Food is food, right?
I mean, if you can find it in a grocery aisle, if it goes on a plate or in a bowl, it’s safe to go into your mouth/body then too, right?
Surely grocery stores and restaurants aren’t going to offer items that could be detrimental to your health!
Unfortunately, only in a perfect world would those statements be true.
The fact is, there are some foods that really aren’t food at all, and such items could be hindering your weight loss efforts.
So, what are those pseudo foods? And, what foods…real foods…should you be reaching for to boost your health and your weight loss endeavors?
Food Or Fake
Before we get to the details of real food, first let’s channel our inner Neo and reach for the red pill when it comes to nutrition, journeying down the rabbit hole to catch a glimpse of what may be lurking in your pantry or refrigerator.
Many of the items we think of as food can contain chemicals and substances that wreak havoc on our bodies. Consider the following:
- Did you know that processed foods containing nitrites or nitrates can interfere with your thyroid? Typically they are used as preservatives in foods. But, they are known to increase your risk of cancer, and hinder your body’s ability to transport oxygen freely.
- Did you know that many foods contain artificial dyes and colorings to enhance the appearance of foods? These added colorings are linked to ADHD in children and adults, have been found to cause hives, asthma, and are known to cause cancer.
- Did you know that foods containing GMOs, or genetically modified organisms (also referred to as genetically engineered foods), are known to lead to antibiotic resistance, can cause allergic reactions, suppress your immune system, are toxic, and may cause cancer?
And, though we’ve barely scratched the surface here, there’s also the laundry list of “foods” that are marketed as helpful for weight loss that may be doing you more harm than good. Such as…
- Energy bars are a popular meal replacement or even thought of as a healthy snack when seeking to lose weight, but many of these contain just as much sugar as a typical candy bar.
- We often think of yogurt as a healthy snack option, but yet again, many varieties contain sugar, a hidden culprit that stalls weight loss. And, some yogurts even contain those harmful food dyes that we mentioned above.
- Looking to lose weight surely means cutting fat and calories, so foods labeled as fat free have got to be great options, right? Nope! Fat free and low fat foods often contain additional (artificial) flavors and sugars to make up for the removal of fats.
- Chip alternatives like veggie chips and pretzels may seem like a better option than oily potato chips, but really you’ve just traded hydrogenated oils for calorie dense, enriched (another word for nutrient stripped) “foods” with these options.
And, once again we’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to these items marketed as food…that aren’t real foods.
So, what is real food?
What Is Real Food?
Using the words of Dr. Sukol, an internal medicine physician with expertise in chronic disease prevention, regarding real food “this is the food that nourishes us.”
She categorizes real foods into eleven categories: fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, dairy, eggs, meat, fish, and poultry.
Other experts describe real foods more broadly as those foods that are: free of chemical additives, unprocessed, and rich in vitamins and minerals.
Another term synonymous with real foods is whole foods. These are foods that don’t need a label, they are what they are (in other words, single ingredient foods).
Some examples from each group of real foods:
Fruits – apples, bananas, blueberries, strawberries, cherries, pomegranates, pears
Vegetables – kale, brussel sprouts, carrots, cabbage, cucumbers, tomatoes, broccoli
Beans – kidney, pinto, black, chickpeas, lentils, peas
Whole grains – brown rice, barley, millet, oatmeal, buckwheat
Nuts – almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, cashews
Seeds – chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds
Dairy – (some would omit this as many dairy products contain additives) look for dairy products that are grass-fed, organic, raw or low pasteurized, whole fat, and non homogenized
Eggs – look for eggs that are cage free, free range, and pasture raised (American Humane Certified ensures these three qualifications are met), antibiotic free, farm fresh, and hormone free
Meat – unprocessed, locally raised is best, grass-fed offers the most nutrient dense option, antibiotic and hormone free, non factory farmed
Fish – avoid factory farmed, look for wild caught
Poultry – also antibiotic and hormone free, locally raised, free range, organic
Choosing real foods means avoiding:
- Refined grains
- Refined, processed, or artificial sugars
- Factory farmed meats
- Fast food
- Deep fried food
- Any packaged food containing more than 5 ingredients (some opt for single ingredient foods only)
As far as beverages are concerned, the same mindset applies. Choose options such as water, black tea, or coffee (the use of natural sweeteners such as honey, monk fruit or stevia, real maple syrup, dates, etc, can be done in moderation).
