Think whole foods are overpriced

Well supplied with whole foods

Dr. oec. troph. I. Hoffmann
Dr. oec. troph. M. Groeneveld

Scientists from the Institute for Nutritional Science at the University of Giessen investigated how healthy whole foods really eat. The result confirms: Whoever follows the recommendations of the whole food implements, lives healthier than the average German citizen.

Although whole foods have been around for decades, no scientific research has been done on how the diet affects health.

In the Gießen Whole Food Nutrition Study, the health and nutritional status of a large number of people who practiced whole food nutrition was examined for the first time. In order to get as homogeneous a group as possible, only women were selected. A total of 418 healthy women aged between 25 and 65 from the old federal states took part in the study, which was carried out from 1989 to 1994. Of these, 243 women had been eating according to the recommendations of the whole food diet for at least five years. They were compared with a group of 175 women whose diet corresponded to the national average, hereinafter referred to as mixed dieters.

Whole foods: questionnaires and blood samples provided information

The nutritional behavior of the participants was recorded using questionnaires and a 7-day nutritional protocol. Based on the recordings, the nutrient intake could be calculated. Of particular interest was the extent to which the two groups achieved the nutrient intake recommendations of the German Nutrition Society. In addition, blood samples were taken from the participants and examined for various vitamin concentrations. To assess health status, some risk factors for diet-related diseases were identified, e.g. B. the blood cholesterol level.

The whole food dieters have been practicing whole foods for an average of eight years. For this they gave health reasons in the first place and ecological reasons in the second place. But social and taste factors also played a decisive role. The pronounced health awareness of the wholefood food lovers was also evident in body weight and smoking behavior. Their average relative weight based on their height was in the desirable range. In the comparison group, on the other hand, some women were slightly to severely overweight. Only one wholefood foodist said she was a smoker, while 20 percent of the mixed foodists smoked.

Whole foods: more vegetables, less meat

There were clear differences between the two groups in terms of the type and amount of food consumed. The whole food dieters ate almost 70 percent more vegetables and legumes than the mixed dieters. The proportion of unheated vegetables alone was about as high among the wholefood foodists as the total vegetable consumption of the mixed foodists. Fruit was on the menu almost twice as often in the whole food women as in the comparison group. They obtained 90 percent of their vegetables and 85 percent of their fruit from organic farming. The wholefood and mixed dieters differed most in the consumption of meat and meat products. About half of the wholefood foodists ate a vegetarian diet, that is, they ate neither meat nor fish. The other half ate an average of one serving of meat and two slices of sausage per week. In contrast, the mixed dieters had about five times as much meat and meat products on the table.

Wholemeal bread is often homemade

Both groups consumed bread and baked goods in roughly the same quantities. As expected, the wholefoods mainly chose products made from wholemeal flour, while the mixed foodists preferred baked goods made from extract flours. Almost all mixed foodists bought their bread, whereas about every second wholefood foodist baked their own bread. For this they mainly used grain from organic farming. The other half of the wholefood foodists bought their bread mainly in health food stores, which usually also offer wholegrain bread made from organically grown grain.

Milk and dairy products, including cheese and quark, were roughly the same amounts on the menu for both groups. Whole food dieters drank less milk than mixed dieters, but ate more cheese and quark. Around 90 percent of whole-food women, but only 40 percent of mixed dieters, bought their milk in an environmentally conscious way in their own containers or in returnable bottles. Visible edible fat and oil were more often on the table with the whole food foodists than with the mixed foodists. Whole-food households used butter, unhardened margarine and cold-pressed, unrefined oils more frequently, while the comparison group used refined cooking oil, lard and bacon more often. Sweeteners were consumed in similar amounts by both groups. Whilst the whole-food households preferred honey, raw sugar, maple syrup and syrup, household sugar and sweeteners predominated among the mixed diners. When it came to sweets and desserts, the mixed diners reached about twice as often. The amount consumed by both groups was about the same, but the types of drinks differed significantly from each other: Whole food foodists preferred to quench their thirst with mineral water and fruit and herbal teas; Mixed dieters drank more coffee or black tea and soft drinks.

