By Robin Gentry McGee

Its funny (and rather alarming) the things that will pass as food today. There are processed foods high in salts, sugars and fats, ingredient lists that go on for miles with every artificial additive known to man (they might even add some stuff youve never heard of like short-chain fructooligosaccharides), and of course the laundry list of preservatives that are added to keep our foods on the shelves for years.

But we dont think this is the type of diet you need to promote health especially if you are on a feeding tube. We think you need real foods, healthy foods. We think you need whole foods for whole bodies.

So what on earth is a whole food?

Simply put, whole foods are intact foods. They are foods in their natural state. Most dietitians only classify vegetables in the whole foods categories. Think of it as the difference between eating an apple (with its skin, pulp and fiber) and drinking apple juice (with its sugar, sugar, sugar and more sugar with no nutritional backbone to help it stand up straight).

They are the foods that your great-grandmother recognized as food. Things like broccoli, carrots, kale, peas, garbanzo beans, brown rice, sweet potatoes and quinoa. We blenderize our feeding tube formula from these whole foods skin, fiber, pulp and all to ensure a unique nutritional profile that is low in sugar and high in nutrition.

What you get out of whole foods are the vitamins, minerals and nutrients your natural bodies need. What you wont get is ingredients stripped of their natural properties through the processing and manufacturing process.

Why Whole Foods Matter

Whole foods diets, comprised of vegetables and whole grains, have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, many types of cancer and type 2 diabetes. They are also loaded with a thing called phytochemicals, the natural compounds in plants that serve as antioxidants and health boosters. Probably the most famous of the phytochemicals, theres over 1000 discovered to date, is beta-carotene.

One thing we think is really essential for people with enteral feeds, people with digestive issues and people with compromised gastrointestinal systems is high fiber content. By sticking with whole foods, we work to increase fiber levels. These can serve as a prebiotic, which feeds friendly bacteria in the intestine, and helps you digest and metabolize your food. Dont confuse these with the live bacteria (probiotics) that people consume to manage intestinal flora. Fiber is also shown to slow down the absorption of carbohydrates, treat constipation and aid in digestion.

The bounty of the earth is just so complicated, balanced, perfect and healthy that modern science hasnt quite caught up. So why not put whole foods into your diet? Some studies are indicating that vitamins on their own may not have the same nutritional affects as consuming whole foods, and we are seeing growing evidence of the ways whole foods nutrition can aid in the healing process by improving whole systems and helping the body find the nutrients it needs to maintain itself as an integrated system.

Another concern we have are the additives that are put into so many processed foods. These are added (after they strip away the nutritional benefits of whole grains, whole vegetables and whole greens) as a way of boosting nutritional profiles and packing on unnatural calories. In feeding tube formulas, these additives often take the shape of sugars.

And as for those short-chain fructooligosaccharides, its a processed ingredient in Glucerna, Nepro and Ensure formulas thats been introduced as a prebiotic, but may cause bloating, flatulence and intestinal discomfort. We believe in finding our nutrition from the earth, just as Mother Nature intended, thats why our prebiotics come from fiber-rich whole foods vegetables. Its the real food we all need.

More resources

Robin Gentry McGee is the Founder and CEO of Functional Formularies, makers of Liquid Hope, the worlds first shelf-stable organic whole foods feeding tube formula.