Whole foods refer to those foods that are closest to their natural form. Anything that has not been processed or minimally processed like in the case of pasteurized milk, would come under the bracket of whole foods. Whole foods are good for us because they contain good fats, fibres and a wide range of phytochemicals that are otherwise lost during processing. Examples of whole foods are vegetables, fruits, seeds and whole grains.
Anything that’s natural will vary in texture, flavour and appearance from time to time. While it’s easy to keep that in mind for our fruits and vegetables, we forget to look at packaged goods labelled natural and preservative free through the same lens. Something that claims to be completely devoid of artificial tempering cannot look, feel and taste the same regardless of the production process or ingredient quality.
Large scale manufacturing requires manipulation of raw ingredients to create standardised, long lasting products. Like in the case of baked goods, a producer might have to remove a naturally occurring component and replace it with a chemically enhanced substitute to increase shelf life without altering flavour. Such measure coupled with cost constraints and, in countries like India, labor intensive production processes have created a mass array of substandard, unhealthy but cheap packaged goods.
While it might be impossible to completely eliminate packaged foods or condiments like sauces and breads from our diets, it’s important to pay attention to the ingredients that go into making them. By demanding more natural ingredients and processes you encourage producers to push the limits of their knowledge and innovate. Whole foods are a great bench mark for producers to refer to. It gives us a standard to aspire to reach, and encourages us to find more natural ways to produce processed foods.