So, now that we know the what, let’s look at the why. Why do real foods help you lose weight?
Real Food And Weight Loss
There are many reasons why real foods are helpful when it comes to both boosting the health of your body and losing weight.
First and foremost, real foods are loaded with the nutrients that your body needs to function optimally.
Processed foods lack nutrients, and they can also cause health problems that may even slow down weight loss progress.
When foods lack nutrients, as you eat them, your body isn’t satisfied. Still needing nutrition, that lack of satisfaction can make you feel less full after eating, which causes you to overeat, sabotaging your weight loss efforts.
Real foods contain vitamins that your body needs to keep your blood healthy, effectively break down fats, proteins, and carbs, and keep your brain and nervous system functioning properly.
And, real foods also contain minerals that can regulate the water levels in your body to help you avoid unwanted water weight and bloating.
Another needed nutrient for weight loss is protein. Real foods are packed with protein that helps your body with proper hormone production, increases your metabolism, fights off hunger, and keeps your weight regulated.
Real foods are also loaded with fiber which is satiating, keeps your bowels healthily moving, and keeps your gut healthy.
And, yet another beneficial component of real foods lies in their polyphenol and antioxidant properties.
Plant foods contain polyphenols, some of which are directly linked to weight loss by improving the effects of various hormones used in your body’s fat burning processes.
Eating a variety of real foods can satisfy your sweet tooth…the healthy way!
Real foods do not contain refined sugars, a type of sugar that can destroy your weight loss efforts.
Refined sugars are processed sugars that are higher in calories, linked to obesity, and they disrupt the hormones responsible for communicating to your brain that you are full.
Real foods, like fruits, are naturally sweet, but contain no refined sugars and are loaded with those needed vitamins and minerals that we detailed above.
Another sneaky addition in processed foods is trans fat. Trans fats are artificial fats that undergo a process whereby liquids are changed to solids (maybe a better name for these fats would be lab fats).
Trans fats have been specifically linked to gains in abdominal fat in several animal studies.
Real foods contain healthy, natural fats; no lab needed and no unintended adverse effects to your body or waistline from consuming them either.
And, while some meat sources do contain natural trans fats, these natural fats have been deemed harmless through much research.
Variety And Satiety
Eating real, whole foods means you have a wide variety of choices for each and every meal, indeed your options are nearly limitless.
Seek to select new foods to try, and then get creative in the kitchen and look for new ways to enjoy these options.
And, keep in mind, real foods naturally provide satiety. Their fiber, protein, and diverse nutrient content can keep you feeling full longer as your body is satisfied with needed nutrition.
Sometimes Daunted, You Can Falter
Unlike the Hoosiers of Bloomington, Indiana, (“never daunted, we cannot falter”) when it comes to dieting and weight loss, these efforts can be daunting, and you almost certainly will falter.
Yes, regarding dieting efforts, one pitfall that many succumb to is the notion of perfection.
So, keep these tips in mind when creating a lifestyle that is fitted for the long haul…
Real foods are absolutely filled with needed nutrition.
Real foods can certainly help you lose weight.
Avoiding foods that are filled with artificial ingredients, or are made through artificial means, can definitely hinder your health and weight loss.
BUT…approaching weight loss and even health in general through a lens of perfection can lead to failure.
- Set goals that are realistic.
- If you are new to eating real foods, gradually replace artificial foods with real foods.
- Know which foods nourish your body and which ones do not. Then, view your meal choices through a lens of nourishment and weight loss success.
- Don’t deprive yourself of other items, simply consume those items in moderation, or as treats.
“I’m already down 4 dress sizes and counting in only 28 days!”
Charity’s story is like millions of others and probably like yours too. She wanted to lose some extra weight that was making her feel self-conscious. She tried everything that was recommended to her and everything she had been told, things like:
Counting calories, intermittent fasting, exercise more, cut out sweets etc etc.
Nothing ever worked for her and she couldn’t stick to any of them. She began to feel hopeless and depressed that she would never be able to get rid of her nasty ugly body fat.
Within weeks she was transforming her life and health and in her own words, here’s exactly what she said about it:
“Now down 4 dress sizes and counting!
And the best part is, I haven’t changed my lifestyle at all.
My anxiety and stress levels are lower than they have been in years.
My hair and skin feel and look so much healthier.
My energy levels have skyrocketed.
I’ve even noticed my mood has improved.
There is nothing else I’ve ever tried like this.
This simple 8-second recharge has truly changed my life!”