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In many of my posts I make reference to eating real food to either obtain good health or to lose weight and stay thin forever. But after all, what is real food?
In the beginning everything was wonderful, beautiful, and simple. God created mankind and given us nature to provide us with everything we would need to keep us alive and healthy. Human being only consumed real food – they pretty much understood that hunger is the body asking for nutritional replacement to keep working and thus they only ate to fulfil their body’s need – that is only to provide the body with the nutrients that can only be found in real food.
However, since the middle of the last century, this essential principal was forgotten, and society has finally abandoned real food —and began to consume more and more ultra-processed foods. Consequently, diseases such as obesity, diabetes hypertension—and many other ailments are becoming more and more common and abundantly. In this article I will discuss what is real food and 10 reasons why real food is better for you over processed foods.
When we talk about real food, we are referring to foods that are minimally processed, that is food in its closest form to that in which they are found in nature. It means food that has a single ingredient or food without labels. Real food also includes the various foods that are usually unprocessed and do not have chemical additives – things that you basically observe in nature.
These foods include as many varieties as possible – which avoids food monotony and makes your day-to-day life much more colourful. These foods, also naturally contain nutrients essential for the proper functioning of the body, such as good quality proteins, complex carbohydrates, good fats, dietary fibres, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Losing weight and improving health is much easier if you base your strategy on real food – (our weight loss programmes will allow you to do just that)
It is not always obvious to define what is and what is not real food – however there are some practical rules for knowing what real food is – the thing to remember is that real food is either:
Fresh foods – those obtained directly from plants or animals and purchased for consumption without having undergone any alteration after leaving nature”. Notice that we are talking here precisely of “real food”. That is, natural ingredients, nutritious and without the addition of chemical substances such as dyes, preservatives, flavourings, stabilizers etc.
Minimally processed foods – they are fresh foods that, before their acquisition, have undergone minimal changes, such as cleaning processes, removal of inedible or undesirable parts, fractionation, grinding, drying, fermentation, pasteurization, refrigeration, freezing and similar processes that do not involve adding salt.
As a practical rule, if a food has only one ingredients it is likely to be real food – but you may notice also in the list of ingredients two real foods mixed together – for example a recipe of lemon in water. Lemon is a real food and water is the basis of our hydration, well that’s still real food.
However, this combination of water and lemon is quite different from a water and lemon drink like Volvic, Radnor Splash or other brands, which are disguised soft drinks. For instances, if you check the list of ingredients on Radnor Splash water, lemon and lime drink, you will find spring water, Cetric Acid, flavouring; sweeteners; sucralose; acesulfame k, preservative E211.
With these much additives —most of which I bet you don’t know, and wouldn’t have in your home—it’s clear that this drink can’t be considered real food. In fact, this is another practical rule. If you wouldn’t have the ingredients of this product at home, it’s probably not real food If you stop to think, almost all real foods can be “made” at home.
Take olive oil for example, although it is “processed”, you just have to squeeze the olives to get it. (This makes it a very different food from other refined vegetable oils- such as canola, corn, soybeans, and sunflowers — which go through numerous industrial processes and receive various chemical additives until they reach your table.)
Now try to read the label of a food product pack—and you’ll be surprised by some of the ingredients such as ethoxylated diglycerides, cellulose, calcium propionate, ammonia sulphate, phosphoric acid, among many others— You probably wouldn’t cook with these ingredients so why would you eat industrialized food that contains these ingredients. Become an expert in label reading and never again be fooled when shopping.
It’s part of the life cycle. There are a few exceptions to this rule—for example, honey lasts practically forever. But, as a rule, the fact that a food “never spoils” is a good sign that you should not consume too much of it. If our ancestor wouldn’t recognize it as food, it is probably not real food. In supermarkets today, there are thousands of products that our ancestors would not recognize as food. These products, as a rule, are not real food.
At the same time, it’s not just because our ancestors would recognize something as food that it’s necessarily real food. In other words, if they don’t recognize it, it’s a bad sign but the fact that they recognize it doesn’t necessarily make it a good and healthy food -a good example of this includes refined sugars, breads, pasta, cakes, cookies, crackers, and much more.
Due to their ingredients’, ultra-processed foods are nutritionally unbalanced. Moreover, due to its attractive formulation and presentation, they tend to be consumed in excess and replace “real food”. Ultra-processed foods are typically high in saturated fats, salt, sugars and food additives, elements that can harm your health and well-being.
When we talk about real food, we are referring to foods of animal and vegetable origin, whole, and unprocessed and these foods are packed with micronutrients, vitamins, and minerals —which is great for health. On the other hand, processed foods are low in micronutrients —and nutrient deficiency is even linked to obesity. Processed foods can decrease the rate of weight loss in several ways. For example, a diet based on processed foods does not provide nutrients to your body, this can affect your metabolism, and this may prevent you from losing weight.
If you’re trying to increase your nutrient intake and/or simply lose weight without counting calories, eating real food is the way to go. They contain a variety of nutrients that are difficult to find in a single supplement —including various plant compounds, vitamins, minerals, fibres and antioxidants. In addition, the nutrients on the real food tend to be better absorbed than the nutrients coming from most supplements. A nutrient-rich diet can help you lose weight because it corrects nutritional deficiencies and reduces hunger.
Real foods are a better source of protein than highly processed foods. This is because food processing can make several essential amino acids less available to the body — including important amino acids such as lysine, tryptophan, methionine, and cysteine. In addition, protein sources from real food typically have more protein and fewer calories, which makes them better for fat loss. Real food sources with enough protein include most cuts of meat, fish, organ meat, eggs and dairy products.
