that the ingredients used for the whole food meal did require some food refinement and processing to produce, but not nearly as much as for the processed food ingredients. They suggest that eating a stricter whole foods diet of fruit, vegetables, and meat devoid of processing would likely increase the thermic effect even more, which brings us to the issue of the hierarchy of processed and whole foods.
3) Eat Truly Whole Foods and Avoid All Processed: The Hierarchy of Food
Get the best body composition and health by eating whole foods in their most natural form such as fresh vegetables, fruit, fish, and meat—all the foods found in the typical Paleo diet. Whole grains—grains such as wheat, quinoa, millet, etc.—are only considered in their “whole” form when they are in eaten after being cooked with their hull on. They are the little kernels of grain that you would wash, then boil, and eat.
Once a grain has been turned into flour, even if the flour is made from grain that hasn’t had the bran, germ, and endosperm removed, it is no longer “whole.” It has now been processed, though not refined, and due to the processing, will require fewer calories to digest. Bread and sandwiches will never be a whole food by this definition!
Of course, if you choose to eat bread, cereal, pasta, and related processed grain foods, it is best to choose those made from “whole” rather than refined grains. In the hierarchy of food, truly whole foods in their whole form are at the top, followed by processed foods made from whole grains, followed by processed foods made from refined grains that don’t have added sugar or chemicals.
Then we come to the items that are not really food at all because they have added sugar, chemical additives, and fake sweeteners. This stuff absolutely must be avoided if you are serious about health and body composition. The simplest way to identify these items is to look at the ingredients and if they have sugar, fructose, corn syrup, or words you don’t recognize as food, you need to avoid them.
4) Eat More Raw Foods to Lose Fat and Avoid Processed Foods
A simple way to lose fat and make sure you are avoiding processed foods is to eat more foods in their raw form. Eating a greater variety of raw fruits and vegetables will mean you are naturally getting more antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber in your diet. Even more exciting, if you want to lose fat, eating raw food will decrease your energy intake because simple act of cooking food will significantly increases the amount of calories available to us.
Research shows that cooking food “pre-digests” it and many of the compounds that increase the thermic effect are broken down, resulting in less energy expenditure from digesting cooked food. There is also less water in cooked food, making it more energy dense.
For example, a Harvard University study that fed rats either cooked or raw sweet potatoes and beef showed that the rats that ate raw meals lost weight, whereas those that were fed cooked meals gained weight. This is supported by studies that show people who eat mostly or all raw diets have significantly less body fat than those who eat more cooked foods.
5) Avoid Processed Foods For Better Insulin Health and Blood Sugar
Processed foods contain less fiber and often have added sugar, making them awful for insulin health and the management of blood sugar. The high consumption of processed foods is a principal influence in the increasing diabetes rates because the low fiber content often makes them higher glycemic, meaning they raise blood sugar and levels of the hormone insulin very quickly. This causes two problems: First the cells become resistant to the insulin, which leads to low energy and fat gain. Second, blood sugar spikes quickly and then drops very rapidly, which has been shown to result in people feeling hungry again and eating more—then they take in too many calories and gain fat.
For example, one of the first studies examining the difference between processed and whole foods shows how damaging processed foods are for metabolism and body composition. This study compared the insulin and glucose responses to two processed and two whole food snacks: A candy bar, soda with chips, raisins and peanuts, or bananas and peanuts. Calorie and macronutrient content were similar in all the snacks. The processed snacks had added sugar, but the total amount of carbohydrates from sugar were similar in the four snacks.
Results showed that insulin was 70 percent higher in response to the processed foods than the raisin-peanut snack. The banana-peanut snack produced an intermediate insulin response that was still lower than the processed foods. Also, blood glucose peaked faster and dropped quicker in response to the processed food snacks than the fruit and peanut snacks.
Interestingly, one woman in the study with no evidence of poor insulin health had a pathologically high insulin response to the processed food snacks, whereas her insulin was normal and similar to the other participants in response to the whole-food snacks. Her results were eliminated from the final group calculations because her response would have skewed the findings.
If you take into consideration dangerous insulin response to processed foods and the lower thermic effect, you will probably never eat a bite from packaged or processed food again!
6) Boost Your Mood and Treat Depression with Whole Foods
Eat whole foods to feel happier, have a better mood, and beat depression. Two studies in the British Journal of Psychiatry show that eating a whole foods diet with vegetables, fruit, meat, fish and whole grains is linked to less depression than a typical Western diet of processed foods. Processed chocolate, meat, sweets made from refined grains like donuts and cake, cereal, dairy with sugar and chemicals added to it, and fried food were all linked with higher rates of diagnosed depression.
Researchers suggest whole food diets prevent depression because people who eat whole foods diets get more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, have healthier guts, and have a better hormone response to eating. The write that the type of food you eat can have a dramatic effect on your levels of brain transmitters, which dictate mood and energy levels as well as feelings of hunger.
7) Eat Whole Foods To Prevent Cancer and Disease
There is a wealth of evidence that if you avoid processed foods and the chemicals they contain, you can prevent cancer and disease (heart disease, diabetes, and chronic inflammatory diseases). Eating whole foods provides the many protective nutrients already mentioned (fiber for body comp and cardiovascular health, antioxidants to fight free radicals and cancer, and vitamins and minerals for optimal enzyme and hormone function, to name a few).
At least four studies published in the past year found that regularly eating processed foods, especially processed meat, was robustly linked with risk of cancer of the esophagus and stomach. A fifth study showed processed meat was related to the risk of stomach, colorectal, pancreatic, lung, prostate, testicular, kidney, and bladder cancer in a large group of 19,732 people.
Other health problems linked to eating processed foods are diabetes , heart disease, high levels of inflammation, and metabolic syndrome. A number of studies have shown that disease rates are exponentially increasing in third world countries, such as Brazil and Guatemala, because these populations are increasingly consuming highly processed foods.