Most of us didn’t grow up eating organic, unprocessed, good- for- your- gut foods. Our culture has gotten away from preparing foods from scratch and from using food as medicine to heal ourselves. And it can be overwhelming and daunting when you first get started. Here’s a few things to help you get started:
Defining Real Food
What does “real food” actually mean? It’s quite simple. Real food is food that existed before the modernization of food, before commercial feedlots, before hydrogenation of fats and oils, before the existence of refined and artificial sugars, and before the introduction of easy, cheap, shelf-stable foods. We are talking about the foods that our ancestors ate and thrived on for thousands of years. Real food is nutritious. Real food is nutrient dense. Real food grows healthy small humans.
One of the most important tenants of a real food diet is the idea of eating nutrient-dense foods. Technically speaking, nutrient density refers the amount of essential nutrients for a given amount of food. In other words, getting the biggest bang for your buck with everything that you put into your body.
Why is this important? Eating nutrient dense foods ensures that you are getting concentrated amounts of valuable nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, essential fatty acids, and phytonutrients, as well as phytochemicals. Food not only satisfies our bodies’ need for calories and fuel, but also provides our cells with valuable building blocks for strong immune systems and other vital processes.
Think about this: You are hungry for an afternoon snack to tide you over until dinner. You can eat a hard boiled egg and a few carrot sticks or you can grind on a bag of potato chips and cookies. Which snack do you think will give your body what it needs in order to feel full, healthy, and satisfied?
The other piece to nutrient-dense eating is the bioavailabilty of the foods that we are eating, meaning our body’s ability to absorb the nutrients in our foods. There are some time honored ways of preparing foods to make them more digestible and available to out bodies. Some foods, like meats and seafoods, don’t need much work to make the nutrients accessible. Other things like vegetables, nuts, and seeds need a little prep in order for us to reap the most benefits from them.
Best Real Foods
Foods that I recommend as the most nutrient dense foods are:
- Grass fed and pastured meats
- Sustainable Seafood
- Eggs from pastured chickens
- Grass fed and RAW dairy products
- Organic vegetables and fruits
- Moderate amounts of organic nuts and seeds
3 Tips for Transitioning to a Real Food Lifestyle
The best way to get started is to commit to reducing the amount of packaged foods that you purchase. Packaged foods are processed and often full of industrial seed oils and preservatives that are not healthy for us. Begin to make things at home from scratch: yogurt, coconut/nut/seed milks, condiments….Eat at home more often… baby steps…. get into a rhythm of being connected to your foods and preparing them. Buy as much organic and local food as you can afford. Check out the DIRTY DOZEN LIST to make better choices. And avoid GMO’s ( aka genetically modified foods) like the plague. They reek havoc on your body. For more info, read THIS great article.
Next, commit to taking care of your gut flora. 80% of our immune system originates in our small intestine. Our health depends on the state of our internal “eco-system.” Keeping a healthy balance of “good” bacteria in our digestive tracts is the first step to living a healthy, vibrant lifestyle. Adding fermented foods to your diet every day is the easiest way to take care your gut.
Thirdly, commit to having good, healthy fats in your diet. I eat a diet high in fat, full of nutrient dense foods. Processed vegetable oils are everywhere. Switching to traditional fats like butter, ghee, tallow and adding coconut and raw olive oil to your diet is a huge step in beginning to truly nourish your body. This step often requires some re-education on our parts. We have been taught for so long that saturated fats are not good for us. Be open to the change. Educate your self. See how you feel when you make the switch. For a great medical summary about the myths surrounding fats and cholesterol, see this video.
The road to good health is a journey. It takes time, and we are all on a different path. Nothing I say is absolute. I can only share what I have learned for myself. Keep it simple. Take little steps at a time. And be kind to yourself.
To get REAL food recipes from Savory Lotus, visit my RECIPES page.
I’ve compiled some useful links to make your journey to good health a little easier. This is a work in progress and will grow as I grow in my learning…
Real Food Eating
- Weston A. Price Foundation Dietary Guidelines
- Real Food: Good, Better, Best – from Weed ’em and Reap
- Getting Started with the Real Food Diet – from Weed ‘Em and Reap
- Real Food Basics – from Thank Your Body
- What is the Paleo Diet? – from Robb Wolf
- Paleo Basics – from Rubies and Radishes
- Why Grains Are Unhealthy – from Mark’s Daily Apple
About Fats and Oils
- Know Your Fats – a collection of articles from the Weston A. Price Foundation
- The Truth about Saturated Fats
- Complete Guide to Fats and Oils – from Real Food Kosher
Preparing Nuts and Seeds
- Why You Should Soak Your Nuts and Seeds – from Small Footprint Family
- Another Reason You Shouldn’t Go Nuts Over Nuts – from Chris Kresser
- How to Create Meal Plans with Real Food – from Weed ‘Em and Reap
- Real Food Meal Plans – from Whole Lifestyle Nutrition