By contrast, consuming highly processed foods leads to a significant loss of vital nutrients that our bodies require for optimal function. Take V-8 juice as an example. We can store a can of vegetable juice in our pantries for a year or longer before consuming it. Try leaving a tomato, beat, carrot, some celery and a handful of spinach out on your counter top for a year – even after 10 days, is this something you would want to eat? Of course these fresh foods will decompose in very short time. In order to keep a can of V-8 juice “consumable” much of the nutrient value is cooked out of the vegetables and many preservatives have been added, including high amounts of sodium.
To achieve the highest nutritional value in the foods we consume, we’ll do well in striving to eat food as close to as nature intended. Does that mean we should eat raw foods in every meal? Of course not, but here are some tips to help you eat food that still contain a rich mix of nutrients and energy:
- Steam your vegetables rather than boil them, and of course raw veggies are the most nutrient dense. Eat whole fruits rather than drinking the juice to allow for consumption of the fiber from the fruit.
- Eat whole grain-rich foods founds in breads, pastas, cereals and rice, rather than the bleached, enriched and processed counterparts. Whole grains provide great sources of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protein.
- Vary your protein choices with a variety of fresh fish, poultry, eggs, beans, peas, nuts and seeds. Minimize red meats containing high levels of saturated fat.
- Instead of frying, try baking, broiling, steaming or boiling foods.
- In terms of nutrient value, fresh is always best, then frozen; canned foods have the least nutrient value and contain lots of preservatives.
- Use natural herbs like basil or chives, and seasonings such as allspice, onion, and garlic or lemon juice and low fat broths for flavoring foods instead of butter, margarine and other high fat condiments.
With these tips in hand, focus on one small change each week. Maybe this week the change is just a simple awareness that food is designed to provide nutrients to your body for optimal function and performance, instead of using food as a drug to mask discomfort or indulge in pleasure.
Always remember, with the right balance and consumption of fresh, healthy food, we perform better at work, during play, with our kids, spouses, friends, and our mental, physical and emotional outlook improves dramatically. Don’t take my word for it, try it out yourself! Let’s get started…one small change this week.