Whole foods: favorable nutrient ratios

When calculating the nutrient intake, it was found that the whole food dieters achieved more favorable nutrient ratios. Their diet contained more carbohydrates and less fat and protein than those of the mixed dieters. This brought them very close to the recommendations of the German Nutrition Society, only the 37 percent fat content could be a little lower. Those wholefoods who followed a vegetarian diet achieved an even more favorable ratio of carbohydrates to fats and proteins. The wholefoods get around 60 percent of their protein from plant-based foods, the rest comes from animal products. For the mixed dieters, the ratio was almost reversed (35/65 percent). Bread and baked goods were the main sources of protein in the whole food diet, followed by cheese, curd cheese, and eggs. In contrast, meat and meat products were the most important sources of protein among the mixed foodists.

The vitamin intake of the whole food dieters was in most cases higher than that of the comparison group, which is due in particular to the high proportion of plant-based foods. Only vitamins D, B2 and B12, which are primarily found in foods of animal origin, were absorbed a little less. The intake of vitamins D and B12 was below the DGE recommendations, especially among vegetarian wholefood food lovers. Vegetarians, who ate an average of 320 grams of dairy products plus 100 grams of quark and cheese as well as one egg per week, managed to get enough vitamin B12. The whole food dieters consumed more of all other vitamins than recommended by the German Nutrition Society. The mineral intake looked similarly favorable: Whole food dieters consumed more potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron than the mixed dieters and exceeded the DGE recommendations. However, it must be borne in mind that the minerals in the wholefoods mostly come from plant-based foods and are sometimes only available to a limited extent.

The predominantly plant-based diet ensured that the wholefooders consumed more fiber and less cholesterol. In contrast to the mixed dieters, their fiber intake exceeded the recommendation of the DGE by an average of 45 grams. The main sources were fruit, bread, baked goods and vegetables. Their cholesterol intake was only about half as high as that of the mixed dieters and was well below the guideline value given by the DGE.

Whole foods: More beta-carotene blood

Although the whole food dieters consumed more of most vitamins than the mixed dieters, the vitamin tests in the blood did not reveal any major differences. This is due, among other things, to the fact that the mixed dieters who applied for the study already had a fairly healthy diet and inexpensive vitamin intake. The only exception was the antioxidant beta-carotene, of which the whole food dieters had almost twice as high blood values ​​as the mixed dieters. The women who ate full-fledged food the longest had the highest levels of beta-carotene in their blood. This was primarily due to the high consumption of vegetables and fruits.

Live health-consciously with whole foods

Regardless of other influencing factors such as physical activity and weight, the whole-food diet also had a positive effect on individual parameters of fat metabolism. The HDL cholesterol level was higher among the whole food dieters and the quotient of LDL and HDL cholesterol was lower than among the mixed dieters. The vegetarian wholefoods also had lower triglyceride levels. No differences were found for total and LDL cholesterol. High HDL cholesterol levels and low triglyceride and LDL cholesterol concentrations are beneficial in terms of preventing cardiovascular diseases.

The results of the Gießen Whole Food Nutrition Study show that the recommendations for whole foods can be implemented very well in daily practice and contribute to a good supply of nutrients. In general, the whole food foodists examined showed a high level of health awareness. For most of them, it was very important to eat healthily, and they also considered other aspects of diet, especially environmental sustainability.

With the whole food the general recommendations for the prevention of diet-related diseases are well achieved. In addition, the high intake of the antioxidant vitamins E and C as well as carotenoids probably has a positive effect on the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and cancer. The overall favorable lifestyle of the whole food foodists examined also helps to avoid certain diseases. The whole food dieters were less overweight, drank less alcohol and hardly smoked.

Further data from the Gießen Whole Food Nutrition Study are currently being evaluated, including information on the supply of iron, selenium, vitamin B12 and homocysteine. When the results are available, we will report on them in the UGB forum.

AALDERINK, J .; HOFFMANN, I., GROENEVELD, M., LEITZMANN, C .: Results of the Gießen Whole Food Nutrition Study. Nutrition review 9/41. Vol., Pp. 325-328, 1994
AID (ed.): Whole food nutrition - enjoyable, healthy, ecological, socially acceptable. aid-Spezial 3353, Bonn 1998
GERMAN GESELLSCHAFT FÜR ERNÄHRUNG (Ed.): Recommendations for nutrient intake. 5. revised Ed., Umschau Verlag, Frankfurt 1991
Source: The article is based on Chapter 8.5 of the book: Koerber v., K. u.a .: Whole food nutrition. 9th edition, Haug Verlag, Heidelberg 1999

Source: Hoffmann, I .; Groeneveld, M .; Leitzmann, C .: UGB-Forum 5/99, pp. 283-286