Stay Healthy Day 27: Benefits of a Whole Foods Diet

The term ‘whole food’ is normally applied to vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains that have gone through minimal processing, but it can apply to animal foods too.

It’s not as simple as neatly dividing foods into two groups – either whole foods or processed foods. Most foods we eat have undergone some degree of processing, whether it’s washing, chopping, drying, freezing or canning, and that’s not always a bad thing. For example, freezing and canning food gives us access to a variety of foods all year round.

Not all processing is a problem. However, there’s a big difference between ‘ultra-processed’ and ‘minimally processed’ healthy foods that are close to their natural state. Whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables are all close to the state they were in when harvested and come loaded with vitamins, minerals, fibre and other essential nutrients. But as the degree of processing and refining increases, the food’s nutritional value decreases.

With more processing, the likelihood that less-beneficial ingredients like fat, salt and sugar are added goes up and the likelihood of vitamins and minerals being present goes down. The US-led National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that 90% of the added sugar in our Western diet comes from ultra-processed foods. 😱

Nutritional research consistently shows that a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes brings health benefits. A 2014 analysis by Yale University researchers found that the claims of health benefits for many popular diets such as low glycaemic, Paleo and vegan were exaggerated. The one consistent finding was that “a diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention”.

The benefits of a whole food or a minimally processed diet include lower rates of heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. Another advantage of eating mostly whole foods comes from the vast array of nutrients acting together.

Whole foods such as fruits and vegetables are packed full of phytochemicals and, according to a study by the Institute of Nutrition Sciences, Germany, these natural compounds can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular and other diseases. Fruits and veg also contain nutrients and fibre, and the best way to make sure you’re getting these beneficial elements is to eat them in their natural form.

Another benefit is that when you eat a diet made up mostly of whole foods, it’s easier to eat less of the unhealthy fats – such as trans fats and saturated fats – often added to ultra-processed foods and fast food. At the same time, you’ll be boosting the amount of healthier fats such as omega-3 oils from fish, nuts like walnuts, and plants like linseed and chia; and monounsaturated fat from plant sources such as avocado, and nuts such as almonds, cashews and peanuts.

Nutritional information can sometimes be confusing. But there’s no need to try the latest food fad, as eating healthily boils down to having a balanced diet of foods in their natural state, or as close to it as possible. This way you are getting foods in the package of nutrients that nature intended.

Source: https://www.hcf.com.au/health-agenda/food-diet/nutrition/what-are-wholefoods

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Food Manufacturers Confess They Have No Idea if Their Food is Safe

By Janelle Sorensen
(Thanks to Janelle for her permission to re-post this article.)

I, like many others, have lost track of all the food recalls that have happened in the last 18 months. Pot pies, pizzas, peanuts, tomatoes, egg rolls, spices, flour, and more. The number of illnesses and the amount of food thrown away is staggering.

Fortunately, none of the tainted foods have impacted my kitchen. Our culinary choices thus far have been safe. But, my faith in the FDA, who I once relied on as an invisible guardian watching over my plate, has been shattered. My optimistically naïve belief that food, of all things, should be safe, has gone the way of childhood beliefs in Santa and the Easter Bunny. And, I’m not just being dramatic – here’s why:

According to an article in the New York Times, “increasingly, the corporations that supply Americans with processed foods are unable to guarantee the safety of their ingredients…companies do not even know who is supplying their ingredients, let alone if those suppliers are screening the items for microbes and other potential dangers…”

They don’t know where the ingredients are coming from? Seriously??

Commence paranoia.

Not only are many major manufacturers openly admitting that they’re pretty clueless about what’s in their food, instead of owning up to their mistakes, they’re placing the burden for safety on the consumer. We are now responsible for what’s called “the kill step,” and it’s not clear what that entails. Some companies are resorting to detailed diagrams and “food safety” guides outlining how to heat foods in a microwave and then check the temperature in several locations with a food thermometer. Others advise against using a microwave altogether. Frozen convenience foods suddenly seem very inconvenient.

Even if simply educating people to warm food to an adequate temperature was a reasonable solution, which it’s not, it wouldn’t address non-pathogenic contaminants like the arsenic found in a huge variety of processed foods around the globe a few months back.

