Roughing It

Eat the apple. Eat the orange. Drink the water.

Eat the apple. Eat the orange. Drink the water.

 

 

It is one thing to be refined, to have refined taste in music, art, food, but it is quite another thing to seek out refined food. Refined foods- the moniker at first blush suggesting something elegant and sophisticated- are not really desirable at all, not good for you or your body, and considering the amount of processing involved, not particularly good for the environment either.

Basically refined foods have had most or all of the “unwanted” elements or characteristics removed, theoretically making them more appealing to consumers. These elements are considered unwanted because they may look unappealing or do not look pure or have an undesirable texture. But when we remove these we are also removing most or all of the dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals.

 

whole-grain-bread

 

Dietary fibre, colloquially known as roughage is a necessary component in a healthy diet, and most of us do not get enough. For example, there is 0.6 g of fibre in white bread, compared to 2g in whole wheat bread. Considering that adult males should get 38g of fibre daily, and women 25g, we should do a better job of incorporating foods high in fibre into our diet, especially men, as a diet high in fibre significantly reduces the risk of colorectal cancer. Increasing fibre in your diet also helps with maintaining and or obtaining a healthy weight; since fibre is expelled and not absorbed, consuming it adds to the sensation of satiety and curbs the appetite.

 

20151201-brown-white-sugars-vicky-wasik-1

 

Refined sugar is an obvious example of the extremes we will go to to process the living daylights out of food. The procedure is complex and chemically laden and the health benefits are non-existent. Why not reach for alternative sweeteners like organic brown sugars or coconut sugar? Or cut down altogether, you probably won’t notice. Refined and bleached wheat flour, another ubiquitous staple in most North American households has all the bran and wheat germ removed, and the remaining endosperm flour is essentially starchy carbohydrate powder, low in nutrients and devoid of fibre. These simple carbohydrates are easily converted into sugars in your body and absorbed readily and quickly, causing a spike in blood sugar and increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity. “Enriched” indicates that some but not all of the vitamins and minerals have judiciously been added back, but the word really just lulls consumers into thinking that it is now a superfood. Other heavily processed and refined foods you will want to go easy on are highly-processed and refined oils, fruity drinks, factory-farmed meats and of course pop and fast-food. As far as fruit juice goes, you would be better off to eat an apple and drink a glass of water.

 

Not by eating this every day they didn't!

Not by eating this every day they didn’t!

 

There is still a place for refined foods, especially in fine baking and dessert making; processed white sugar, icing sugar and bleached white flour are all sought after by professional pastry chefs and home cooks who wish to create the dessert of their dreams, one that might grace the cover of Todays Bride. An occasional indulgence maybe, but by and large, in a healthy diet, there is little room for heavily refined foods. Eating sensibly, including eating foods in their natural state, and raw where possible is a good start. Most fruits, legumes and vegetables are naturally high in fibre and naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, and nuts and avacados have the advantage of being high in omega-6 and omega-3 fats. They already come enriched! And when it comes to baking, something like banana bran muffins are great anytime of day. For dessert, fruit pies, baked apples, poached pears, carrot cake or zucchini cake will help ease the pain. Try baking your favourite recipes with coconut sugar, or unrefined brown sugar, or cutting the sugar in half. Even if you want to go all elegant, you can make a beautiful dessert out of prunes, yes prunes. Here is a recipe for Prunes and Figs in Armagnac Syrup from Chef Laura Calder that is one of our favourites.

Perhaps ironically, heavily refined and processed foods, now that its manufacture it is really state of the art, are often less expensive than their au natural brethren. Though the cost may affect your pocketbook you could end up paying for it with your health.

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