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For your overall health and wellness, it is essential that you avoid unhealthy food. Not only should you be focusing on what you are eating, but you should also focus on the quality of the food you consume.
Not all food is created equally, especially food that has been refined or processed. Unprocessed or minimally processed foods include fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, meats, seafood, herbs, and spices. These are the types of foods that should make up the vast majority of your diet. However, the quality of these foods can differ greatly, specifically fruits, vegetables, and meats. For fruits and vegetables, try to buy in season as foods out of season will be grown with pesticides and may have been genetically modified. If possible, attempt to buy organic fruits and vegetables. For animal meat, also try to purchase organic, free range meat that are devoid of antibiotics and pumped full of hormones as these foods have been link with many diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and forms of cancer. The same holds true for seafood; avoid farmed and purchase wild seafood.
Some processed foods can be beneficial, such as natural oils, legumes, tofu, and some grains. These foods can help to create convenient, nutritious meals and should not be completely avoided.
On the other end of the spectrum are highly-processed foods and consumption of these foods should be severely limited or avoided all together. Highly-processed foods are those that go through multiple processes which include adding ingredients and manipulation of the food from its natural state. A cautionary tale about these foods is that they are often marketed as “healthy”, “nutritious”, “natural”, or “organic”. This might be true about the ingredients but the refinement processes significantly impacts the quality of these foods and often, other ingredients are added.
The top 10 highly processed foods to avoid are:
- Sugary drinks and zero calorie alternatives;
- Processed meats;
- Dairy products;
- White bread and pasta;
- Sweetened breakfast cereals;
- Baked goods;
- French fries and potato chips;
- Gluten-free junk food;
- Vegan/vegetarian “meat” substitutes; and
- Chocolate bars and candy.
Just because a person ascribes to a certain diet, such as a vegan/vegetarian, pescatarian, paleo, or ketogenic, doesn’t mean their diet is healthy. It doesn’t matter which diet you follow; what does matter is consuming high quality food that is in its closest natural state. You should avoid highly-processed foods that have preservatives, additives, and chemicals and choose naturally occurring foods. When shopping for groceries, avoid going down aisles as these are where the processed and ultra-processed foods are found. Stick to shopping on the perimeter of the grocery store where you will find foods that are unprocessed or minimally processed, and generally of better quality.
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EP Health Wellness Team