|Diet Principle #3: Foods Should Be Unprocessed|
In general, unprocessed foods are also fiber-rich foods. But there's a lot more. Unprocessed foods are whole foods—the bran is not removed (as in white flour and white rice), not dried (like instant oatmeal and instant mashed potatoes), not powdered (cocoa, instant soups, sauces), and not a "mix" (pancake and cake mixes, macaroni and cheese). Unprocessed foods do not require reconstitution—adding water and heating, or some similar process. Unprocessed foods are not modified by hydrogenation, desiccation, are not sweetened and don't contain artificial flavorings or colorings.
Unprocessed foods tend to look like they occur naturally. You may have to remove an outer shell (nuts) or skin (oranges, avocados) but they remain essentially intact. Of course, you may need to cut whole foods into smaller pieces, but the basic structure remains the same. Unprocessed foods are generally fresh. When food is left whole, it retains more of its original naturally-occurring nutrients. It is also digested more slowly, causing a natural slow, gradual rise in blood sugar. Diabetics who switch to a diet of unprocessed foods commonly witness dramatic drops in blood sugar, often sufficient to reduce their requirements for medication or insulin.
Unprocessed foods are colorful foods. Look at the wonderfully deep colors of plums, eggplant, oranges, tomatoes, spinach, etc. Colorful foods are rich in flavonoids, naturally-occurring substances that lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL, lower blood pressure, block abnormal clotting by platelets, blocks the adhesion of inflammatory blood cells to plaque, and may reduce risk of heart attack. Extra virgin olive oil, grape seed oil, green tea and red wines are other sources of healthful flavonoids.
Processing Can Destroy Good Food!
Processing destroys heat-sensitive phytonutrients and raises glycemic index. Processing frequently involves the addition of undesirable additives to improve taste, consistency, or extend shelf-life—hydrogenated oils, food colorings, sweeteners like corn syrup and sugar, and synthetics. They make food look prettier, last longer, and maintain texture and consistency during storage, but they do your body little good. High-fructose corn syrup is a sweetener that kids love and is found in everything from fruit drinks to spaghetti sauce that raises triglycerides and contributes to undesirable lipoprotein patterns like small LDL and VLDL, and may even increase the likelihood of diabetes. Processed foods are a major culprit behind the national epidemic of metabolic syndrome.
Processed foods are all around us. Shelf after shelf, aisle after aisle of eye-catching, colorful, enticing processed foods. Not one or two kinds of cookies and cupcakes to choose from, but hundreds!! The temptations are tremendous. Many people struggle when forced to part with the glitz and glamour of processed foods. The marketing people who create these ads are very clever. They know that advertising can make you feel good about eating certain foods. They want you to feel proud to feed your family a "healthy" dish, sexy if you drink a certain drink (think Coca Cola), successful if you can whip up a dinner of convenience foods in five minutes. You'll get none of this reinforcement when you restrict yourself to the world of unprocessed foods.
Unprocessed foods are not glamorous. They don't have fancy labels or packaging. You might even have to buy them "bulk". Yet it's the unprocessed, unrefined foods that are powerful tools for health. Not only do they have far greater nutritional value and low glycemic indexes, but also help control weight. Whole, unprocessed foods are more filling, take longer to digest, and keep you satisfied longer. Which is more filling, a glass of apple juice or a whole apple? The whole apple will satisfy you longer, provides pectin fiber, and won't provoke the sharp rise in blood sugar like the juice. The choice is clear: always choose unprocessed whole foods over processed.