How to ace the whole-foods game in five ingredients

Updated on Sep 02, 2022 05:05 PM IST

Science is discovering that supplements drawn from nutritious foods simply don’t do as much for the human body as the whole fruit, or vegetable, or grain. Here, then, is Swetha Sivakumar’s list of foods you ought to eat whole, and foods that resist processing.

 (Pixabay) PREMIUM
(Pixabay)
BySwetha Sivakumar

As science makes greater inroads into food, we’re slicing and dicing ingredients into chemical components, in an effort to “enrich” our food. But studies are now finding that some supplements, though packed with the desired component, do not work as well as the whole fruit or vegetable. One such study, published in Nature in 2000, found that 100 gm of apple, which contains only 5.7 mg of Vitamin C, has the antioxidant activity of a 1500 mg Vitamin C pill.

How is this possible? One explanation is that the antioxidant activity is occurring due to some combinations of phytochemicals that we are yet to discover. Another theory is that phytochemicals work synergistically; they need the other elements present in the food item, in order to be most effective.

That’s why it’s a good idea to just eat produce whole, and pick foods that resist processing. Which foods to focus on? Take a look.

* Oats: With rice and wheat, the bran and germ layers are clear and distinct, which is why you can mill them out and get access to white rice and maida. But oats cannot really be refined. The grain is soft and does not cleave cleanly into the starchy endosperm, bran and germ. The high levels of soluble fiber, thus left largely untouched even by processing, is what makes this such a great grain.

* Ragi: Another grain that is hard to decorticate because of its botanical structure is ragi or finger millet. This ends up being great for us, since as indicated by its deep red colour, it is rich in antioxidants and phenolic content.

* Colourful vegetables and plants: Choose dark and intensely coloured vegetables.Purple carrots have much higher phytonutrients, for instance, than regular orange carrots. Choose red or purple potatoes over yellow potatoes.

* Legumes: Pick whole moong, urad and chana over the split, polished versions. Many of us are particular about eating vegetables of different colours, but the same nutrient rules apply to legumes. The anthocyanin- and calcium-rich black skin of whole urad and the flavonoids-rich green skin of whole moong is really good for you.

* Nuts and seeds: Use nuts and seeds to make snack bars for kids. Use nut butters in baking recipes. The butters carry the nutritional package of the nuts and seeds and are far healthier than refined oils.

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