According to the Centers for Disease Control, sodium in the American diet contributes to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke and 77 percent of that sodium comes from processed and restaurant food.
Whole foods include all foods in their natural state. Food processing removes nutrients and adds ingredients such as preservatives, flavorings, colorings and other chemicals in addition to being a major source of excess salt and sugars.
The Family Doctor website recommends DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). This approach uses whole foods to reduce sodium and saturated fat, and recommends six to eight servings a day of whole grains.
Most whole grains receive minimal processing, such as to remove chaff (the husks that cover some grains). These grains include whole wheat, rye, corn, barley, buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa and millet. Brown rice is whole, unpolished rice. Polishing rice to make it white removes nutrients and fiber. Brown rice helps people feel full longer due to its natural fiber. It works as a bulking food to improve elimination and metabolizes more slowly than white rice, causing less of a rise in blood sugar.
Processing wheat into white flour removes the nutritious wheat germ, literally the heart of the wheat and the fiber, leaving a product which is bleached and “enriched” in an attempt to add back some vitamins from a food that started out full of vitamins naturally.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends choosing whole grain pastas, breads, popcorn and brown rice over processed breads and grains to help control appetite and achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
Moderate amounts of fat in the diet help reduce hunger. Raw nuts such as peanuts, walnuts, hazel nuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamia nuts and almonds can be good a choice of healthy fats in the diet. Eat these in moderation. Avoid salted nuts to reduce unnecessary sodium. You can rinse salted nuts right before eating them to reduce the salt. Discard rancid nuts and nuts showing any sign of mold.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables provide fiber and antioxidants (healthy compounds in food which have been shown to help prevent cancer and other health risks). Select fresh and organic produce when possible. Commercially grown produce contain pesticides. To reduce pesticide exposure, wash the fruits and vegetables prior to eating.
To select frozen fruits or vegetables read the label. Some frozen products contain added preservatives, flavorings, sauces, sugars or salt. Canning destroys enzymes and offers the least nutritious version of these foods, though having tomato sauces and other minimally processed foods on hand can help people maintain a healthy diet. Check labels for fat, sugar, sodium and chemical food additives.