It’s a New Year and for many, a time to review, reset and recommit to their goals. When it comes to diets, people often gravitate toward those that feature a strict set of rules about what you can eat, how much, and at what time. Following a diet based on real food may be one of the most important things you can do to maintain good health and a high quality of life. Focusing on eating real food is not like that. It’s not a traditional diet but rather an overall approach to eating that can be used to guide your food choices over the long term.
Real food is whole, single-ingredient food. It is mostly unprocessed, free of chemical additives, and rich in nutrients. In essence, it's the type of food human beings ate exclusively for thousands of years. Whilst modern processed and convenience foods are convenient, they are not optimal for your health.
Real foods include all of the healthy fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals that the body requires to maintain an optimal state of health.
Not all processing is problematic and there is a big difference between ‘ultra-processed’ and ‘minimally processed’ foods. Animal products, fruits, vegetables, legumes and true whole grams are all close to the state they were in when harvested and have perhaps gone through minimal transformation before they find their way to your plate. These foods come loaded with vitamins, minerals, fibre and other essential nutrients. As the degree of processing and refining increases, the food’s nutritional value decreases. With more processing, the likelihood that less-beneficial ingredients like man-made fats, salt and sugar are added goes up, and the likelihood of vitamins and minerals being present goes down.
Benefits Of Eating Real Food
Research suggests that there are many reasons to consider making the move toward eating more nutrient-rich real food and less heavily processed fare.
Best Source Of Protein
Proteins are a vital nutrient when it comes to health. They are made up of amino acids that are responsible for the creation and maintenance of all bodily structures and support the body in building itself back up, especially if physical exercise is involved.
Proteins from real foods are ideal since the body recognizes and assimilates them better than those found in processed foods. Real food protein comes from meat, fowl seafood and fish, eggs, lentils, and nuts.
Source Of Healthy Fats
Primarily used as preservatives for baked goods, trans fats are made by pumping hydrogen particles into the vegetable oils used. And the result is that the oil changes state from liquid to solid. Unlike the trans and processed fats found in vegetable oils and some spreads, naturally occurring fats are far healthier.
Extra virgin olive oil is a great source of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that promotes heart health. Fatty fish including salmon, sardines and herrings as well as nuts and seeds are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. which support fighting inflammation and heart health.
Animal fats, eggs and avocados are other sources of healthy fats.
Read more on fats and download our fat guide here
High In Soluble Fibers
Soluble fibers are, as the name suggest, soluble in water. In your stomach, these form a thick gel-like paste which contributes to feelings of fullness. They also help regulate the production of hormones that manage hunger. Soluble fibers in a real food diet increase the synthesis of chemicals, including cholecystokinin, glucagon-like peptide-1, and peptide YY, making you feel fuller for longer.
Real foods rich in soluble fibers include sweet potatoes, Brussel’s sprouts, avocado, oranges, nuts and legumes.
Rich In Polyphenols
The antioxidant properties from polyphenols in plant foods offer significant health benefits. These powerful plant compounds include stilbenoids, lignans, and flavonoids. Regularly consuming polyphenols is thought to boost digestion and support brain health, as well as protect against heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even certain cancers. Some of the best known sources are berries, herbs and spices, dark chocolate, tea, and olive oil.
Help Manage Blood Sugar
Research suggests that eating foods that can easily be turned into sugar or containing large amounts of added sugar can increase the risk of developing obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, and heart disease. Real foods tend to be lower in added sugar than many processed foods and contain water, fiber and many other nutrients.
Eating a diet high in fibrous plants and unprocessed animal foods may help reduce blood sugar levels in people who have or are at risk for diabetes.
Supports Gut Health
A diet rich in highly processed foods with added sugars, preservatives and man-made fats promotes gut microbes linked to obesity, heart disease and diabetes. On the contrary, a diet rich in nutrient-dense, whole foods supports the growth of beneficial microbes that promote good health.
Many real foods are good prebiotics which serve as the food gut bacteria ferment into short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids promote gut health, and play a role in blood sugar management.
Prebiotic foods include artichokes, garlic, asparagus, and cocoa.
Supports Dental Health
Like the rest of your body your mouth depends on an optimal diet to stay healthy. The sugar and refined carbohydrates found in processed foods can promote dental decay by encouraging the plaque-causing bacteria living in the mouth.
Help With Appetite Control
Real foods require more work as they have a more rigid and fibrous texture that necessitates more chewing. This slows down the process of eating which, in turn, offers the brain the time to recognize if and when it is full. This simple technique supports true appetite control and feeling satisfied with less food.
Initiate More Permanent Lifestyle Changes
Most short-term diets, rest plans or January challenges jump on the principle of cutting off or limiting certain food groups. And as much as this can be beneficial for some time, it may not always be a sustainable practice on an individual level.
By focusing on eating real foods, eating habits become sustainable and manageable.
If this in itself feels overwhelming, or you are looking to spend less time in the kitchen, we’ve got you covered.
Pete’s Real Food meals are made with only the best real food ingredients – nothing else. We have created a wide range of delicious breakfasts, lunches and dinners for many diets and nutrition philosophies and protocols from Paleo to vegan and more. We’ve even made school lunches a breeze with real food options even your pickiest of eaters will devour.
Food that tastes good and does good - real food is real simple!
Check out all our weekly meals and delivery options here and get your Real Food New Year started off right!
Real food is just one component of a healthy lifestyle. It’s also important to get plenty of exercise, lower your stress levels, and maintain good sleep hygiene. Real food tastes delicious with amazing flavors that are undeniable. Once you get adjusted to eating real foods, nothing else will compare. Eating real food is the best kick start to your wellness goals - eating more real food will go a long way toward improving and maintaining your health.