What Exactly is Real Food?
Real Food: It’s what food used to be called. Nowadays most of the supermarket is processed beyond recognition. So how do you stick to real food and get back to the ways of our ancestors? By buying real foods at your local grocery store or farmer’s market. Let’s break it down:
1. Single-ingredient Foods
Whole foods are the best examples of real food. These foods have one ingredient and you can pronounce them easily. Things like vegetables, fruit, milk, eggs and meat are nutritious and traditional. Try to buy single-ingredient foods at the store, like kale, potatoes, coconut milk, or lentils. If a packaged food has more than 5 ingredients, it’s probably not real food. Real food rots. Much of the “food” at grocery stores is processed to make it last on the shelf for as long as possible.
2. Organic, Non-GMO
Our agriculture system is corrupt and all of us are the guinea pigs. In an effort to make more product and more money, companies are creating vast landscapes of genetically-modified wheat, corn and soy, destroying family farms in its wake. These giant monocultures aren’t natural, and the highly toxic pesticides sprayed on them must be continually increased because the plants’ tolerance grows over time. Nobody really knows just how harmful its effects are on our health.
3. Pasture-Raised and Wild Caught
80% of all antibiotics in the U.S. are given to factory-farmed animals. When buying animal products, look for animals that were raised eating their natural diets. Why? Because you are what you eat eats. Cows that are grain-fed and pumped full of antibiotics and hormones end up on our dinner plates. Try to find grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chickens and their eggs, natural dairy products, and wild-caught seafood. Alternative: eat local wild game like venison.
5. Not Heavily Processed
This is a big one. The processing of our food happens behind the scenes and most people aren’t aware of what is happening. Take corn for example. Big agriculture has figured out how to make all kinds of things out of corn, like high fructose corn syrup, corn oil, maltodextrin, etc. These aren’t exactly real food. The least amount of processing is the best: corn on the cob. Heating your corn is a form of processing, but it’s a much less harmful one that can be done easily at home. Foods to avoid: refined white sugar, bleached wheat flour, and all vegetable oils.
6. Not Invented in a Lab
Many foods approved for consumption by the FDA are pseudofoods at best. Some chemicals, like high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, MSG, nitrites and artificial colors and flavors are found in most American pantries, yet these are far from real foods. Check the ingredient label. If you can’t pronounce it, it’s an acronym, or it’s not sold by itself in grocery stores, skip it.
Another quality of food realness is dependent on the time of year. Our ancestors had to deal with the turning of the seasons. Before freezers and the transport of produce halfway around the world, people did not have access to strawberries during the winter or pumpkins in the spring. There are loads of benefits to eating seasonally, including cost-savings, tastiness and more nutrients.
How to buy real food
A general rule of thumb for grocery shopping: stick to the perimeter. About 95% of your shopping should be around the perimeter. All of the processed, packaged and refined “foods” are in the aisles. Exceptions to this rule include olive oil, almond butter, and canned fish, depending on your local market.