Healthy eating begins with two simple principles:
Processed Foods = Bad
Whole and Minimally Processed (WAMP) Foods = Good
The idea that eating whole foods is good and processed foods is bad may seem self-evident, but it’s not as obvious as you might think. In fact, pinpointing WAMP foods isn’t simple. Processed foods can be sneaky and disguise themselves as healthy foods without our noticing.
For example, we all know that chips, fries, and doughnuts are processed junk-type foods — that’s obvious. But what about bagels, cereal, and yogurt? Maybe not—it all depends on the ingredients that make them what they are. Most bagels are full of refined, processed wheat, and mainstream cereals are stuffed with processed sugar — they’re certainly not WAMP foods. The fact is there isn’t a standard, regulated definition of the words “whole” or “minimally processed.” You’ll need to learn what makes a food WAMP and what doesn’t because labels on packages won’t tell you.
Luckily, there are a few key attributes that flag a food as WAMP.
Direct from Mother Nature
Let’s start by defining “whole foods.” Whole foods are foods that come directly from Mother Nature, period. What this means is that these foods look pretty much the same whether you find them at a grocery store or on a farm. Whole foods, for the most part, come from the plant, animal, or fungi kingdoms. Carrots, whole chickens, mushrooms — they’re all considered “whole.” The key here is that whole foods are unaltered from the way you’d find them in the wild.
Minimally touched by the human hand
With “minimally processed foods,” a little common sense goes a long way. For example, minor alteration by the human hand is necessary for some whole foods to be stored, shipped, preserved, and consumed. Some fish are smoked to prevent them from going bad. Whole chickens are skinned, deboned, and fit into convenient packages for us to pick up from the supermarket. In the preparation of chocolate, cacao beans need to be extracted from the pods they came in, fermented, and dried prior to consumption. Butter needs to be made by humans from the milk of animals. Juice needs to be squeezed out of a fresh orange in a similar way to how olive oil needs to be extracted from the olive.
Okay, so you must be thinking at this point, Why aren’t we talking about “organic” or “non-GMO”? If WAMP foods are organic, local, sustainable, or otherwise produced in a healthier way for us and the planet (i.e., without pesticides, without antibiotics, without genetic modification, etc.), they’re superior—or what I like to call “Super WAMP.” An organic banana is a better WAMP food than a conventionally grown banana. Sustainably grown rice is a better WAMP food than genetically modified rice.
Eat Super WAMP foods when you can, especially when choosing foods from animal origins. Remember, though, that a food labeled “organic” doesn’t make it WAMP. Doughnuts, table sugar, cookies, and potato chips can be “organic,” but WAMP? Usually not.
Now we get to the part about why WAMP foods are the best foods for us, and why they’re so “good.” Science loves WAMP. Researchers agree that whole and minimally processed foods are more nutrient-dense than processed foods, and therefore healthier. WAMP foods contain more fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and so on — more of the disease- and cancer-fighting good stuff — than processed foods.
The case for WAMP foods is only getting stronger each year. Study after study reveals that these foods, especially plant-based WAMP foods, can help prevent certain cancers, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
WAMP vs. diet plans: No contest
Over the last seventy years or so, hundreds of diet theories have come and gone with none of them accomplishing what they set out to do. For example, the seeds for the “low-fat, low-cholesterol” diet were sown back in the 1950s based on work done by a physiologist named Ancel Keys. Keys found that consuming high levels of fat leads to heart disease, a hypothesis first referred to as the “diet-heart hypothesis.” By 1961, the American Heart Association had largely backed this work, which opened the door to the “low-fat” craze still somewhat active today. Yet despite all the decades of developing low-fat foods, Americans are still fat, and heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death in America.
The vegan diet — which is all the rage these days — isn’t bulletproof either. Studies have shown that even when red meat is eliminated from the diet, you’re still not “heart-attack proof.”
The “low-carb” diet doesn’t make any sense, as some of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet are vegetables, fruits, and greens — all carbs.
And as far as the Atkins diet is concerned, plenty of renowned physicians have refuted its effectiveness, even going as far as calling it “disease promoting” and “clearly atherogenic” (promoting fatty plaque in the artery).
Staking a claim in the “best diet” arena is nothing short of a futile practice. Given the inability to scientifically control the hundreds of factors that play into our unique lifestyles and genetics, and the deep complexity of the human body, making a judgment call on which diet plan is perfect for the broad population is pretty much impossible.
Yet the one thing we do know is that foods in their least altered state — WAMP foods — are, hands down, better than processed foods, and when we start consuming these foods exclusively, we’ll no doubt be a lot better off than we are now. It’s just that simple. For many people, just the transition from processed to whole food can help reverse and stave off many ailments such as overweight, allergies, and chronic disease.
In this book what I’m claiming is that eating foods like these will give us our best shot at living a long, healthy, and happy life. By getting back to eating whole, traditional and ancient ingredients and foods, we’ll make some serious strides with our health. And in this sense, eating WAMP foods is indeed the best way to eat for the vast majority of us.
Recipe from The 3-Day Reset: Quinoa Coconut Cereal
- 1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed and drained (or about 3 cups cooked quinoa)
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 2 ¼ cups filtered water
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- ½ cup dried unsweetened coconut flakes
- 2 cups unsweetened almond milk, cows milk, or other nut milk
- ½ cup raisins
- Raw honey to taste (optional)
- Place quinoa in saucepan under medium heat. Stir a minute or two, slighting toasting quinoa. Then add salt, water, cover and bring to a boil. When water reaches a boil, turn heat to simmer and cook, covered, for 15 minutes or until quinoa seed has unfurled (the spiral-like germ emerges) and all water has been absorbed. Turn off heat and let sit, covered to steam just a few more minutes.
- Place quinoa in large serving bowl adding all remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Plate into separate cereal bowls adding honey on top if desired. Serves 4.
The 3-Day Reset provides ten food “wake-up calls” that last 72 hours each which together put readers on the path to eating better for life. It helps define what “real food” is by focusing on whole, minimally processed foods as opposed to simply organic foods. It teaches us that we’re hardwired to crave wholesome, nourishing foods and gives us the blueprint we need to get on the path to restoring these natural cravings and eating better for life without sacrificing an ounce of flavor! Over 30 delicious recipes your taste buds will thank you for!