By Dr. Shmuel Shields

Excerpted from “L’Chaim: 18 Chapters to Live By”

What Is A Whole Food?

In this high-tech age, I’m sure you can appreciate the need for wholeness. Consider what happens when you mistakenly send an e‑mail with an address that’s missing a single punctuation point. A moment later your e‑mail bounces back with a message stating that the address is invalid. On a holier level, if a sefer Torah is missing even a single letter, the entire sefer Torah is considered pasul (unsuitable for use).

Have you ever considered how the concept of wholeness may apply to foods?

For thousands of years, cultures all over the world consumed whole, unprocessed foods. But in the past 150 years, with the onset of the Industrial Revolution, all this changed. At the turn of the [last] century, only about 10 percent of our foods were processed. Today, 90 percent of our food supply has been altered from its natural state.

What does this mean, and how has this affected us?

Today, more than ever, many grains are available to us. But in the past, only one or two types of grains were needed to sustain large populations. Asian countries, for example, were primarily nourished by rice, American Indians by corn, European civilization by wheat, rye, barley, and oats, and the Aztecs and Incas of Central and South America by quinoa and amaranth.

How is this possible?

A whole grain–a grain in its natural form–contains many essential ingredients for nourishing the human body. These include fiber (from the husk), starch (from the endosperm), and vitamins, minerals, protein, and essential oils (from the germ). When a grain is refined and processed, it’s stripped of its husk and germ. Now most of the fiber, vitamins, minerals, and essential oils are gone–and primarily the starchy part remains.

If even one ingredient is removed from a food, that alters the natural state in which Hashem created it. It is no longer a whole food. It has become destabilized and devitalized.

You Are What You Eat

How great are your works, Hashem, You make them all with wisdom, the world is full of Your possessions.

–Tehillim, 104:24

I’m sure you’re familiar with the expression “You are what you eat.” The phrase was coined by pioneering American health food advocate Dr. Victor Hugo Lindlahr (1895—1969). Several years ago, this expression was used in connection with scientific discoveries confirming the “Doctrine of Signatures.” This doctrine suggests that many whole foods resemble specific body organs and provide nutritional support for those organs.

A typical walnut, for example, looks like a miniature brain. Even the folds on the walnut are similar to those on the neocortex. Remarkably, eating walnuts helps the body produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter essential for brain functioning. Similarly, kidney beans, which look exactly like human kidneys, may promote kidney health by stabilizing blood sugar levels.

Now think about tomatoes. If you slice a whole tomato, you’ll see that there are four chambers inside, similar to the human heart. Recent research has demonstrated that tomatoes are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant nutrient particularly beneficial for cardiovascular functioning.

Carrots are yet another example. When you slice a carrot, the inside of it looks just like a human eye. Carrots have been found to enhance blood flow to the eye and thus promote ocular health.

Here is yet another good reason to fill up on whole foods. Hashem put into these foods exactly what we need to keep functioning. By providing your body with the proper nutrient-rich whole foods, you will enhance the functioning of each organ.

Truly, you are what you eat. v

L’Chaim: 18 Chapters to Live By, is now available online ( and at Judaica stores.

Shmuel Shields, Ph.D., is a New York University faculty member and a NYS-certified nutritionist with over 20 years of clinical experience. He began his advanced learning at Yeshivas Kesser Torah in Queens and currently lectures on health-related topics for many Jewish organizations. His lectures may be viewed on After extensive research, Dr. Shields developed VitaShield Advanced Formula with extra vitamin D, a vitamin-mineral supplement. For more information, visit his website,, or contact him at


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