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21 Reasons to Eat Real Food

Pomegranate, Red Onion and Other Fruits and Veggies

Real food is whole, single ingredient food.

It is mostly unprocessed, free of chemical additives and rich
in nutrients.

In essence, it’s the type of food human beings ate exclusively
for thousands of years.

However, ever since ready-to-eat foods became popular in the
20th century, many people have been eating them as a dominant
part of their diet.

While processed foods may be more convenient in some ways, it’s
hard to argue that they have made us healthier or happier.

In fact, following a diet based on real food may be one of the
most important things you can do to maintain good health and
high quality of life.

Here are 21 reasons to eat real food.

1. Real Food Is Loaded With Important Nutrients

Unprocessed animal and plant foods contain the vitamins and
minerals you need for optimal health.

For instance, one cup (220 grams) of red bell peppers, broccoli
or orange slices contains more than 100% of the RDI for vitamin
C (1, 2, 3).


Eggs
and liver are especially high in choline, a nutrient
that’s essential
for proper brain function (4, 5).

And just a single Brazil nut provides all the selenium you need
for an entire day (6).

There are many other examples of this. In fact, most real foods
are good sources of vitamins, minerals and other beneficial
nutrients.

Unlike supplements, it’s nearly impossible to overdose on most
nutrients from unprocessed food.

2. Real Food Is Low in Sugar

Some research suggests that eating sugary foods can
increase your risk
of obesity, insulin resistance, type 2
diabetes, fatty liver disease and heart disease (7, 8, 9).

Generally speaking, real food is low in sugar and isn’t very
sweet.

Even though fruit contains sugar, it’s also high in water and
fiber, so it’s much less concentrated than sugar in soda and
processed foods.

3. Real Food Is Heart-Healthy

Heart Healthy Foods

Real food is packed with antioxidants and nutrients that
support heart health, including magnesium and healthy fats.

Eating a diet rich in nutritious, unprocessed foods may also
help reduce
inflammation
, which is believed to be one of the major
drivers of heart disease (10).

4. Real Food Is Good for the Environment

The world population is steadily growing, and with this growth
comes increased demand for food.

However, producing food to feed several billion people is
taking a huge toll on the environment. This is mainly due to
increased fuel needs, greenhouse gases and packaging that ends
up in landfills.

On the other hand, developing sustainable systems based on real
food may help improve the health of our planet by reducing
energy needs and decreasing the amount of non-biodegradable
waste humans produce (11).

5. Real Food Is High in Fiber

Fiber
provides many health benefits. These include helping you feel
more satisfied with fewer calories, as well as improving
digestive function and metabolic health (12, 13, 14).

Foods such as avocados,
chia seeds
, flaxseeds and blackberries are particularly
high in healthy fiber, along with beans and legumes.

Getting fiber as it naturally occurs in real food is much
better than taking a fiber supplement or eating processed food
with added fiber.

6. Real Food Helps Control Blood Sugar

According to the International Diabetes Federation, more than 400 million people have diabetes
worldwide.

That number is expected to surpass 600 million within the next
25 years.

Eating a diet high in fibrous plants and unprocessed animal
foods may help reduce blood sugar levels in people with
diabetes and people who are at risk of developing the disease.

In one 12-week study, people with diabetes or prediabetes
followed a
paleolithic diet
containing fresh meat, fish, fruits,
vegetables, eggs and nuts. They experienced a 26% reduction
in blood sugar levels
(15).

7. Real Food Is Good for Your Skin

Bowl of Raspberries and a Note That Reads: Eat More Real Food

In addition to promoting better overall health, eating real
food nourishes and helps protect your skin from
the inside out
.

For instance, dark chocolate and
avocados
have been shown to protect skin against sun damage
(16, 17).

Studies suggest that eating more vegetables, fish, beans and
olive oil may help reduce wrinkling, loss of elasticity and
other age-related skin changes (18, 19).

What’s more, switching from a Western diet high in processed
foods to one based on real food may help prevent or reduce acne
(20).

8. Real Food Helps Lower Triglycerides

Blood triglyceride levels are strongly influenced by food
intake.

Because triglycerides tend to go up when you eat sugar and
refined carbs, it’s best to minimize these foods or cut them
out of your diet altogether.

In addition, including unprocessed foods such as fatty fish,
lean meats, vegetables and nuts has been shown to significantly
reduce triglyceride levels (21, 22).

9. Real Food Provides Variety

Eating the same foods over and over can get old. It’s also
healthier to include many different foods in your diet.

There are hundreds of different real food options, including a
wide variety of meat, fish,
dairy, vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, whole grains and
seeds.

Make a point of regularly trying some real foods you’ve never
eaten that look or sound interesting, such as kiwi, chia seeds,
organ meats, kefir
or quinoa.

You might just find a few new favorites.

10. Real Food Costs Less in the Long Run

It’s said that real food is more expensive than processed food,
and in some ways this is true.

A 2013 analysis of 27 studies from 10 countries found that
eating healthier food costs about $1.56 more than processed
food per 2,000 calories (23).

