When it comes to healthy eating, there are some buzz words that start to fly around. Terms like real food, whole food, nutrient-dense food, and nourishing food. Once you’re familiar with healthy foods, these terms make perfect sense, but if you’re just starting out, it can feel like trying to learn the slang from a clique that you’re just not part of.
Don’t worry friends! It’s generally quite simple to figure out what real food is.
Real Food: A Basic Definition
Calling food real or whole basically refers to it being unprocessed or minimally processed and very close to its natural state. These foods bring health and healing to the body through vitamins, minerals, necessary fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.
For example, A potato dug up from the dirt is clearly close to its natural state and hasn’t been changed or altered from the root it was in the ground. It would be considered a whole food item.
Now, let’s say you take that potato, and you peel it, boil it, cool it, shred it, freeze it, and bag it. It’s been changed quite a bit from its natural state. It’s missing its peel. But it’s clearly still from a potato, though it has been processed a bit and lacks some nutritional benefit.
But what if we take the potato, slice it thinly, deep fry it in some form of vegetable oil (that may very well be rancid), coat it in industrialized salt, and pack it into a crinkly bag that is treated with BHT to “preserve freshness”. It’s really not so much a potato anymore.
A potato: real food. A potato chip: not real food.
Real Food Rots
You can also think of real food as basic foods that come from plants and animals and will start to rot within a short period of time when left on your counter or in a warm vehicle. Lovely, eh?
For example, we’ve all probably seen the pictures and videos of fast food meals, left in various locations for certain lengths of time that show little signs of age. Bagged white store bread will do the same.
(Side note: An old friend used to sell a certain brand of knives and carried in her car a loaf of bagged white store bread to show how the knife could cut even the softest foods without smashing them. The bread stayed in her car for months without aging, then quickly disintegrated into mush in the bag. Not. Real. Food.)
However, what happens when you leave a hunk of cheese out on your counter or in your car for a couple of weeks? Mold. How about a banana? Mold. A tomato? Yep, mold. Meat? Ew! Let’s not even think about that one.
Real Food Restores
We all know that candy bars, chips, and soda do the body no favors. These are the types of foods and drinks that are enjoyed in moderation, sparingly, or not at all. Tempting though they are, we know they aren’t really good for us.
Real food, on the other hand, is good. It builds the body up and helps restore our health and energy. We can enjoy it liberally until we are full because it is exactly what we are designed to eat.
We benefit from eating read food.