Keepin’ It Real, Yo! Or What is Real Food Anyway?

eggs in a carton

People are talking about real food a lot these days, as in, “I only eat real food.” This can be confusing. What the hell does “real food” even mean? A chair isn’t food. You’d never eat one, would you? But a donut—that’s food, isn’t it? And if it’s food it must be real, right? They sell them to eat after all, not to sit on.

I’ve mentioned real food a number of times now and I hope you’ve clicked on some of the links I’ve provided to find out more. This topic is so important, so vital for your health and fitness as well as your longevity and happiness, that I’ve devoted an entire post to it. Real food is so important in fact that you can sabotage your entire workout routine by eating poorly.

Here we go.

Real foods arrive on your table in pretty much the same form that they grew on the farm. Meat will not be mooing or swatting flies of course, but the processing of say a steak is limited to butchering—not adding a bucket list of fillers. In other words a steak is real food. A hot dog is not.

What makes your meat, eggs and dairy even realer is its diet. You know the old adage, “You are what you eat.” Well here’s another: “You are what your food eats.”

Grassfed beef and milk are the ideal when it comes to real bovine products. Cows are ruminants. They were designed by mother nature to eat grass, which in turn synthesizes their milk and meat into protein-rich nutritious food. Factory farmed cows fed a diet of genetically modified corn and soy are not eating their natural diet. Thus their meat and milk lack fundamental nutrition, and in turn, so will you.

The same is true with chicken. Did you know chickens are omnivores? How many times have you seen egg cartons boasting “vegetarian feed”? Chickens eat bugs. They love them. A diet heavy in creepy-crawlies is what turns egg yolks deep yellow-orange, and thereby more nutritious than a factory-farmed egg with a pale yellow yolk.

The grubs and bugs this little lady eats make beautiful nutritious eggs

The grubs and bugs this little lady eats make beautiful nutritious eggs

If you’re interested in experimenting with grassfed beef and pastured chicken, two local farms that deliver excellent food to or near Havertown and the Main Line are Hendricks and The Family Cow. Both farms also provide raw, unpasturized milk. It doesn’t get much more real than that.

One last thing about meat, eggs and dairy: The higher the quality, the higher the cost. And even though you reap numerous health benefits, both mental and physical, not to mention the rewards grass-fed and pastured farming techniques bestow on the earth, if buying it is stretching your budget to the limit, buy the cheaper stuff, but make sure it’s lean, because toxins get stored in fatty tissue. A lean, baked or grilled Perdue chicken breast beats that donut any day of the week.

You know to steer clear of high fructose corn-syrup, a heavily processed sweetener used in everything from soft drinks (Not real) to ketchup. Ditto refined sugar and flour. We’re talking cake mixes, goldfish crackers, frozen nuggets… You know, all the stuff in your grocery superstore’s center aisles.

Artificial anything, including sweeteners and colors can wreak havoc on your health. If your sweet tooth cannot be denied, have real sugar, like a piece of super dark chocolate (we’re talkin’ 85% Cacao here), or fruit—berries and stone fruits are best—but not too much. Sugary treats and refined carbs spike insulin and when your insulin secretes, fat gets stored.

Bonus material: the more you eschew sugary treats, the sweeter real food will taste. Even a sweet potato will satisfy you like dessert.

The skinny on real fats and fake fats—

Don’t fear fat. I repeat, DON’T FEAR FAT. As long as it’s not partially hydrogenated, industrialized oil, aka, trans fat, which is terrible for you. I repeat, TERRIBLE FOR YOU. We’re talking seemingly “heart-healthy” oils like canola, corn, soy, sunflower, safflower and the like—those pale yellow innocuous looking liquids. Just click that link back there to learn things that will make your teeth curl. Your health might depend on it.Of course if you’re eating real food, you’ll automatically bypass trans fats, which are mostly found in processed foods with a long shelf life.

Fat from grass fed and pastured meats, dairy and eggs are actually good for you. (Can I get an Amen?) So are the highly touted oils from avocados, coconuts and those extra virgin olives. Do those olives ever have any fun?

Even though I advocate listening to your body, if you’re not eating real food, and if you’re not paying attention to your sugar intake, take caution. Don’t listen to cravings that lure you into the center aisles of Giant or SuperFresh, where jumbo bags of crispy crunchy snack foods live. And never follow those sinister yearnings to the bottom of a bag of Doritos. Stick with unprocessed whole foods, and you’ll be satiated, trim and healthy. You’ll probably be less of a neurotic bitch too. Just checking to see if you’re still with me.