What’s a mother to do? I’ve been a loud proponent for whole foods, local and organic when possible, for many years now, but I still have some processed foods in my pantry. I mean, who really makes things like crackers and cereal from scratch? I also buy a lot of frozen veggies – and I’ve never checked to see if I’ve warmed them to 165 degrees.

Clearly, we have problem on our hands. What do you think should be done? Do you think food safety is up to the consumer? Do you think it’s up to the government? What if safer food meant it cost a bit more? Are you willing to pay?

Find more from Janelle Sorensen at Healthy Child Healthy World, WebMD, MomsRising, and on Twitter (@greenandhealthy).

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How to save money at Whole Foods

With food prices skyrocketing, Whole Foods has become known to some as “Whole Paycheck.” The upscale chain has been hit by the slow economy and has seen its profits drop as consumers shop elsewhere.

Not wanting to lose its customers, Whole Foods has come up with a solution. They have “value gurus” who will take customers on a tour of the store and teach them how to save money shopping at Whole Foods – they highlight their own 365 brand, which I personally purchase and for the most part, it’s very good. They have also launch a website called The Whole Deal where customers share their stories.

Some interesting things I did not know about are:
• You get a 10% discount when buying 10 pounds or more of meat and/or fish
• They accept coupons from other stores

Certainly it is not “the” answer, but there are helpful tips nonetheless. Many just say the extra price is worth it (which supports their higher prices, not how to save).

Some comments are customers have a piece of mind knowing they can shop with confidence. This is true for nearly all of the store, but if you shop the body care section, I would encourage you to read labels there. I am avoiding PEG-ingredients when at all possible (and it IS possible) as well as fragrance, dioxanes, phthalates and other things that are still commonly found even in natural and organic products.

But overall, good job Whole Foods for sharing tricks for saving $$ in your stores and allowing customers to share their experience in saving money as well.

Grass-fed beef is healthier

Beef has typically been flagged as unhealthy with high saturated fat and total fat content, not to mention high amounts of cholesterol. But grass-fed beef devotees claim it is as low in fat as skinless chicken breasts and even contains the same omega-3 compounds as fish.

Health experts tend to agree. 

“A study by the Union of Concerned Scientists in 2006 found that compared to grain-fed beef, grass-fed beef is lower in both saturated and total fat, has higher levels of the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid, and “sometimes” higher levels of the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid.

According to the study, “The three omega-3 fatty acids — the so-called beneficial fatty acids — have been shown in many studies to improve health and prevent disease in humans.”

“It has 100 percent the same health benefits as salmon,” Castonguay said.”

Today, most cattle are grain fed and even some grass-fed cattle are given grain in the weeks before slaughtering.

 

Not only is grass-fed cattle better for human health compared to grain-fed cattle, it’s also better for the environment. Typically the grain is treated with pesticides, which we ingest through the beef and through drinking water as pesticides run off the fields and into our water ways.

 

Additionally, grass-fed cattle are not typically given antibiotics. Animals grassing in the pasture rarely get sick, while grain-fed cattle that spend their days in confined and crowded feed lots, often do get sick.

 

This also brings up the point that grass-fed cattle are more likely to be raised and live in more humane and healthy conditions.

 

Grass-fed beef is not much more expensive than grain-fed beef, and it’s naturally leaner. In my area, the difference is roughly 50 cents per pound. If you take into consideration grass-fed is naturally leaner, then comparing that way, there is very little difference in price.

 

We have been eating grass-fed beef for over a year, and now I am glad we made the switch when we did.

Whole Foods recalls beef after customers get sick

Whole Foods recalled all fresh ground beef sold between June 2 and Aug. 6 at its stores in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, Massachusetts, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, the District of Columbia, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin.

Whole Foods realizes there was a system breakdown and it taking means to ensure this will not happen again. Read the NY Times article.

This is troubling. I expect more out of Whole Foods. Their private label 365 brand canned food is lined with BPA, their 365 brand body care line contains dioxanes (a carcinogen) and they do not mention this on their packaging and have no plans to make a change. On the latter, they are involved in a law suit in California, where its required to have proper package labeling for products containing dioxanes.    

So disappointing, Whole Foods. I am seriously rethinking my loyalty now. I want to be able to go to a store where I do not have to worry about pesticides, dioxanes, e-coli, etc. Even now, I still need to research and read product labels before picking anything up off the shelves no matter where I shop. I did feel safer with WF’s produce and meat, but that system has an obvious breakdown. Sure no one is perfect, but WF has certainly had it’s fair share of negatives in the very recent past. I hope they clean up their act and live up to consumer expectations.

