Super foods, whole foods, organic, vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, paleo, nut free, lactose free, fructose free, sugar free, halal… the list just goes on when it comes to nutritional requirements. At a time when we have more food choices than ever, intolerances are increasing, and different diets continue to trend within our culture, organising catering, let alone your own lunch, can be a pretty daunting task.
So, let’s get down to basics. The core purpose of nutrition is to fuel and nourish our bodies in order to thrive. No matter what dietary requirements you or your colleagues have, there is one way of eating that takes care of all of these, in addition to also providing the most efficient and effective health benefits, and it’s called a whole foods diet.
Whole foods are foods that are closest to their natural state, with minimal processing. From vegetables and fruit, to meat, fish, beans, legumes, seeds and dairy, whole foods contain a high amount of antioxidants and wide variety of vitamins, minerals, fibre and other nutrients, all in the one food. They are also rich in essential substances that cannot be synthesised in our bodies and therefore need to be supplemented within our diet. An example is Valine (one of the 22 amino acids found in every cell of our body), which is required for metabolism and tissue repair and can be found in brown rice, beans, beef, mushrooms, peanuts and soybeans.
Fuelling our bodies with whole foods also ensures we’re consuming the maximum amount of nutrients, in the right proportions. As many food nutrients work together to support our health, eating food in its natural state ensures we benefit from these synergies. For example, the amino acid, Tryptophan requires B vitamins to turn into serotonin (commonly known as the ‘happy’ hormone).
In addition to this, eating one whole food, or the same category of whole foods isn’t going to produce the maximum health benefits either, which is why health specialists, including Nutrition Australia recommend eating a variety of whole foods, predominantly plant based, every day.
Equipped with this knowledge you may feel that dairy isn’t a whole food. However, pasteurisation is considered as a process that doesn't affect food nutrients, so non-homogenised milks, yoghurts and cheeses are generally classified as whole foods.
So, while some degree of processing can be beneficial, including washing, cleaning, freezing and canning, as the processing and refining increases, a food’s nutritional value decreases. As a result, studies have found that 90% of added sugar in the western diet doesn’t come from individuals being overindulgent with the amount of sugar they add to their food (or coffee), but rather from highly processed foods.
Now before anyone starts labelling this diet as bland, eating whole foods can be just as tantalising to your taste buds as the processed foods our culture has made us accustomed to, as many Wellineux workshop and training session attendees can attest to.
As for business success, research continually proves that a balanced whole foods diet supports individuals to work at their optimum. Some benefits of which, include:
Improved mental health - decreased risk of depression, levels of anxiety and perception of stress
Decreased risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases, cancer and type 2 diabetes
To help support you and your workplace to thrive, here’s some ideas of how to incorporate more whole foods into your work life:
Introduce/include a whole foods policy within your workplace wellbeing strategy
Seek out and book whole food caterers (contact us if you are finding this challenging) – just remember to provide them with a list of dietary requirements so they can ensure everyone is nourished
Introduce a weekly fruit box and transition any work supplied snacks to a variety of whole food alternatives
Provide daily whole food breakfasts and lunches (if budget allows and/or you have an in-house kitchen)
For more guidance on the balance of whole foods health professionals recommend, refer to Nutrition Australia’s Healthy Eating Pyramid.