Defining "Real Foods"

Do you know what real food is? Photo of salad

Have you ever tried to define the phrase “Real Food?” Most people seem to have an instinctive understanding of what it means, but when put to the task of coming up with a definition, it can get surprisingly complicated. It’s tough to figure out where to draw the line, and then when we do define it everyone seems to have a different understand. So we want to share with you what we at Basic Nutrition believe to be as “Real Food”.

If you pluck an apple off a tree and eat it right then and there, that’s about as “real” as you can get, right?  But what if that tree has been sprayed with pesticides? What if that apple has been turned into applesauce, in a large-scale production facility (think: thousand-gallon vats of applesauce in a huge factory)? Does the production method and scale make a difference? What if they’ve added citric acid so it doesn’t turn brown?

The crux of this definition, really, is “whole-food ingredients” are real food. By that, I mean a food that’s as close to its natural state as possible. Fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, meat, or fish… you get the idea.

Ultimately, it comes down to buying foods that don’t come with a label, and for those that do come in a package, reading the list of ingredients carefully. I consider every ingredient. If it would, at least in theory, be possible for me to grow or make all those individual ingredients from scratch, and then combine them in my kitchen to make that food, Basic considers it to be real food.

And as we like to quote from Michael Pollan: Eat Real Foods. Mostly Plants. Not Too Much