Your grandmother and your mother will be happy to know that their old-fashioned notions of what is good nutritious food is now making a huge comeback.
Yes, the food your parents and grandparents used to foist on you when you were a kid – they were the right kinds of food for you after all (although I still have trouble coming to grips with some of the food we were dished up at boarding school in the 50’s).
First thing to understand is what we mean by “whole” food; we mean the kind of food that is not processed in a factory, it does not come in foil or plastic packaging and has no expiry date because it is presumed to be highly perishable and because it (the food) has just come from its natural source.
You usually find these nutritious foods in either the refrigerated (to reduce spoilage) or the fresh produce section of your supermarket. If you happen to frequent Farmers Markets then they will probably not have had time to hit the cold room as they will have been picked in the early hours of the morning and taken straight to the markets. Can’t get better than that!
Can you guess what the term “whole” foods would include?
Fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, fresh meat, fresh fish, fresh poultry, fresh seafood, whole grain cereals, nuts and legumes. Whole food also includes, pasture raised eggs, whole milk (non-homogenized) and dried fruit, such as raisins and prunes (though these have been dried).
Second thing to remember is of all the thousands of different kinds of fresh whole foods, those which can help you build muscle instead of fat are foods that are high in protein content and low in fat, sugar and salt.
So fast food (think fries, burgers, fried chicken, hot dogs, bacon, ham) and junk food (chips, biscuits, cake, ice cream) are not good sources of protein because what little protein they can give you comes with salt, sugar and fat. They are what is often referred to as being “full of empty calories”.
Third thing to remember is that protein does not necessarily have to come from meat and animal-based food.
• Vegetables, grains and nuts are also a good source of protein. Nuts, such as, almonds, cashews and walnuts are all good sources of protein (you can substitute nuts for the chips and other crunchy crispy salty snack food you are used to eating).
• Protein from animal sources will include eggs, milk, chicken, lean pork, fish and seafood such as prawns, crabs, mussels and clams.
• Soy, mung beans, kidney and fava beans, even string beans and peas are also a good source of protein.
• You may not believe it, but dried fruits, such as, raisins, prunes, apricots and dates are also a good source of protein even-though the sugar content is on the high side.
• Then there are avocados, black and red currants, mulberries and blackberries.
• Tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, asparagus and cauliflower are also high in protein.
• Grains, such as whole wheat and rolled oats also contain protein in their germ. So while these are carbohydrate rich foods, they also contain protein.
Fourth thing to remember is that the way you prepare food may affect the amount of protein you can derive from the food.
Fruits and nuts may be consumed without cooking. Vegetables, such as tomatoes, fruits such as avocado and berries may also be consumed fresh and raw. Dried fruit retain their protein content so you can eat raisins, prunes and dates right out of the box. As for meat, boiled, steamed, grilled or broiled, roasted and baked with minimal fat is best.
Fifth thing to remember is that eating a variety of food will help you keep a balanced diet.
You cannot eat only protein-rich food without eating foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals as well.
If protein helps you build muscles, food that is rich in vitamins and minerals helps you keep the muscle fibres flexible and supple. They also help proper blood circulation which aid in the repair of muscles.
So, balance is the key.
Eating a variety of fresh good quality whole foods will help you maintain a high level of overall wellness as well as build muscles.
One last thing to keep in mind is that when people want to build muscles, they usually avoid all kinds of fat like a plague. It is important to know there is both good fat and there is bad fat and good fats are a very important part of your balanced diet.
Cashews and avocados, shellfish and deep-sea fish are high in protein as well as fat – but the fat that these foods contain is the good kind of fat that helps keep soft tissues, such as, the arteries supple and flexible.
The good kind of fat from these plant-based protein rich food also help boost brain health. So, good fat and lean protein are not a bad combination, such as that which can be found in whole milk from grass-fed cows (organically-fed and raised cows) and organically raised eggs.