Whole Foods

I find it funny that "whole foods" is such an expensive, upper-class, exclusive phenomenon surrounded by strange words and fads. True "whole food" is such a simple, obvious thing, that it seems to me that people must have to work very hard to make it so crazy and complicated. There is this idea that you either are a normal person who eats McDonalds and cheap frozen foods, or you are a rich hippie who can afford to eat vegan, paleo, GAPS, organic, raw, Whole Food, health nut stuff. I would like to argue that these are both silly and based on wrong assumptions.

Basically, the idea behind real whole food is that we modern folk eat abnormal things and this makes us chronically sick. This is true for several reasons, all of which fall under the heading of "we weren't made to eat this way." Modern food tends to:
1. Introduce chemicals
2. Process out nutrients
3. Kill all the bacteria

This is bad. First, we were not made to ingest so many chemicals. With the dyes, flavorings, preservatives, etc, present in our fast food, frozen food, canned food, packaged food, we are getting so many chemicals that we our bodies were never meant to process, and this causes our system to have to work overtime to try to deal with all this foreign stuff we are dumping into ourselves.

Second, processed food has so many of the nutrients taken out of it. White flour and white sugar are so processed that none of the original nutritional value of the things they are made from remains, and all we have left is empty calories filling up our bodies without giving us the vitamins we need. This is also true of pretty much any processed food -- the nutrients are greatly reduced or completely gone. Many times companies "add" vitamins in an attempt to make things seem healthy again, but these added vitamins are often in a form that our bodies cannot really absorb or use because they aren't natural (see above paragraph on chemicals). Our bodies store the empty calories as fat, and we gain weight while remaining malnourished!

Finally, we are obsessed with getting rid of bacteria. Bacteria are bad, bad, bad. They make us sick, they are horrible little germy things. We buy products to "kill 99.9% of bacteria!", and dump bleach all over our houses and antibacterial solution all over our hands. We also make darn sure that there are NO bacteria in our food. Now, of course, many bacteria are indeed bad. They do indeed make us sick. We indeed should take measures to avoid these pathogenic bacteria. However, what we have too often lost sight of is the fact that bacteria are also necessary to life! Our digestive system requires bacteria to digest food! These beneficial bacteria are called "probiotics" and we really need them. Unfortunately, the unnatural ways that we process food (such as feed lots) produces mutated really horrible bacteria (such as pathogenic E. coli), and we have to pump antibiotics into our food then to make sure we don't die. This virtually eliminates even the bacteria our bodies actually need to thrive and to work properly we have to replace them -- hence the popularity of fad/"whole food" probiotic things such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha, etc.

In a nutshell, these are some of the main things wrong with the way we eat. There are whole books written on the subject, degrees in the issue, and much much more to say and better ways to say it... but if you want to hear more, you can go read the books. (see the end of this post for a list of resources) Whole food, then, is basically the idea of feeding our bodies what they were made to process. This is raw foods (rather than over-cooked, which kills many nutrients), chemical-free foods (this is the idea behind the "organic" fad), naturally grown foods (eliminating the need for antibiotics since they don't have the mutated superbad bacterias that some abnormally grown stuff has), and non-processed foods (such as whole grains and non-sugary foods). Fortunately, you do not have to be rich to eat this way! I am a rather "poor" recent college graduate, and I feed my little family of two and a half (the six-month-old only counts as half, food-wise) on less than $200 per month, without growing a garden or keeping a goat or anything like that. We eat mostly whole food, and while certainly not perfect, I think that we eat quite healthily. We are not vegan or vegetarian or paleo or GAPS or dairy free or gluten free, or anything like that: we just try to eat real food. If I can make it at home out of all ingredients that I know, then I try to. This does take a bit of time in the kitchen, but I think the pay off is worth it!

SO, all that to say, I really think that eating "whole" food is well worth the time and effort, and does not have to cost an arm and a leg. I think that eating "whole" food does not have to take over or define your life. I think our diets can often accommodate a LOT of "wholification" (if I may make up a word) long before they become ridiculous.  I think it can be as cheap if not cheaper than "normal" food. And I'd like to prove it to you, here on this blog. Stay tuned. :)

Books/ resources:
 Note, the opinions in these books are not necessarily all shared by me. I think all of these people can get a bit carried away and sensationalist. Nevertheless, most of them do make some good points.

Folks, This Ain't Normal  by Joal Salatin. Talks about the "abnormality" of modern food. See: http://www.folksthisaintnormal.com/

Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. Talks about the nutritional, moral, and social problems of modern fast food. See: http://www.amazon.com/Fast-Food-Nation-Dark-All-American/dp/0547750331

http://allnaturalfoods.com/ is a website about natural foods, diseases, and the relationship between food and whole health.


  1. Nice sources! I love Joel Salatin!

  2. Me too! I really liked his book, he makes a lot of sense.