Is your organic food really organic?

“When you buy food with a “USDA organic” label, do you know what you’re getting? Now is a good time to ask such a question, as the USDA just announced Monday it was putting 15 out of 30 federally accredited organic certifiers they audited on probation, allowing them 12 months to make corrections or lose their accreditation. At the heart of the audit for several certifiers were imported foods and ingredients from other countries, including China.” Read the entire article here.

Well, that comes as no surprise – Chinese imports are not up to standards. The main problem here is China does not allow foreign inspectors, and since they have already proven they cannot be trusted to made toys without lead, why in the world would we trust them to meet, or preferably exceed, USDA standards for organic food.

The article states the best way to get truly organic food is from a local farmer where you can visit the farm yourself. Either way, purchasing from the local farmers market is a good thing. You support local agriculture and reduce the amount of pollution that goes into the air when this produce needs to be transported across the country. Many local farmers also go beyond produce and offer a variety of meats, milk and eggs.

While I shop at Whole Foods each week, I am definitely going to start being more serious about going to the local farmer’s market on Saturday mornings. Plus, the ones in my city go beyond produce stands and have entertainment, stands with other homemade goods and more. So I am certain my 2 year old will also have fun and something we will be able to enjoy as a family.

I am also going to sign us up (well hope to) for the farm co-op. I have been wanting to do this for some time, but was concerned if we would be able to eat everything before it went bad. And with the rising cost of food, now would be a good time to sign on up.

We have also planted a small garden, so I KNOW that will be organic, but I can’t grow everything!

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Canned food without bisphenol A

While this artile is probably not exclusive of all canned food manufacturers, it does list a few who realize the dangers of BPA and have opted for alternatives. Companies such as Eden Foods, an organic company, have cans that are BPA-free. The cans only cost them a little more than 2 cents more per can over the BPA-tainted ones. Granted their canned food is expensive, at about $3.50 per can at my local Whole Foods.

I personally am avoiding canned foods as much as absolutely possible. I prefer frozen veggies anyway and fresh fruit, so other than the occassional refried beans to marry with our tacos, I have found I do not even miss using canned food. While fresh fruit takes a little more work to prepare, the taste is certainly worth it. And frozen veggies are just as easy as canned (and the organic versions are very affordable).

But should you still want canned versions that are BPA-free, check out this article for the few options available.

BPA in Mott’s applesauce containers

Flip over one of Mott’s single-serve applesauce containers and you may find the dreaded #7. I just called Mott’s and they confirmed they do use #7 polycarbonate for some applesauce containers including those in the organic line, but that #1 is also used. #7 of course is polycarbonate, containing bisphenol-a or BPA, a toxic substance known to cause cancer and other serious health problems (see below under “What is Bisphenol A?”.

Mott’s maintains the FDA says #7 is safe, but we know better, don’t we! So, my advice is to either avoid Mott’s (and possibly all single serve applesauce and fruit) or check the bottom each and every time you make a purchase to make sure you are not selecting a #7 container. Sure is frustrating, but hopefully the FDA will come to their senses soon and ban this toxic substance.

I have seen Whole Foods Kids single-serve applesauce in #5 and #7 containers, so it’s an issue apparently not limited to Mott’s. Earth’s Best may also pose the same dilemma.

What is Bisphenol A?
Bisphenol A is a harmful chemical found in polycarbonate plastic which is used to make many popular baby bottles and sippy cups, among other things. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical that mimics the action of the human hormone estrogen, which alters our body’s natural pattern. BPA can leach from polycarbonate plastic, usually a hard, clear plastic that is common of many products we use everyday. Effects at even low BPA exposure include prostate cancer, breast cancer, early puberty onset, alterations in gender-specific behavior, decreased sperm count, affects on fertility, behavioral effects including hyperactivity, increased aggressiveness, impaired learning and other changes in behavior, and other problems.

Many companies use this chemical in their packaging including cans, soda cans, and plastic food containers. There is a risk of absorbing this chemical through the use of containing foods and liquids but can also leech into our water systems through landfills.

Many leading experts argue that the use of Bisphenol is safe to the human public but research may begin to further prove otherwise. No level of BPA has been deemed as safe by independent research.

