Nutrition 101: REAL Food

Welcome to my Nutrition 101 blog series, where I explain the foundations of good nutrition (and ultimately good health), one “bite” at a time.  These are the principles I learned in nutrition school, and I am sharing the condensed version with you!

In this first post, I begin with the most important foundation for good nutrition: Eating REAL food.  I will also suggest 3 easy ways to make it a part of your life TODAY.

I love that so many people are talking about and returning to real food.  But what does this mean exactly?  To me, eating  REAL food means eating a properly prepared, nutrient dense, whole food diet.  Let me explain…

Properly Prepared.  A properly prepared diet is one that recognizes that food is most nutritious when eaten in its most digestible form.  For example, while some vegetables can be eaten raw, some should be cooked for optimal nutrition.  Carrots, spinach, mushrooms, asparagus, cabbage, peppers and other vegetables supply more antioxidants to the body when they are eaten cooked than when they are eaten raw.  Grains that have been soaked,  sprouted, or fermented (think sour dough) are more digestible than grains that have not been properly prepared.

Nutrient Dense.  The nutrient dense diet is one that provides the most nutrition per calorie.  Ever heard the term “empty calories” as it applies to soda pop?  That means that while there may be a whole lot of calories in that Coke, there are very few, if any, vitamins or minerals.

Conventionally raised meat is less nutrient dense than meat from animals that are raised in their natural environment and eating their natural diets.  For example, cows are meant to live on pasture and graze on grass.  Unfortunately, most of the cattle that we eat are “factory farmed,” meaning that they often live in confined spaces and are fed an un-natural diet of corn and soy, and growth hormones.  It’s no wonder that they get sick and must be fed antibiotics (which we then eat too).  Click here to see my article on how to buy healthy sources of meat and other protein.

Whole food.  Finally, we should eat whole food that is closest to its natural state.  Does your food have just ONE ingredient, usually with NO nutrition label?  Can you can imagine where it came from, and would your grandma recognize it?  If so, then it’s probably a whole food.  So, this means nothing from bag, box, bottle, can, or window!  🙂

These foods are usually highly processed.  Have you ever wondered why cereal is “fortified” with vitamins and minerals?  When grains are processed and made into cereal, they are stripped of their natural vitamins and minerals.  Only to be added back in, in their SYNTHETIC form!  How crazy is that?

Here are 3 strategies for getting REAL food into your diet TODAY!

  1. Purge the Pantry!  Get the processed food out of your house & replace it with REAL food.  If it’s not in the house, then it’s harder to eat, right?  In the least, read the labels, and make sure the ingredient list contains 5 or less items that your grandmother would recognize.
  2. Eat the rainbow.  Get as many colors as you can on your plate.  Different colors means different nutrients.  For example, purple cabbage contains anthocyanin, which is good for cardiovascular health.  Bright yellow butter indicates lots of Vitamin A.
  3. Be an adventurous eater.  Visit the farmer’s market or produce section of any grocery store, and buy a new fruit or vegetable that you’ve never eaten before.  Google how to prepare, cook, and eat it.  It’s that simple!

I hope you try these strategies, and let me know how it goes.  Stay tuned for my next Nutrition 101 blog post on Digestion…

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