However, in the long run, this difference is minimal compared
with the cost of managing chronic lifestyle diseases such as
diabetes and obesity.

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For instance, a 2012 study found that people with diabetes
spend 2.3 times more on medical supplies and health care than
people who don’t have diabetes (24).

So real food is more expensive in the short-term, but way
cheaper in the long run — because junk food costs you twice.

11. Real Food Is High in Healthy Fats

Fish, Berries, Spinach, Avocado and Nuts

Unlike trans fats and processed fats found in vegetable oils
and spreads, most naturally occurring fats are incredibly
healthy.

For example, extra
virgin olive oil
is a great source of oleic acid, a
monounsaturated fat that promotes heart health (25).

Coconut oil contains medium-chain
triglycerides
, which have been shown to increase fat
burning and assist with weight loss (26, 27).

Long-chain
omega-3 fatty acids
help fight inflammation and protect
heart health. Fatty fish, such as salmon, herring and sardines,
are excellent sources of these fats (28, 29).

Other real foods that are high in healthy fats include
avocados, nuts, seeds and whole-milk dairy.

12. Real Food May Reduce Disease Risk

Making real food part of your lifestyle may help reduce your
risk for a number of chronic diseases.

Eating patterns based on whole, unprocessed foods — including
the Mediterranean
diet — have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease,
diabetes and metabolic syndrome (30, 31).

In addition, several large observational studies link a
balanced diet with a high intake of fruits and vegetables to a
decreased risk of cancer and heart disease (32, 33).

13. Real Food Contains Antioxidants

Antioxidants are compounds that help fight free radicals, which
are unstable molecules that can damage your body’s cells.

They are found in all real foods, especially plant foods like
vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and legumes.

Fresh, unprocessed animal foods also contain antioxidants, but
their levels are generally much lower than in plants.

For instance, egg yolks contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which
help protect against eye diseases such as cataracts and macular
degeneration (34, 35).

14. Real Food Is Good for Your Gut

Eating real food may be beneficial for your gut microbiome, the
bacteria that live in your digestive tract.

Indeed, many real foods function as prebiotics — food that your
gut bacteria ferment into short-chain
fatty acids
. In addition to promoting gut health, these
fatty acids may improve blood sugar control and provide other
health benefits.

Real food prebiotics include garlic, asparagus and cocoa. For
an extensive list of prebiotic foods, read this
article
.

15. Real Food May Help Prevent Overeating

Three Jars Filled with Colorful Vegetables

A high intake of processed and fast foods has been linked to
overeating, particularly in those who are overweight (36).

By contrast, real food doesn’t contain the sugars and
flavorings found in processed foods that help drive overeating.

16. Real Food Promotes Dental Health

Healthy teeth may be another benefit of a real food lifestyle
that’s low in sugars and refined carbs.

Sugar and refined carbs promote dental decay by providing food
for the plaque-causing bacteria that live in your mouth. The
combination of sugar and acid in soda is especially likely to
cause decay (37, 38).

Cheese seems to help prevent cavities by increasing pH and
hardening tooth enamel. One study found that eating cheese
dramatically improved enamel strength in people with limited
saliva production due to radiation treatment for cancer
(39, 40).

Green tea has also been shown to protect tooth enamel. One
study found rinsing with green tea significantly reduced the
amount of erosion that occurred when people drank soda and
brushed their teeth vigorously (41).

17. Real Food May Help Reduce Sugar Cravings

A diet based on real food may also help reduce cravings for
sweets, such as cake, cookies and candy.

Once your body adjusts to eating whole, unprocessed foods,
cravings for sugary foods could become infrequent and even
disappear altogether.

When you limit or avoid processed foods and high-sugar foods,
eventually your taste buds adapt and learn to appreciate real
food more.

18. Eating Real Food Sets a Good Example

In addition to improving your own health and well-being, eating
real food can help the people you care about stay healthy as
well.

Leading by example can help encourage better eating habits for
your family members.

It’s also a good way to help your kids learn about good
nutrition.

19. Eating Real Food Gets the Focus off Dieting

Chicken and Egg Salad

A dieting mentality isn’t good over the long term. It makes you
focus on the number on the scale too much.

Nutrition is about way more than just dieting. It is also about
feeling good, having enough energy and being healthy.

Focusing on real food instead of dieting can be a much
healthier, more sustainable and enjoyable way to live.

Instead of focusing too much on weight loss, let weight loss
come as a natural side effect of a better diet and improved
metabolic health.

20. Real Food Helps Support Local Farmers

Purchasing produce from farmers’ markets, along with meat and
dairy products from local farms, supports the people who grow
food in your community.

In addition, these are often much fresher and less processed
than the foods you get at the supermarket.

21. Real Food Is Delicious

In addition to all of the other reasons to eat real food, it
truly tastes delicious.

The amazing flavor of fresh, unprocessed food is undeniable.

Once your taste buds have adjusted to real food, processed junk
food simply can’t compare.

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