A Whole Food is a "plant food that are unprocessed and unrefined, or processed and refined as little as possible, before being consumed." Nutrition MD provides the following benefits of whole foods, as opposed to processed foods:
Whole foods are rich in phytochemicals, which are powerful nutrients found in plant foods (which is important because humans cannot produce these nutrients on our own, but they are required to live a healthy life).
Compared with processed foods, whole foods contain more vitamins and minerals.
More fiber and beneficial fats are found in whole foods.
The combinations of nutrients in whole plant foods act to protect us from disease.
However, many foods are processed in some way before reaching our plates. What may surprise you is that cooking is a form of processing. Not all processing is bad - artichoke and beans need some processing to be edible and nutritious. Nutrition MD also notes that "processing of foods can also slow spoilage and enable easy storage. Freezing the abundance of fruits and vegetables after the summer’s harvest allows people to continue to have fruits and vegetables available into the winter."
The problem comes when foods are highly processed. These foods include potato chips, candy, sodas & colas, hotdogs, pastries, egg waffles (雞蛋仔), shrimp paste, fish balls, most types of dim dum, almost every sauce and even many breakfast cereals lack the health benefits of whole foods. Heavy processing often depletes any beneficial nutrients and instead gives you a clump of fat, salt, and sugar. An easy rule to remember is if the food you're eating doesn't look like it will if it's found in nature, or simply cannot be found in nature, then it's processed. What harm can come from eating processed foods?
"Processed foods contain more additives and preservatives and are often high in sodium.
Processed foods may contain artery–clogging hydrogenated oils.
Processed foods may contain hidden allergens posing a threat to people with food allergies.
Some processed foods are loaded with sugar—soft drinks, candy, sugary cereals, baked products, frozen desserts, etc.
High–calorie, low–fiber processed foods contribute to overeating and weight gain because you don’t feel full as quickly as with high–fiber whole foods."
Whole foods, with such amazing benefits, are all of the rage these days, so much so that every grocery chains the world over are including this phrase in their branding. But where this whole topic gets lost is when it comes to Chinese food. What are the Chinese whole foods and where can I get them?
You can take a walk down to your local wet market and look around. All of that bok choy, choy sum and okra - it's all a whole food. For breakfast, you can pan fry it with a couple of free-range eggs. This makes for a great way to get in your heart-healthy good-for-you fats and a couple of servings of veggies. Of course these aren't all of the whole foods found around Hong Kong, but this certainly gives you an idea. You can check out Green Queen Hong Kong for recipes and shopping guides.
The Hong Kong organic farm scene is also becoming a hit, giving you the assurance that harmful pesticides aren't sprayed on your food. Sassy Hong Kong provides a great list of some of the organic farms in Hong Kong. Many of these offer vegetable delivery service, delivering directly to your door each week. Some will even let you come and pick your own veggies - a great weekend trip for the family.
All of that said, we do love our dim sum and egg waffles. But limit it to a couple of times a month!