If you look up a definition of unrefined, you will be presented with something that roughly says “not processed to remove impurities”. In essence, that is what unrefined food refers to. However, this could lead to some confusion. In general parlance, we tend to think of refined as being superior to unrefined. When it comes to foods, the opposite is often true. Refined foods tend to be heavily processed, altered or ‘enriched’ foods, whereas unrefined foods are those foods occurring naturally and unaltered. The development of refined foods has grown exponentially in recent years, as society has become busies and more reliant on these convenience foods.
In modern society, refined foods serve an important purpose. Unfortunately, their role has grown in stature in the average person’s daily diet. This is not a welcome development. Store bread, packaged pasta, breakfast cereals, flavoured chips, candy bars and soft drinks all hold a strong place in many peoples diets, and yet none of these foods are naturally occurring. On the contrary, they are full of artificial preservatives and lacking in many of the necessary and fundamental nutrients and minerals that our bodies thrive on.
We are a society that demands instant gratification, and that attitude has filtered down to our food. We want quick cook pasta, instant rice and frozen ready meals that can be easily heated up for convenience. From a health perspective, this is incredibly worrying. We are becoming increasingly dependent on these refined foods and moving away from the basic unrefined foods that are so critical to our health. Fruits and vegetables, fatty fish, nuts and seeds and unrefined whole grains are all excellent sources of the fuel that our body craves, but their perceived lack of convenience means they are increasingly shunted to the side.
The benefits of adopting a diet more weighted towards unrefined foods cannot be overstated. As with any diet plan, balance is important, but when there exists a choice between unrefined and refined, unrefined should always be the victor. Choosing fresh vegetables and fruit over frozen and canned alternatives is an easy switch to make, but one that all too few people make. Similarly, the difference between making your own home style French fries and cooking frozen ones might be only ten minutes, so why do so few people choose to make their own? To truly overcome our reliance on refined foods, we must first change our convenience approach to diet.