When I first ran across the term “real food” a year-and-a-half ago, I thought, “Real food? As opposed to…?” The simple answer is “processed”. It was a completely foreign idea to my highly processed “health food” perspective. Most of what we ate came from a package and had very little resemblance to the original ingredients. Many of the ingredients were things that I couldn’t even pronounce! If you’re new to the idea of real food, this post will give you the basic idea and future posts will explain specific categories (like fats, meats, etc.) in more detail.
What You Won’t Find in Real Food
There are so many things in the “food” from the grocery store that really isn’t food, at all! Many of them are laboratory-created synthetics with absolutely no nutritional value. Others are things you might find in nature, but we really weren’t meant to eat them. Here are some, though not all, of the additives that are in processed food.
- Artificial Colors: Although a few manufacturers have started using naturally derived food coloring, most still use the synthetic ones. These are made out of chemicals that are known to cause reactions and irritations in many people. Although they are supposedly “non-toxic”, many people are unable to eat foods with artificial colors. Artificial colors give lab animals cancer. Some of the adverse effects in people are behavioral changes (especially in children with autism), nausea, mood changes and sleeplessness. I, personally, feel miserable after eating anything with red food coloring.
There are many natural alternatives that will provide a beautiful color for food, so support companies who use them. In addition, natural food colors are often nutritionally beneficial, such as turmeric.
- Artificial Flavors and Flavor Enhancers: When food is so processed, it has no palatable flavor, so the manufacturers have to add chemicals to make it taste good. For example, that 100% pure orange juice you buy, isn’t. It has no flavor after the extreme processing it goes through, so scientist mix up a bunch of chemicals to make it taste like orange juice. They aren’t required to put those extra chemicals on the label because they were, once upon a time, derived from orange juice. The chemists alter, tweak and modify it to the point that it is unrecognizable. Ever wonder why every single bottle of Tropicana tastes the same? Now you know it’s not the oranges, it’s the chemicals. My thought is, you shouldn’t have to add chemicals to make your orange juice taste like oranges. We buy fresh squeezed juice from a local grocery store as a special treat!
Artificial flavors are even more of a problem for most people than the food coloring. MSG, for example, can cause severe reactions in those who are sensitive to it. I have known many people who found that they are sensitive to MSG and other artificial flavors or flavor enhancers. Once I quit eating processed food, I realized that the occasional MSG-filled meal (think: chinese takeout) made me feel sick for at least 24 hours. I also swell-up like a balloon when I eat MSG during pregnancy. Even when they are “naturally derived”, these ingredients are not in the form that God intended us to consume them in. Again, many of them have been shown in animal and human studies to cause health problems, sometimes severe ones!
- Artificial Preservatives: Natural preservatives, such as salt, sugar and vinegar, have been used for thousands of years and are excellent preservatives. Processes, such as drying, fermenting, culturing and freezing also preserve food and they are good, too. The newer, artificial preservatives, aren’t so good. TBHQ, for example, is derived from petroleum. Just one gram of it can make you extremely ill, while 5 grams will kill you. It’s found in fast food and packaged foods, such as crackers and cookies. There are so many artificial preservatives out there, I don’t have the time to go through them all. Most of them have been proven to, or are suspected of, causing cancer, reactions or nervous system problems.
- Non-Food Additives: Yeah, really. In the pre-shredded cheese is wood pulp, to prevent the cheese from sticking to itself. In the salt is aluminum, to prevent clumps. In the frying oil at restaurants is an anti-foaming agent, dimethylpolysiloxane (aka, “silly putty”). Our philosophy: If it’s not food, don’t eat it!
If you haven’t already, I encourage you all to go through your food and look-up the ingredients on the labels. Learn about what you are eating and feeding to your children. Look-up any available studies and find out what effects the ingredients have on the human body. The current statistic is that 1 in 3 people will have some kind of cancer in their lives. Many of the things listed above have been shown to cause cancer. I don’t want any of you to live in fear, and I am all about grace in everything, including food… BUT, regularly eating things that are known to kill people isn’t a good idea. So, what is a good idea?
What You Will Find in Real Food
Protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, beneficial bacteria… quite a difference, huh? God gave us the food we need to nourish our bodies. Not only is real food healthy, it’s delicious! Just take a look at these pictures of foods that we regularly eat.
When you buy real food, you don’t spend much time in the aisles of the store. The real food tends to be around the outer perimeter. Fresh produce, meat, poultry, fish, butter, cheese… foods in their unprocessed forms. Some of the processed versions would be canned veggies, frozen dinners, fish sticks, vegetable oil, “cheese” from a box or can, cookies, crackers, bread that can sit on the shelf for weeks, things like that.
Where Real Food Comes From
Not only is real food unprocessed, it usually comes from a different place. For example, most eggs in the grocery store have pale yellow yolks and no flavor. We buy eggs from a farm. They have deep orange yolks and taste fantastic! The chickens wander around on the farm eating bugs, seeds, plants… whatever they can find. That’s how chickens are supposed to eat, so the eggs they lay are full of the nutrients they are supposed to have. Also, we buy raw milk, straight from the farmer (technically, we are part of a “herd-share” program). This milk in not pasteurized (so it is full of good bacteria) and it’s not homogenized (so it hasn’t been structurally damaged).
I’ll go into more detail in following posts, but consider where your food comes from and how it was raised. Feed for animals, soil conditions for plants, antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides and the worst, genetic modifications, are all very important things to know when it comes to our food.
Over the next few months, I’ll be going in depth about how to get the more nutrient-dense foods possible and how to prepare them! I’m so excited to introduce you to real food! In the mean time, check out some of our favorite real food recipes.
What questions do you have about real food that you’d like to see answered?