Real foods do not contain refined sugars – the natural sugars found in fruits, oilseeds, vegetables, and legumes are not equal to refined sugars present in breads and sweets, for example. Yes, fruits and vegetables contain natural sugars — but these foods also provide other nutrients like fibre, vitamins, and water, which can be good for your body.
Processed foods often contain refined sugars added to them -this is usually done both to give them more flavour, and to counterbalance the added sodium to increase their shelf life. Two of the most common types of added sugars are fructose-rich corn syrup (HFCS) and common refined sugar (sucrose, which is a mixture of glucose and fructose).
Foods’ high in refined sugars often have more calories, causes inflammation and provide fewer health benefits —ice cream, cakes, cookies, pastries, and soft drinks are just a few examples. In addition, refined sugars do not contribute to your satiety. Studies show that a high intake of refined sugar can increase the production of the hunger hormone ghrelin, which decreases the brain’s ability to make you feel satiated.
In short: Real foods do not contain added sugars and have other nutrients that are great for health. Foods high in sugar typically have more calories, less nutrients, do not contribute to satiety, and increase the risk of obesity.
Soluble fibres have many health benefits, including helping with weight loss. They mix with water in the intestine and form a thick gel that can reduce appetite by slowing food movement through the intestine. Studies show that soluble fibre can reduce appetite by influencing the production of hormones involved in hunger control. Furthermore, it can also increase the production of hormones that make you feel satiated, including cholecystokinin, , glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) and peptide YY. Real foods typically have more soluble fibre than processed foods.
Good sources of soluble fibres include beans, seed, almonds, chestnuts, oilseeds, fruits and vegetables in general. Ideally, try to make most of your fibre intake from real foods, as they also provide many other nutrients.
Trans fats are bad for health for a variety of reasons -These fats are produced artificially when they insert hydrogen molecules into vegetable oils, which turns them from the liquid to the solid state. Many studies indicate that frequently eating artificial trans fats harms your health and can increase insulin resistance and accumulation of abdominal fat.
Fortunately, real food does not contain artificial trans fats – even though foods such as butter, beef and lamb contain a small percentage of saturated fats, these are natural fats, which are harmless to health.
Taking time to chew and eat slowly promotes weight loss – eating slow gives your brain more time to process food intake and recognize when the body is satiated. Real food can help you eat slower, because minimally processed foods typically have a firmer and fibrous texture, which requires greater chewing. This small measure can contribute to weight loss—causing the feeling of satiety to be achieved with less food and last longer.
A big advantage of real foods is that they typically take up more volume and fill the dish more than processed foods —while providing fewer calories. This is because many minimally processed foods contain a good amount of air and water —foods with fewer calories and more volume can bring more satiety than foods with more calories and less volume.
They fill your stomach, and this causes receptors present in stomach to send signals to the brain indicating that you are satiated —and therefore you stop eating. Then, the brain responds by triggering the production of hormones that reduce appetite and increase the feeling of satiety. Real food typically has fewer calories and more satiety per serve than processed foods – so you can lose weight without going hungry
The biggest challenge of weight loss is often not the diet but resistance to sweet cravings, especially if you are someone who eats a lot of sweets. A diet based on real food can help you reduce the urge for sweets. Real foods are healthy substitutes for sweets – eating more real food can help in adapting your taste buds to new flavours, reducing the cravings over time, or possibly even making it disappear altogether.
Often, having sweets or carbohydrates at night is linked to stress and deregulated hormones. In this sense, fixing your diet can be a good starting point —and the sweets cravings gradually gives way over time.
Obesity is a serious problem around the world —Interestingly, the fastest increase in obesity occurred around the same time that highly processed foods became widely available.
This can be seen since the 1970s in the most economically prosperous countries —it was around this time that food began to be increasingly based on processed foods, with higher consumption of refined vegetable oils and refined sugar —and today, regions around the world are showing a rapid increase in the prevalence of overweight and obesity.
Increasing real food intake reduces the intake of highly processed foods —which provide few nutrients, and are packed with empty calories, increasing the risk of many diseases. Start your food re-education today.
Following a radical diet may help you lose weight quickly but maintaining the diet in the long run is the biggest challenge. Extreme diets help you achieve your goal by drastically reducing calories and creating rules that are difficult to follow for life, such as “leave the table 70% hungry,” or note down everything you eat in an app – unfortunately, this lifestyle is something you can’t keep long-term. Shifting your focus to eating real foods, rather than following a very restrictive diet, can help you lose weight and maintain it in the long run.
When focus on eating real food as a new lifestyle, your focus shifts: you choose foods that are better for your health, as well as reducing your weight and body measurements. This consequently will help you to keep the weight off forever once you really effect a lifestyle change. If you want help to start a health lifestyle, click here.
A diet rich in real food is great for your health and can also help you lose weight. Real food is more nutritious, contains relatively few calories and satiates more than processed foods. By simply replacing processed foods with real food in your day-to-day life can help you start a healthier lifestyle and losing weight. Also, developing the habit of eating real foods over trying a crazy and temporary diet, will make it easier for you to maintain the weight you have lost in the long run.
Therefore, food re-education is increasingly needed in order to change the habits and behaviours and to include quality products in our menu. For this, just look for foods that meet the criteria of real foods and minimally processed foods.
I hope you find these this article helpful and if you have any question about “What Is Real Food?” or want to leave your own personal opinion, leave me a comment below. And if you liked this article, please share it with your friends and family.
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