Real food is food that is as close to its natural state as possible.
It is primarily:
- free of chemical additives
- rich in nutrients
However, since processed foods became popular in the 20th century, the Western diet has shifted more toward ready-to-eat meals.
While processed foods are convenient, they can also potentially affect your health. So following a diet based on real food may be one of the most important things you can do to help maintain good health.
Loaded with important nutrients
Unprocessed animal and plant foods can help provide vitamins and minerals you need for optimal health.
For instance, 1 cup (149 grams) of red bell peppers, kiwi (180mg) or orange slices (165 grams) contains more than 100% of the RDI for vitamin C
Eggs and liver are especially high in choline, a nutrient essential for proper brain function
And a single Brazil nut provides all the selenium you need for an entire day
In fact, most whole foods are good sources of vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial nutrients.
Low in sugar
Some research suggests that eating sugary foods can increase your risk for obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, and heart disease
Generally speaking, real foods tend to be lower in added sugar than many processed foods.
Even though fruit contains sugar, it’s also high in water and fiber, making it much healthier option than having soda and processed foods.
Real food is packed with antioxidants and nutrients that support heart health, including magnesium and healthy fats.
Eating a diet rich in nutritious, unprocessed foods may also help reduce inflammation, which is considered one of the major drivers of heart disease
Better for the environment
The world population is steadily growing, and with this growth comes increased demand for food.
However, producing food for billions of people can take a toll on the environment.
This is partly due to the destruction of rainforests for agricultural land, increased fuel needs, pesticide use, greenhouse gases, and packaging that ends up in landfills.
Developing sustainable on real food may help improve the health of the planet by reducing energy needs and decreasing the amount of nonbiodegradable waste that humans produce
5. High in fiber
Fiber provides many health benefits, including boosting digestive function, metabolic health, and feelings of fullness
Foods like avocados, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and blackberries are particularly high in healthy fiber, alongside beans and legumes.
Consuming fiber through whole foods is better than taking a supplement as it keeps you feeling fuller longer, and you also get the added nutrients from the fruit or vegetable.
Helps manage blood sugar
According to the International Diabetes Federation, more than 450 million people live with diabetes worldwide.
That number is expected to rise to 700 million by 2045.
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.
In one 12-week study, people with diabetes or prediabetes followed a paleolithic diet combining fresh meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, eggs, and nuts. They experienced a 26% reduction in blood sugar levels
Good for your skin
In addition to promoting better overall health, real food can help nourish and protect your skin.
For instance, dark chocolate and avocados have been shown to protect skin against sun damage
Studies suggest that eating more vegetables, fish, beans, and olive oil may help reduce wrinkling, loss of elasticity, and other age-related skin changes
What’s more, switching from a Western diet high in processed foods to one based on real food may help prevent or reduce acne
Helps lower triglycerides
Blood triglyceride levels are strongly influenced by food intake.
Since your triglyceride levels may increase when you consume sugar and refined carbs, it’s best to minimize these foods.
In addition, including unprocessed foods like fatty fish, lean meats, vegetables, and nuts has been shown to significantly reduce triglyceride levels
To keep your diet interesting, you can include diverse foods, such as trying vegetables that you have never had.
Hundreds of different real food options exist, including a wide variety of meat, fish, dairy, vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, whole grains, and seeds.
Make a point of regularly trying new foods. Some unique options include chayote squash, chia seeds, organ meats, kefir, and quinoa.
10. Costs less in the long run
It’s said that real food is more expensive than processed food.
In an analysis of 27 studies from 10 countries, it was found that eating healthier food costs about $1.56 more than processed food per 2,000 calories
However, this difference can be minimal when compared to the cost of managing chronic diseases, such as diabetes and obesity.
For instance, one study noted that people with diabetes spend 2.3 times more on medical supplies and other healthcare costs than those who do not have this condition
Thus, real food costs less in the long run because it’s more likely to help keep you healthy, minimizing your medical costs.
Antioxidants are compounds that help fight free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can damage your body’s cells.
They are found in all real foods, especially plant foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and legumes. Fresh, unprocessed animal foods also contain antioxidants — though in much lower levels.
For instance, offer lutein and zeaxanthin, which can help to protect against eye diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration