Junk food. Fast food. Gluten-free. Vegan. Processed food. Whole foods. With so many labels and grocery aisles packed with products, it’s difficult to know what’s real food, let alone what’s actually healthy for us. On top of that, companies war with each other over our taste buds and the cheapest foods for them to make – but worst for our health – are those loaded with sugar, salt and artificial flavors that trick our tongues. Most of the time we’re not eating real food and don’t even know it. Worse, we might actually be afraid of real food! Are you one of the millions who are?
Likely you are. The standard American diet (which is now basically the Western diet) is 62% processed food, 26% meat, and only 12% fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and tubers. Over 50% of our food can be bought at 7-Eleven. This isn’t “food” but neither do our diets consist of real food. Not by a long shot.
Here are 5 signs you are scared of real food and don’t even know it.
#1 – You Think “Eating Healthy” Means Eating Salad
So many people think that when they diet or clean up their unhealthy eating habits they must switch to salads or only eat fruit for snacks. This is shortsighted and it has people missing out on some extraordinary food!
I’m not going to knock salad but I’ve been eating a real food diet for 2 years now and I have made a handful of salads in that time. Nor do I snack on apples. I don’t diet. I just cook with and eat real foods – fresh fruit and produce, fresh meat and seafood, beans, nuts, seeds, tubers, and whole grains. Since I’m eating loads of tasty meals every day, I don’t have time or room for junk food, processed foods and other “food products” that will hurt my body and mind.
I also no longer worry so much about portion control. Why? Eating real food protects your metabolism, insuring that your grelin and leptin chemical messengers work right. These signal your brain, telling it when you’re hungry and when you’re full in order to properly regulate your appetite. However, when you eat sugar or refined carbs (typically wheat and corn products here in the West), your appetite signally breaks down and you keep eating and keep feeling hungry – and keep gaining weight, as well as being at risk for diabetes and other modern diet-related illnesses. With real food though, you eat, feel full, and naturally stop.
#2 – “Home-cooked Meal” Means Oven-Heated Pizza or Making Pasta
Are you only turning on your over to heat up a pizza or frozen french fries? These days people don’t like to cook. Grocery stores have aisle upon aisle of “meal solutions”, aka microwave dinners and heat and serve kits. These may seem like time savers but they come at great expense to our health. When people actually cook, spaghetti is sometimes as intensive as they get – nutrition-less pasta with overly sugared pasta sauce from a jar added on top.
This isn’t eating for health and it certainly isn’t going to feed your body and mind the vitamins, minerals, enzymes, fiber, etc. that they need to function well. Food is chemistry and what we consume will build or tear down our bodies and minds – impacting our moods, nervous systems, immune health, digestive systems, cardiovascular systems and everything in between. We are literally what we eat.
Eating healthy really boils down to eating real food – using fresh produce, fresh meats, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and tubers as your ingredients over denatured canned or processed varieties – if you’re even eating them at all. When you eat real ingredients that don’t come in boxes or packaging, your body receives the vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and other nutrition essential to a well-functioning and energetic body and mind.
It takes 20 minutes or so to bake a pizza but did you know you can make tons of tasty meals made from real food in the same amount of time? I’m a lazy chef and most of my cooking only requires 15-30 minutes and one pan.
Cooking may seem daunting but once you learn the basics, it’s easy and fun. Better, you can use the time to connect socially with family and friends. Cooking with them can become a favorite pastime and when you see cooking as a hobby, that opens the door to some fantastic meals!
#3 – Your Only Drink is Soda
In roughly 1850, Americans only consumed about 2 lbs of sugar per person per year. Today we consume around 152 lbs per person per year. That’s 3 lbs a week! One favorite vehicle for our sugar is soda. We love soda.
I won’t bore you with the ills of sugar other than to note that a large European study found that compared with participants who drank less than one glass of sugar-sweetened or artificially sweetened soft drinks per month, participants who drank two or more glasses of these drinks per day had a higher risk of all-cause mortality.
If you’re only drinking soda or it’s your go-to beverage, you’re at risk for a number of diseases and ailments. What’s more, soda is taking the place of real foods that would otherwise nourish you. Instead of popping a soda, you’d be better served drinking unsweetened tea and coffee if you need the energy boost. A lot of people don’t like to drink water but if you eat fruit and certain vegetables, you naturally get in your water content. If soda is your snack, replacing it with snacks like hummus and whole grain crackers or chips and salsa/guacamole would be healthier. And who doesn’t love salsa or guacamole?
The point is, soda is crowding out healthier snack, energy and water-providing choices while actively destroying our bodies and minds. Soda, an invention of the turn of the 1900s, certainly isn’t a real food.
#4 – Everything You Eat Comes in Packaging
If you think you’re eating healthy because you buy organic crackers or gluten-free pasta, let alone anything else you might throw into your cart, check again. If your food comes in boxes, kits, or a plastic bag you must tear open, the chances are high that it isn’t exactly a real food. Just because the packaging reads “heart healthy” or “made with whole grains” or “low fat”, don’t be fooled. That’s just marketing. And the sugar-carb-protein-fat content is only part of the story and it’s not the first place to investigate.
The best place to look is the ingredients list. After all, if offered a choice between organic cocaine or regular cocaine, you hopefully wouldn’t choose either because at the end of the day it’s still cocaine – even the organic version. When it comes to the gluten-free, low fat, salt free labeling, the ingredients are what matter. If it contains sugar (even organic cane sugar), it’s likely processed and not real food. These days, even the “healthy” food aisle comes laden with extra gluten, emulsifiers, artificial flavors, preservatives, and a host of chemicals that leave you scratching your head on even understanding what most of the ingredients are.
Real food should be understandable. If your great-great grandmother wouldn’t know what any ingredient is, it’s probably not real food. Leave it on the shelf or relabel it “treat” instead of life-nourishing food you or your family should be consuming.
#5 – You Think Taking a Vitamin is the Path to Nutrition
The vitamin business is a multi-billion dollar industry but the research on their health results is actually pretty dismal. Firstly, most vitamin pills go through you undigested. Secondly, the gummy ones are usually loaded with sugar so they’re more candy than anything. Thirdly, vitamins are chemically synthesized since real vitamins tend to break down quickly. Basically, that multivitamin is just a chemical concoction made in a lab.
If you think about it, we can’t get health from a pill, though we’d desperately like to. We humans are an efficient energy seeking species. Less energy and effort is good in our book – and in most any other creature’s. There are, unfortunately, only so many shortcuts. On the whole, vitamin supplements do remarkably little for their hype. A pill can’t give us water content, fiber that our beneficial bacteria actually need, live enzymes, and the real – created by nature in the way our bodies have evolved to process them – vitamins and minerals that we so desperately need to function optimally. That and so much more a pill can’t give us.
Just consider the vitamin C you’re supposedly getting in a vitamin pill. It’s completely divorced from the full and incredible nutrition you’d get from eating a real orange- the fiber, the water, the live enzymes, the vitamins and minerals, and who knows what else that researchers have yet to discover.
Am I categorically against all supplements? No, but I do believe that our first, best medicine is our food. After all, when our mothers gave birth to us, we didn’t pop out holding a bottle of vitamins. Only recently has our species had things like sugar (1850s), high fructose corn syrup (mid-1900s), microwaves and TV dinners, fast food restaurants on nearly every block, and 5 Hour Energy. Even vitamins are relatively new. Instead, for the very long history of our species, we ate foods grown and raised in nature, usually fresh or preserved simply.
Health doesn’t come from a pill. It mostly comes from our decisions, day by day, of what we put in our mouths.
Go from Scared of Real Food to Joining the Real Food Revolution
In modern life, the most debilitating diseases and those causing chronic pain are more and more being linked to our eating habits – diabetes, Alzheimer’s (also called type-3 diabetes), cardiovascular disease, various cancers, autoimmune issues, and many more. In reclaiming our health, we have to start reclaiming our plates. With so much fad information out there, plus disinformation from the processed and junk food industries, we have to be savvy.
The best approach? Eat real food for the majority (at least 70%) of your foods and drinks. Real foods are fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh meat and seafood, nuts, seeds, beans, tubers, and whole grains. Cook with these and pass on the processed items lining most shelves. Plenty of hearty, delicious meals exist for every palette – too much to ever consume in a lifetime! Join the real food revolution and you’ll see your health improve and your energy increase.
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