We are starting a blog series on Real Food. A few weeks ago, we asked on Facebook what Real Food topics you would like to hear about. It was wonderful to hear from you and learn what questions you had. Over the next few weeks, we will talk about what Real Food is, how to incorporate it into your meals, why it's better to eat organically produced foods versus GMOs, and how to eat Real Foods on a budget. If there are other topics you would like to see covered, please let us know.
What is Real Food?
Real foods are those foods that grow in the garden, field, tree, vine, or on farm. It's food that comes from it's natural source or as close to it as possible.If your great-grandmother cooked with it, more than likely, it was real food.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables: apples, oranges, lettuce, spinach, pineapple, bananas, radishes, green beans, dried beans, squash, berries, etc.
- Dairy: whole milk, unsweetened yogurt, cheeses, butter, cream
- Meats: beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, pork, mutton, wild caught seafood, eggs
- Grains: 100% whole wheat, brown rice, corn, barley, quinoa, steel cut oats, lentils, etc
- Nuts and Seeds: Peanuts, cashews,almonds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.
- Oils: Unrefined coconut oil, olive oil, sesame seed oil, lard, etc.
- Sweeteners: Honey, maple syrup, stevia, etc.
What isn't Real Food?
Anything that has been chemically processed or refined, contains preservatives, artificial colors, imitation foods, or other enhanced foods. If it is packaged or comes in a box and has more than a handful of ingredients or ingredients made in a chemistry lab, it's fake and not real food.
Examples of these types of foods include:
- Fast food items: burgers, fries, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, etc.
- Carbonated sodas
- Sugary drinks like Kool Aide and Gatorade
- Instant oats or rice
- Candy and sugary snacks with high fructose corn syrup: jellybeans, gummi bears, store bought fruit snacks, etc.
- Processed baked goods loaded with preservatives: twinkies, doughnuts, snack cakes, Pop Tarts, etc.
- Artificial Sweeteners: Aspartame, corn syrup, Nutrisweet, Splenda, processed sugars, etc.
- Unhealthy oils: Canola Oil, hydrogenated oils, cooking sprays inside aerosol cans, shortening, etc.
Why are Over Processed Foods Bad for Me?
Once food is altered from its original state, nutrients are lost. They fill you up with too many calories and not with health-supporting nutrition.
Processed foods are often cooked at very high temperatures which destroy essential vitamins and minerals. Sugar, salt, preservatives, stabilizers, and/or color enhancers are usually added. Salt is one of those chemicals that we accept as part of our daily diet, but it is hard on the body and can cause health problems. Foods are altered through refining too. Most bread is the end product of pulverizing wheat berries through processing and refining. And then there are those foods, or, rather, fake foods, that are completely man-made from chemicals, not made from real foods at all. Read the labels of foods, and you will soon become familiar with the chemicals that you don't want to put into your body.
Why is it Important to Eat Real Food?
The most important reason to eat whole/real foods is because it's healthier. Real foods are always better because they are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes, and a host of other nutrients.
The old saying goes, “You are What You Eat.” Fake or junk foods aren't healthy for you. Obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other diet related diseases are on the rise. The foods we eat have a direct correlation to our health. A recent news story reported that a 30 New Zealand woman's death was attributed to an excessive intake of carbonated soda over a long period of time. If you improve your food, you'll improve your health.
As an added benefit, whole/real foods taste better. Have you ever compared canned green beans to fresh green beans? There is no comparison. They taste totally different. Plus you don't get all the added salt from canned vegetables with the fresh version.
Simple Ways to Start Your Journey Towards a Real Food Diet
The transition from your current way of eating to incorporating more real foods isn't something you do overnight. Simple steps will get you on a healthier road. I'll leave you with three simple steps to get you started.
- Start to read food labels. Look past the calorie count and look at the ingredients. Read what is actually in your food. You may be surprised.
- Set aside time to cook.
- Start looking at recipes that use natural/real foods, not boxed convenience items. Check out the recipes on this site or google “real food recipes”.
What changes have you made in your diet to incorporate more real foods?