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What is Real Food?

This is the question that I get asked most often from family, friends, and readers.

What is real food?

My simplest definition of real food is food that is as close to its natural and original state as possible. Real food is not produced in a factory, it is not engineered in a lab, nor is it full of artificial colors, sweeteners, or flavors.

However, I have additional definitions of real food, gathered from my experience, my education and the shared knowledge of those other real food believers.

  • Real food is food that has been eaten for thousands of years without ever really changing – fruits and veggies, meat, dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, fermented foods, whole grain breads, etc.
  • Real food doesn’t have a list of ingredients. As Michael Pollan would say, “Don’t eat anything that has more than five ingredients.” And if you can’t pronounce them, chances are, it’s probably not real food.
  • Real food comes from local farmers and ranchers and is grown without the help of steroids, antibiotics, chemicals and pesticides.
  • Real food should help heal the body and help achieve and maintain optimum physical and mental health. Real food does not cause problems like high blood pressure, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc. (although, there are times where these ailments still afflict us with even the most pristine diets).
  • Real food should be used to supplement an active lifestyle. Real food should be the fuel our bodies use to carry out its every day functions.
  • Real food looks like what it is – a tomato that smells like a tomato (not a tomato that has been altered in a lab), an egg from a chicken who got to eat grass and grubs and peck at the ground, a steak from a cow who got to graze on open pasture, unpasteurized, non-homogenized milk from happy cows who have not been fed antibiotics or hormones.

This is what real food is. If you’re ever holding something in your hand and you wonder if it’s real food, just ask yourself one thing — is that item as close to its original and natural state as possible? If yes, chances are it’s real food. If no, set it back on the shelf and move on.

Photo courtesy of Mitch Nicklas Photography

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