When I was newly married and expecting our first child I began to read a lot about the real food diet. It’s pretty simple. Eat real food in the most natural state possible to reap the health benefits our ancestors did.
Dr. Weston A. Price the dentist who began this movement studied indigenous cultures in the early 19th century. What he found was that communities untouched by western civilization had much better health (specifically oral health). They ate more nutrient dense foods and had fewer health issues.
My own experience has been similar. Once we started trading processed foods for whole foods, we started feeling better.
I grew up eating a Standard American Diet (SAD) full of processed convenience foods like many others. As I learned more about real food, I made changes and started feeling better.
I continued to make small changes with my diet up until I discovered that I had an autoimmune disease (Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis).
I decided to try the AIP diet (autoimmune protocol) to deal with my Hashimoto’s and I feel great. AIP is a very strict diet of whole foods exclusively. I’m not eating any processed food whatsoever (really!) and am trying to include tons of veggies and very little natural sugars. I am even learning to eat fish!
I’m grateful that I was eating real food before trying a strict diet like AIP though because the transition was easier than if I had been eating a SAD diet.
From what I’ve heard from friends and family that start eating more whole foods and less processed foods is overwhelmingly positive. Real food is a great first step toward better health!
I’m not a doctor or nutritionist. Always consult your doctor before changing your diet.
5 Reasons We Avoid Processed Food
There are many, MANY reasons to stay away from processed foods, here are 4 biggies.
1. Excess Sugar and Carbs
Chemical processing strips all of the nutritional value from food. Essentially you’re left with only sugar or carbs that turn to sugar quickly during digestion. Eating too much sugar sends you on a constant blood sugar roller coaster. This up and down of blood sugar, and the constant carb snacking that comes with it, can cause insulin resistance which causes lots of problems like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
2. Causes Overeating
We were not designed wrong as humans. The human body is designed to cause hunger when it needs nourishment and suppress hunger when it doesn’t. When we eat high calorie, low (zero) nutrition foods we are confusing our bodies. The body will continue to tell you to eat because it needs zinc, for example, but if all you give it is processed wheat, sugar, and additives, your body continues to feel hungry.
Processed foods are also linked to addictive eating. Some processed foods may trigger addictive responses because they stimulate the reward center of the brain. This coupled with the nutritionally void nature of the food makes a perfect combination for binge eating.
3. Filled with Junk
Processed food has so many fillers, chemicals, and additives it’s hardly recognizable as food anymore. It just makes sense. Why would we want to eat “food products” when we can eat real food. I prefer to know where my food comes from and that it doesn’t contain yucky chemicals and additives.
4. Can’t be Trusted
Packaging is made to sell not inform. If you take a closer look at some seemingly healthy packaged foods you see that they have refined sugar, white flour, etc in them. Even organic and natural packaged foods are highly processed. For the most part, companies are not interested in your health above their bottom line.
5. Can Cause Leaky Gut and Autoimmune Disease
Processed foods wreak havoc on gut health. They cause inflammation, leaky gut, and, because 70% of the immune system resides in the gut, immune system issues. Leaky gut (intestinal permeability) can cause many ailments including autoimmune disease.
When I’m strict about what I eat or what I let my kids eat I often get direct or inferred comments that I’m being overly strict or that “Just one can’t hurt”. The thing is it can. I know. I have an autoimmune disease (Hashimotos) that I’m healing with a strict, low inflammation, clean diet.
Beginning the Journey
When I first ditched processed foods I noticed more energy and I felt healthier overall. I also lost my taste for “junk” food. I greatly preferred the whole grain, naturally sweetened breads and cookies that I made at home. I also noticed how incredibly salty packaged food is – blech.
As time went on I no longer wanted junk food. I’m happy with a bit of fruit or maple syrup sweetened treats. What I think a lot of people get hung up on is thinking they can’t have their favorite things anymore. The truth is you can always find a real food replacement (like chocolate pumpkin truffles) and you will lose your taste for processed foods. They just won’t taste good once you stop eating them, I guarantee it.
Real Food: Isn’t It Expensive?
I feel that I need to mention the obvious stumbling block to eating a real food diet. It’s expensive! However, I truly believe that what we invest in our health now will pay two-fold down the line. Of course, there are times when you can’t stretch your budget anymore and that’s ok, do your best and it will be fine.
Additionally, growing your own food is a great way to reduce the cost of healthy food. It may even inspire you and your family to want to eat it (since you grew it!).
How to Begin Eating a Real Food Diet in 4 Easy Steps
When you’re considering changing your families diet, it can feel overwhelming. Start with one thing and just keep pushing forward. learn all you can, when you can, but be gentle with yourself too and know that it’s a process.
- Ditch the packages – Begin making some staples at home, like bread and other baked goods. Anything you buy in a package, figure out how to make it yourself.
- Switch out your fats – As an oil runs out, replace it with a higher quality one. Stick with expeller pressed coconut oil, California olive oil (others are often fake), and grass-fed butter and ghee. Pastured lard and tallow are great too. Avocados, raw nuts, coconut, and olives are other sources of healthy fat.
- Switch out sugar – When it runs out, replace it with maple syrup, raw honey, or coconut sugar.
- Consider organic – As your budget allows, add in organic produce to reduce the toxic pesticides and chemical fertilizers you are eating. For tips for where to buy these items check out my post here.
- Choose pastured and grass-fed animal products as your budget allows.
This isn’t going to be an overnight change but can be an amazing healing journey if you let it!