Real Food. What is it?

by: Nely Ward

What is real food? A simple question can seem complex but the answer is actually not too hard to define. Real Food is food that is minimally processed and maintains its natural integrity.

Obviously, foods like apples, eggs and green beans are whole foods. Cooked, frozen or canned apples, eggs and green beans count as real food too so long as they are not in the company of artificial ingredients. (Think frozen green beans in a fake butter sauce.)

But what about minimally processed foods?

Just because food has been altered from its natural, raw state doesn’t mean that processing is bad. In fact, some processing (like cooking tomatoes for the lycopene) is actually beneficial for maximum nutrient absorption. We like to look at real foods as having 5 or less ingredients, and all being ingredients that you could cook with at home.

We at Basic are not as concerned with the amount of processing if it’s all simple modifications like grinding, baking or fermenting. The biggest issue we find with modern food ingredients comes from the extracting and mixing to the extent that the food is no longer recognized as the food it originally was. For example, high fructose corn syrup is no longer corn and inulin is often extracted from chicory and then added to foods so they can be called “high fiber.” Even though inulin is naturally occurring, we’re putting fiber in foods that don’t need to be altered to be healthy. What if all that fiber is working against the nutrients that you really need from that food, which evolved as a lower fiber food on purpose?

We like to say that “Mother Nature knows best” and the importance we place on eating real food is part risk assessment and part research based. The more we mess with the way food was intended to be grown and consumed, the more risk we take that it adversely affects our health down the line. We don’t know what we don’t know. Remember when smoking was the normal thing to do? Well the more we alter our food, the more chance we have that science will discover something adverse about an ingredient years down the line. Nutrition is such a young science and is ever changing. The more we learn about the science of food, the more the research just sends us full circle to the benefits of whole foods.

There is plenty of research to support the consumption of whole foods. Numerous studies have found epidemiological evidence that eating whole foods (particularly plants!) has a protective effect on health and reduces risk of chronic disease.

Why else should you eat real foods? Below are just a few reasons:

  • Mangos are more delicious than a mango-flavored fiber bar
  • Beans are cheaper than protein shakes
  • Oatmeal is more filling than a diet pill
  • G good for our skin
  • Sets a good example for kids
  • Helps support local farmers

The bottom line that earing real food is one component to a healthy lifestyle. It is also important to exercise often, maintain proper nutrition, and lower your stress levels. But there is no doubt that eating more real food will help guide you to your healthiest & happiest life. #HealthyIsHappy