God created a tremendous variety of food so we would not get bored and to accommodate our taste preferences. But the most important reason for the variety is to help us to get all of the different nutrients that our bodies need. Today we continue to hear just eat “real” food, but many are wondering what is and is not “real” food.
Food was never intended to be complicated, and we have allowed science to complicate food to shape it into something God never intended it to become. Avoiding unhealthful foods in today’s “modern” Western cultures is more challenging and complicated than it was for most of mankind’s history.
Since the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s, food “refining” processes and the use of synthetic chemicals have become popular for various reasons, including appealing appearance or taste. But the main driving force has been money. When food spoilage is prevented or delayed, food can be shipped farther and sit on shelves much longer. “Refining” and adding preservatives brought food costs down for producers and consumers. But consumers have paid a high price in their health because these processes usually have diminished the healthful value of the food.
Let’s define a couple things.
food [food] n 1. something that nourishes, sustains, or supplies
real [ree-uhl, reel] adj 1. true and actual; not artificial
I consider real food something that is wholesome and nourishing. It is simple and unprocessed. It is food that is as close to its natural original state without any alteration of any kind.
There are thousands of studies that have made the correlation that poor nutrition is linked to inflammation, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, hyperlipidemia, osteopenia/osteoporosis, and many other chronic conditions and diseases and yet, after knowing this valuable information, there are still millions of people suffering and/or dying from these conditions and diseases.
The quality of food we eat has a huge impact on our wellbeing as a whole. The U.S. is predominantly sick, and we are getting sicker and sicker. The least you spend on food…. the more you will spend on healthcare is becoming a true statement. Here are some statistics.
Chronic diseases are the leading causes of death and disability in the U.S.
7 out of 10 deaths among Americans each year are from chronic diseases. Heart disease, cancer and stroke account for more than 50% of all deaths each year.
Obesity has become a major health concern. 1 in every 3 adults is obese and almost 1 in 5 youth between the ages of 6 and 19 is obese.
A total of 27% of the US population are obese, one quarter of the population!
About 600,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.
Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease, killing more than 385,000 people annually.
Every year about 935,000 Americans have a heart attack.
Coronary heart disease alone costs the United States $108.9 billion each year.
Diabetes continues to be the leading cause of kidney failure, non traumatic lower-extremity amputations, and blindness among adults, aged 20-74.
The good news is that people are starting to catch up and demand better quality products. Slowly but surely we are seeing more organic and natural products out there. Understanding that eating healthy should become a priority and not falling in the sick care trap is key.
What Can You Eat
Whole foods such as fruits and vegetables, and some preferably organic, dairy, also preferably organic, whole grains, wild caught fish (which are free of harmful chemicals), organic or grass feed meat (which are free of hormones and antibiotics), organic poultry, legumes, nuts, seeds, unrefined sweeteners (like raw honey and maple syrup), whole grains (like brown rice, 100% whole wheat bread and whole wheat pasta). Real food is whole foods which is unrefined and unprocessed and does not contain added ingredients.
With a rich real food diet you will obtain an array of needed nutrients that will contain a high concentration of antioxidant phenolics, fibers and numerous other phytochemicals that may be protective against chronic diseases. Eating real food it simply a win win situation.
There is still a lot of controversy in whether or not certain products should be purchased organic. At this point, in my professional and personal opinion, there is no question that organic is best when it comes to certain products like dairy, meat and poultry and certain fruits and veggies. Maybe back in the day when there was non GMO products existent in the market, different strains of fertilizers, and a different array of chemicals lingering in our food supply, I would probably wouldn’t care to buy organic items. Today, it is a different story. The FDA each year introduces a large amount of chemicals in our food supply, and yet hardly any are tested for their damaging risk to the human body.
Out of season foods are now available year round flown and trucked from miles away where harmful chemicals are used to keep these foods intact. There are hormones, antibiotics and many other chemical substances utilized to grow cattle really fast. Did you know that it takes about 2 1/2 years to grow a grass feed cow versus 14 months a corn feed one? In addition a corn feed cow will lack any omega 3’s, which is present in grass feed cows, and have a much higher percentage of saturated fat.
I think, today, organic is best!
There are different things you can do and strategize to decrease your grocery bill if budget is an issue and you want to still get organic items.
A lot of these items can be purchased in bulk or when in season.
Becoming a member of a CSA farmers program can ensure that you are getting local, fresh produce for a fraction of the price.
Buying items at your local grocery store when on sale.
What Not To Eat
Processed food that is fake and junk that have little to zero nutritional value, are high in calories, highly processed, ready to eat and with little preparation. These foods are normally high in fat, sugar, and salt which makes you overweight and sick!!
Some examples are:
Packaged high-calorie snack foods, like chips and cheese snacks
Convenience foods like frozen dinners and pizza
Boxed meal mixes, loaded with sodium and fat
White pasta, white bread and white rice
Canned foods with lots of sodium
Sugary breakfast cereals
Pies and cake mixes
How Can You Eliminate Eating Processed Food?
Cook your meals from scratch using whole ingredients. This can be a daunting task for someone not used to cooking but you can start by cooking once or twice a week and increasing the number as you get comfortable in the kitchen.
Plan out your meals to avoid several trips to the store, this will ensure you will have the ingredients you need to cook your meal for the week and help you avoid purchasing package processed food. Plan well balanced meals that include plenty of whole grains, organic veggies and fruits as well as lean and organic or grass feed poultry and meat.
Shop for fruits and vegetables that are in-season and local since they will be freshest and cheapest. Look for local farmers markets, or ask your grocer what produce items are in season.
Stay away from the middle isles which normally contain the bulk of the processed foods. If you must buy items like tomato sauce buy them organic and in glass containers. If you buy pasta, rice, bread, couscous, flour etc make sure you get the whole grain kinds.
Make sure you read ingredient labels and don’t purchase anything you wouldn’t be able to pronounce.
Try cooking one item you would have purchased in a processed, packaged form. When you make it yourself, you know exactly what is in it being able to decrease the sugar, salt, and fat content as well as increasing the quality of ingredients. For example, if you like certain cookies you can try making them yourself by adding less sugar and of the unrefined kind, better fat alternative as well as using whole wheat flour in place of the processed kind and perhaps even making it grain free.
Remember eating real food isn’t a fad diet. It’s a permanent, healthy way of eating that, with a little practice, can (and should) become a way of life. Eating real food is eating for the sake of nourishing your body with food as close to its natural state as possible. There is no math, no point system, no insane calorie restrictions. When you begin to replace the processed, fried and unhealthy foods from your diet with whole grains, fruits, veggies and lean protein, your body will automatically become leaner, healthier, and more efficient in many ways.