We hear the terms "whole", "natural" and "raw" to describe foods. But how do we know what is natural and what is not? We have all seen the cereal boxes that say "all natural", or the granola bars that say "whole grain". How do we know what is processed? Better yet, how can we shop for unprocessed foods?
It's not as hard as you think. Dr. Patricia Fuller, PhD, a Wellness Engineer and Doctor of Holistic Nutrition, shares seven simple tips that will help you avoid processed foods and add more nutrient-dense foods to your diet.
Avoid Boxes, Bags and Cans
Obviously, if something comes pre-packaged, it has been touched. Commonly, food manufacturers dehydrate, bleach, enrich salt, sweeten, and fatten food to compensate for the nutrition lost during the process it took to put the food into the box. Though boxed, canned and frozen foods are very convenient, they're not healthy for you in the long run.
For example, white bread barely contains any natural nutrition. The vitamins found in it, as well as the sugar and salt, are added back after they are stripped during processing.
A better solution is to purchase whole-wheat bakery bread that is made fresh at the store—it's more likely to be made from natural products.
Stay Away From Anything White
What does white bread, white rice and white all have in common? Bleached and enriched wheat flour or grain. These are some of the most highly processed foods on the planet. Though naturally white things like potatoes and eggs are fine, the food manufacturers really modify wheat flour and rice in these products.
To create the white appearance, the flour or grain (rice) is bleached. This process strips all of the fiber and nutrients from the grain, and thus the taste. In order to make the food product "nutritious", the manufacturer adds fiber and vitamins, most of which your body will not absorb because they're not naturally occurring. A lot of sugar, salt and trans fats are also added to bring back the flavor.
Your best bet is to buy products that are whole-grain, and contain unbleached, unenriched grains like whole wheat, brown rice, oats or quinoa.
Shop on the Outside Edge of the Store
One of the easiest places to find unprocessed, healthy, whole foods is to purchase most of your groceries on the outside edge of the store. The edges are where you'll find produce, meat, eggs, dairy and seafood. These items are not processed, or if they are, they're minimally processed.
Of course, you will need to go into the center isles for some things, but staying on the outside of the store for most of your shopping will keep your cart full of nutrient-dense foods.