If the old saying “you are what you eat” is true then a lot of us are in trouble because the typical American diet has become one that’s full of processed and fast foods that are high in fat, sugar, sodium, and chemicals. This explains much of the obesity epidemic and plays a major role in the alarming rise of cases of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. It also shows that we need to get back to eating real food now more than ever.
The benefits of eating real food are endless and especially apparent when you consider what goes into prepackaged foods. Here is a rundown of some of the benefits of eating real food along with some interesting (and scary!) facts about processed foods.
Eating real food that you make yourself allows you to control the amount of additives like sugar and salt that goes into your food. In Get the Facts: Sodium’s Role in Processed Food put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s reported that over 75 percent of the sodium Americans consume comes from processed and restaurant foods. Over 75 percent! Sodium is known to increase blood pressure which in turn can lead to heart disease and stroke making this statistic especially alarming.
Then there’s the hidden sugar in processed foods, including a lot of the foods that we think to be healthy like granola and fiber bars, yogurt, dried fruit, and more. Did you know that a 1.5 ounce box of dried raisons—yes, the same kind you threw into your kid’s lunch bag this morning or reach for when you want a “healthy snack”—can contain as many as 30 grams of sugar? We know that sugar makes us fat, but more and more information is coming out on the dangers of refined sugars and their link to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and inflammation which are linked to cancer, arthritis and more.
Along with sugar and salt there are the other dangerous additives that you get to avoid when you opt for real food. Chemicals that help to preserve packaged food and those used to add color are also shown to be bad for us. As a matter of the Center for Science in the Public Interest has referred to artificial food dyes as “a rainbow of risks” in their publication of the same name.
Even though you do lose a small amount of nutrients when you cook certain foods, for the most part eating real food lets you get the nutritional benefits from what you eat. The vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and all of the other good stuff that keeps your immune system healthy and helps you feel and look your best stays intact when you eat real food so you’re not just satisfied (unlike when you eat empty calories in junk food) but you’re also healthier overall.
You know the products that you see at the grocery store with a big bright label on the package practically singing out about all of the added fiber they contain? There’s a good chance that the fiber they speak of isn’t what you’re thinking. Getting more fiber is something that we want which is precisely why more and more companies are trying to reel us in with the promise of more fiber. What they don’t tell you is that these isolated fibers don’t come close to providing us with the amount that we need. And that even in packaged foods containing whole grains, a lot of the nutrients and most of the fiber has been removed during processing with some being artificially put back in! Don’t settle for some added isolated fiber when eating real food gives you the health benefits you’re after. Get your fiber from whole grains, beans, and nuts, as well as fruits and vegetables and enjoy benefits like lower cholesterol and better bowel health and blood sugar levels.
As you can see, the benefits of eating real food go way beyond just your physical health—they help your peace of mind too by giving you the comfort of knowing that you’re not filling your body or that of your family with an endless list of ingredients that are full of health risks.
For more information on nutrition and its effects on your health, click here.
Adrienne is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and fitness for more than a decade. When she's not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking about her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand up paddle board.
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June 08, 2021