Health Insights: What are Unprocessed foods?

imageBy Asunta Simoloka

Unprocessed foods, sometimes referred to as ‘whole foods’, are foods with all their edible parts. Also known as whole-grains, unprocessed grain foods retain all the three layers of a grain comprising of the outer layer or bran, the endosperm, which is the starchy part, and the gem.

Legumes, nuts, seeds, and tubers are considered unprocessed if they retain the edible skins.

For example potatoes, sweet potatoes, and peanuts should be eaten skin on because the skins are edible. Likewise, fruits and vegetables are whole if they still have the edible pulp and skins. image

Plant foods with missing edible parts are processed, white rice for instance is processed because the outer layer and gem have been removed, leaving only the starchy part. Similarly, peeled apples are classified as processed because of the missing skin.

Unprocessed plant foods are nutritionally sound because they contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, and several nutrients that are essential for fighting many chronic illnesses including diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and cancimageer.

Unprocessed plant foods also happen to be the greatest sources of disease fighting anti oxidants. Eating mostly plant foods that are unprocessed increases the level of anti oxidants in the blood, giving the body a much greater ability to fight various diseases.

Modern diets, high in processed foods, severely lack vital nutrients and this kind of improper nutrition has led to expanding waistlines and driven up the rates of chronic illnesses.

In addition to being unprocessed, it is important for a food to be unrefined. Foods that are chewy and have not been broken into a fine, powdery texture are unrefined. Refining unprocessed food to a powdery state greatly degrades fiber, making this vital nutrient less effective for carrying out its functions.
Coarse wholegrain maize meal, known as mugayiwa and eaten mostly in the village setting, is a perfect example of an unprocessed and unrefined grain food whereas fine wholegrain maize meal, or roller meal, and brown wheat flour represent unprocessed grains refined to a powdery consistency.

Food is healthiest when eaten in its most natural, intact, unaltered state, straight from the earth; alterations greatly diminish nutritional value.