Good question! I’d love to share…
Real = true and actual, from the source. Not artificial.
Real food has ingredients you recognize and that are in their natural state.
Chicken, yes. Dehydrolyzed chicken protein with yellow 5 food coloring added, not so much. Our bodies simply were not designed to absorb and run off of food manufactured with artificial ingredients. Real foods can be found in ALL the food groups- from proteins to sweets and everything in between.
In the words of health advocate Michael Pollan, “Don’t eat anything your great-great-great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”
There is a lot of research coming out about the connection between health issues and artificial foods, and it's worth the time and thought. But, for me, the evidence is in trying it out for one's self. How do you feel when you eat real foods only versus all the things? How's your mental clarity, stomach comfort/discomfort, energy levels?
As with most things in life, perfection is not the goal- rather concerted effort is. It's virtually impossible to know all the ingredients in your Chicken Parmesan at the Italian restaurant up the street. But, it's very possible to know the ingredients of the food you make at home. So that's a great place to focus.
Here's an example of a recent food fail of mine: You know those little Progresso breadcrumbs that seem like a simple, straight-forward food….
Can you believe that there are FORTY-FOUR ingredients in a container of them?! Forty-four…Wow.
The ONE THING we can do to move towards healthier eating is to read the nutrition labels of the foods we buy. Here are the two questions to ask yourself...
1. What's in it?
2. Do I recognize the ingredients? (As in, are they from a natural source?)
For example, a Snickers bar has several recognizable and real food ingredients such as milk, peanuts, egg whites and chili extract. But it also has several unnamed artificial flavors. So grab that real-food substitute (a chocolate bar with cocoa and cane sugar) instead.
Need helping finding a real-food substitute for one of your favorite foods? I'd love to help, just name it below.