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Popular ‘green’ products test positive for toxicant

Well, this just sucks. Guess I have to change my soap and shampoo again. Ugh.

Popular ‘green’ products test positive for toxicant

A cancer-causing chemical is found in almost half of 100 such goods studied.

By Marla Cone, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
March 14, 2008

New tests of 100 “natural” and “organic” soaps, shampoos and other consumer products show that nearly half of them contained a cancer-causing chemical that is a byproduct of petrochemicals used in manufacturing.

Many items that tested positive for the carcinogen are well-known brands, including Kiss My Face, Alba, Seventh Generation and Nature’s Gate products, sold in retail stores across the nation.
 
The findings of the Organic Consumers Assn., a consumer advocacy group, are sending a jolt through the natural products industry. Gathering today in Anaheim for a national trade show, many leaders worry that the test results will taint the industry in the eyes of the public.

Of the 100 products tested, 47 had detectable levels of 1,4-dioxane, which the Environmental Protection Agency has declared a probable human carcinogen because it causes cancer in lab animals.

Most traditional soaps and shampoos contain 1,4-dioxane. But the discovery that the chemical is present in many housecleaning and personal care products, including some for babies, that are advertised as being natural, organic or “green” comes as somewhat of a surprise.

“For companies to knowingly or even carelessly put a carcinogen into commerce in this day and age is barbaric, I think, particularly products that have the moniker of natural or self-proclaimed ‘organic,’ ” said consumer advocate and author David Steinberg, who directed the study.

“We need standards,” he said. “Consumers walk into a health-food store or natural-product supermarket with the expectation that the product they purchase will be natural or safer than what they could purchase at the drugstore or supermarket.”

The compound is not intentionally added to products; it is a byproduct of a process used to soften harsh detergents. It is formed when foaming agents, or surfactants, are processed with ethylene oxide or similar petrochemicals.

Said Martin Wolf, Seventh Generation Inc.’s director of product and environmental technology, “The natural world is filled with things that can harm. . . . All we can do is work as hard as we can to keep the levels as low as possible and keep our products as safe as possible.”

Hain Celestial Group, the Boulder, Colo.-based owner of four of the tested companies — Alba, Jason, Avalon Organics and Zia Natural Skincare– said Thursday that it would reevaluate all of its products. Two Alba and three Jason products contained 1,4-dioxane, but the chemical was not detected in tested Avalon and Zia products.

“We are committed to selling products without detectable levels of 1,4-dioxane . . . and will review all formulations accordingly,” said Lisa Lehndorff, Hain Celestial’s director of corporate consumer relations.

No one knows exactly what amount of the compound may be unsafe. In scientific studies, lab animals that had been fed 1,4-dioxane for many weeks developed nasal, liver and gall bladder cancers. But scientists do not now know what, if any, cancer risk humans face from years-long use of products containing the chemical.

The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates cosmetics, has set no standards for 1,4-dioxane. The agency has occasionally tested products for the compound since the late 1970s and says levels of it have substantially declined since then. The FDA says the current levels “do not present a hazard to consumers,” although it has advised the industry to reduce amounts in cosmetics as much as possible.

Many companies in the “natural” business have been striving for years to eliminate 1,4-dioxane. They use coconut or other plant oils as surfactants, and they have reformulated products and added a process called vacuum-stripping. But traces still remain, in the parts-per-million range.

Josef Koester of Cognis Corp., a Cincinnati-based chemical company that caters to manufacturers seeking “green” compounds, said most companies can avoid 1,4-dioxane but that it “typically requires a higher price point and sometimes performance restrictions for the product. How green the formulators want to go — it is their choice.”

Some organic company owners said it is deceptive for many products to be called natural when the carcinogenic compound indicates that petrochemicals are used in their manufacture.

No standards govern the words natural or organic for personal care products. But a few companies, including TerrEssentials, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps and Sensibility Soaps Inc., which makes the Nourish brand, have certified their products as organic under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food standards.

“It makes it really difficult for us to communicate real organic when our little voice gets lost in this sea of products that are all claiming to meet the [USDA organic] standard when, in fact, they don’t,” said Diana Kaye, co-founder of TerrEssentials, a small Maryland company. All six TerrEssentials soaps and other products tested were free of 1,4-dioxane.

Other brands, including Burt’s Bees, Desert Essence and EO, are not certified to meet organic food standards but still contained no 1,4-dioxane in the tests.

But because the vast majority of shampoos, soaps and other consumer goods do not carry the USDA organic seal, it’s nearly impossible for buyers to know whether the ones they use contain 1,4-dioxane because the chemical is not listed on ingredient labels. Products most likely to contain the compound usually list polyethylene glycol or compounds with the syllables PEG, short for polyethylene glycol, -eth or -oxynol-,according to the FDA.

Method, a San Francisco-based company whose products are sold at Target, intentionally does not call its products “natural,” said co-founder Adam Lowry. Instead, the labels say “naturally derived” because the plant oils have been processed with ethylene oxide to make them better cleansers.

Three of its products were tested, and two — its ultra-concentrated dish soap and a hand soap — contained 1,4-dioxane.

“For us there are no alternatives that are still effective,” Lowry said. “Unless you can have a high-performance product, if you have a green product or a natural product, then what’s the point of having one that doesn’t work?”

Method’s creamy hand soap, which had 7 parts per million of 1,4-dioxane in the tests, has been reformulated and now contains none, Lowry said.

“We 100% believe that our products are completely safe and there’s zero risk,” he said.

Whole Foods on Thursday declined to say whether the test results would prompt any changes in products sold at its stores. Three of four products tested in Whole Foods’ own product line, 365 Everyday Value, contained 1,4-dioxane.

Dishwashing liquids are particularly hard to keep free of 1,4-dioxane because they require surfactants that are powerful grease cutters.

Seventh Generation uses coconut oil in its dish soaps, which although it is processed with a petrochemical and vacuum-stripped, still contains almost 2 parts per million of 1,4-dioxane. Wolf said the only way to remove all traces would be to use another surfactant that irritates skin, which the Burlington, Vt.-based company considers unacceptable.

Seventh Generation is “working with several surfactant manufacturers to look for alternatives to this process to modify coconut oil,” Wolf said. “We’re not there yet. We have more work to do.”

Whole Foods 365 Private Label Cans DO Contain Some BPA

I finally heard back from Whole Foods regarding whether or not their 365 brand contains BPA in the lining of their canned food products. Here is the response (I think he repeats himself, but this is the unedited email):

Trisha,

Thank you so much for your email.  We are committed to helping our customers protect themselves and their families and as such are concerned about the growing body of research which connects BPA and other estrogenic compounds, including phthalates, to certain health effects. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said that such materials are appropriate and safe, we are currently evaluating certain products and packaging materials on a variety of criteria, including endocrine activity, toxicity, recyclability and functionality. Our goal is to help our customers avoid endocrine active materials in products and packaging where functional alternatives exist.

We are staying on top of the latest academic research regarding the endocrine activity of substances present in plastics, including BPA. When appropriate, we have stopped the sale of certain products and/or provided information to our customers about the products. For example, as of January 2006 we stopped selling baby bottles and child drinking cups made from polycarbonate plastic or other plastics with added phthalates because of the emerging scientific evidence on their risk.

We have begun the process of examining the plastic packaging materials we use to package foods in our stores, and are working with a leading testing firm to design a laboratory test to accurately assess the endocrine activity of these materials. We will continue to search for the safest and most functional packaging materials for our stores.

Some of the canned products sold in our stores may have small amounts of bisphenol-a in the lining material. We are actively assessing the safety of the packaging materials used in our stores, as we are committed to helping our customers protect themselves and their families and as such are concerned about the growing body of research which connects BPA and other estrogenic compounds to certain health effects. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said that such materials are appropriate and safe, we are currently evaluating certain products and packaging materials on a variety of criteria, including endocrine activity, toxicity, recyclability and functionality. Our goal is to help our customers avoid endocrine active materials in products and packaging where functional alternatives exist.

We are staying on top of the latest academic research regarding the endocrine activity of substances present in plastics, including BPA. When appropriate, we have stopped the sale of certain products and/or provided information to our customers about the products. For example, as of January 2006 we stopped selling baby bottles and child drinking cups made from polycarbonate plastic or other plastics with added phthalates because of the emerging scientific evidence on their risk.

We have begun the process of examining the plastic packaging materials we use to package foods in our stores, and are working with a leading testing firm to design a laboratory test to accurately assess the endocrine activity of these materials. We will continue to search for the safest and most functional packaging materials for our stores.

Jason Hays

Guest Services Content Administrator, Private Label

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