***I wrote this YEARS ago. It was on my old blog. I decided to copy/paste it here (with a few added notes) as a reminder to myself and just to share some information that I once spent hours researching.
There is so much debate as to what “REAL FOOD” means. For years, this would frustrate me because I never knew what to believe or follow. I have done much research over the years, and I have come to the conclusion that real/whole food means that the food hasn’t been processed or refined. It is a food that is in its original form. The best way to eat is to cook from scratch using whole foods.
Grains are one of the most widely controversial foods right now. There is much debate about whether or not your body needs grains, whether you should cut them out completely, eat whole grains only, or eat some… I have come to the conclusion that it’s just up to you. How do you feel your best? Most people can and should eat whole grains, some can’t.
Whole grains contain fiber, iron, protein, calcium, essential carbohydrates, and minerals.
This includes whole grain breads (I either make/use sprouted or whole wheat), whole grain pasta, brown rice, oats (steel cut and rolled), quinoa, brown rice, etc.
Fruits and Vegetables
You need at least 4-6 servings per day, heavy on the vegetables because they do not contain sugar.
Fruits and veggies give your body countless vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, beta carotene, lutein, lycopene, fiber, carbohydrates, and other nutrients. Organic is best because they are not sprayed with pesticides and herbicides.
Protein is necessary for developing the right amount of blood cells, and it gives you more energy! It is important to get protein from a variety of sources including:
- Pastured/grass-fed meats, poultry, and eggs (high in iron, complete protein and fat, and rich in minerals)
- Nuts (peanuts, almonds, cashews, etc)
- Seeds (flax, sunflower, pumpkin)
- Dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt, etc)
- Whole grains (wheat, spelt, quinoa, oats, etc)
- Nutritional yeast (this can be found in health food stores; we sprinkle it on fresh, stove-popped popcorn)
- Beans and lentils
- Wild caught fish
You NEED healthy fats. Fats provide energy, and aid in the absorption of calcium and Vitamin A. Good sources are avocadoes, nuts, extra virgin olive oil, virgin coconut oil (research shows that even though this has saturated fat in it, there are many nutrients in it that counter act the saturated fat; we use it in some things such as baked oatmeal, muffins, etc), butter (same as coconut oil), eggs, meat, and milk. Through research, I have learned that canola oil isn’t good for you as some think. It is highly processed and genetically engineered! Here are some reasons why we use the fats that we use:
- Coconut oil
- According to Mercola, coconut oil is the “smartest oil you can use.” Benefits are: “promoting heart health, promoting weight loss when and if you need it, supporting your immune system health, supporting healthy metabolism, providing you with an immediate energy source, helping to keep your skin healthy and youthful looking, supporting the proper functioning of your thyroid gland.”
- Food Matters considers this one of their Superfoods. This is straight from their website: “Coconut oil’s saturated fat is of the medium-chain fatty acid variety, which are digested more easily and utilized differently by the body than other saturated fats… the medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil are sent directly to the liver where they are immediately converted into energy. Coconut oil will actually speed up metabolism so your body will burn more calories in a day which will contribute to weight loss. Coconut oil supports healthy metabolic function and is a revered anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal agent. Pacific islanders deem coconut oil to be the cure-all gift from nature for all illness.”
- The Weston A. Price has a study on coconut oil. Organic facts says that coconut oil has many benefits including: hair care, stress relief, skin care, premature aging, heart disease, weight loss, pancreas (treats pancreatitis), digestion, immunity, healing, infections, liver, kidney, diabetes, bones, dental care, HIV, cancer. Go to their website to see the explanations of all these benefits.
- The list could go on and on for all the research that shows coconut oil to be one of the best.
- Extra Virgin Olive oil- Made from the skin of olives.
- Because it’s made from the skin and not seeds, it requires less pressure and lower heat during the pressing process; this means that the nutrients are contained in the oil.
- This is high in oleic acid and in linoleic acid.
- It is slow to spoil.
- Contains 90% unsaturated fats.
- This oil contains omega 3 and omega 6, but not a high source of it (information from askdrsears.com).
- According to the Weston A Price Foundation, butter contains Vitamins A, D, and E.
- It contains lecithin, iodine, and selenium.
- It contains short and medium chain fatty acids which have strong anti-tumor affects.
- It contains the minerals manganese, chromium, zinc, copper, and selenium.
- Butter provides the perfect balance of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids (this is the best in grass fed butter)
- It protects against heart disease, cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis, thyroid health, digestion, weight, etc.
A lot of water (at LEAST 8 cups a day) is necessary. Naturally decaffeinated and herbal teas are included in this category. I also drink La Croix water! It’s sparkling flavored water. Yum.
Organic and Why It’s Important
I don’t always have money in my budget for organic everything, so I pick and choose.
Organic foods are not sprayed with pesticides and herbicides. Pesticides and herbicides can alter hormones, can disrupt immune systems, and can cause certain types of cancer (breast, uterine, prostate cancer, and leukemia). See “external toxins” for more detailed information on what pesticides and herbicides can do. Organic meats, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not contain hormones, antibiotics, steroids, or pesticides. Meats, poultry, milk, eggs, etc are the highest on the list to buy organic, if possible.
- Local harvest is a great resource for finding CSA’s, Farmer’s markets, Farms, etc that sell organic foods in your area.
- A great resource to find out more information on organic foods and why they are important is Organic Consumers.
Pastured animals and eggs
I can’t always afford grass-fed meats, but I always buy cage free eggs.
Eating grass-fed/pastured animals and eggs is more important to me, even, than organic.
Pastured means that the animals are not confined and are able to graze the pasture. Not only are the animals able to eat grass, they are able to walk around, which means they exercise. Because of this, the meat is lower in fat.
The benefits of grass-fed vs. grain fed are that pastured animals (beef, pork, chickens, etc) contain more omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin E, and Vitamin A, beta carotene, lecithin, and are lower in fat. Pastured animals and eggs contain no hormones, antibiotics, or steroids. And, most of the time, they don’t contain pesticides.
A great resource for finding grass fed meats, poultry, and eggs is Eat Wild. Not only will you get a lot of information, you can search for local farmers that sell pastured meat, poultry, and eggs.
Real Foods has some more information on why to eat pastured animals and eggs.
Sweeteners that we use (in moderation)
- Sucanat (SUgar Cane NATural)- evaporated cane juice. Keeps all of the original nutrients intact because it is just evaporated… not refined or processed at all. Another brand/type is called Rapadura. It’s basically the same thing.
- Raw, unfiltered, unheated, local honey
- Pure Maple
- Stevia (a natural, zero calorie sweetener)
- Erythritol (I use Swerve… mostly in my tea… it’s a sugar alcohol)
Foods, drinks, other things to limit/avoid
- Food coloring
- Artificial flavors and sweeteners
- Caffeine- Some is okay, but excess can cause many problems. Also, if you drink this, you need to drink more water to counter act it. Caffeine is a diuretic. It depletes your body of necessary water and nutrients.
- Nitrates- these are found in lunch meats, hot dogs, and bacon that is not specially made nitrate-free.
- Refined sugars and flours- these can cause diabetes and can alter brain chemistry. They do nothing good for you.
- Hydrogenated oils (“trans fat”)- this raises the bad cholesterol and lowers good cholesterol. This oil is found in many packaged foods and commercially fried foods.
- High fructose corn syrup- found in almost every canned, packaged product. Look at labels!!
- Alcohol (mainly for me because I’m an alcoholic!), cigarettes, drugs