When we think of malnutrition, we automatically think of under-developed nations that struggle to feed their people. While this is true, did you know that a large percentage of Americans are malnourished? How can this be, you ask? America is the land of plenty, and just look around – there is a real problem with people being overweight or obese! The fact that the ‘weight-loss industry’ is thriving can attest to that. Malnutrition refers to insufficient, excessive, or imbalanced consumption of nutrients. According to the United Nations World Health Organization, the problem in developing nations, such as America, is malnutrition due to the lack of nutrients necessary for growth and the maintenance of vital functions. This means that we may be eating excessively, but our food is devoid of the nutrients we need. Whole foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables, are rich with nutrients while processed foods, like TV dinners, fast foods and boxed meals, are devoid of nutrients. A diet of processed foods is unhealthy and makes us gain weight. Whole Foods vs. Processed Foods First, let’s look at a definition of each:
A Whole Food is:
- A food that has nothing added to it or taken from it.
- A food in the form in which nature intended it to be.
A Processed Food is:
- A food that is altered from the form it is found in nature.
- It is typically cooked with high heat and things are added like sugar, salt and preservatives.
- This process removes the nutrients.
|Whole Foods||Processed Foods|
|Brown Rice||White Rice|
|Tomato||Canned Tomato Soup|
|Apple||Apple Pop Tart|
In addition to the loss of nutrients from processing and refining, there’s the problem of additives that can be toxic. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest in an article in Newsweek there are five food additives you should avoid:
- Sodium nitrite: A preservative used in bacon, sausage and smoked meats; a possible carcinogen.
- Potassium bromate: Used to process flour; a possible carcinogen.
- Acesulfame potassium: A sugar substitute used in desserts and soda drinks; a possible carcinogen.
- Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil: Used as cooking oil and also in crackers, potato chips and cookies; linked to heart disease.
- Artificial food colors: Used in all kinds of processed foods; possible links to behavioral problems in children.
Grains are another food group that is best when eaten whole rather than refined. For example, choose whole grain breads, brown rice and whole wheat pasta instead of white bread, white rice and white pasta. Refined carbohydrates are “empty calories” that not only rob nutrients but also stimulate insulin production, thus promoting fat storage. When shopping for whole grain products remember to look for the label that clearly reads, “100% whole grain” rather than “multi-grain”, “stone-ground” or “bran” because these are not automatically whole grain products.