Posted on Jan 15, 2021, 7 p.m.
Do you remember the 100 Days of Real Food Challenge? They may have been on to something, and it appears as if a similar movement to remove unhealthy processed foods from your diet may be in the works, although it is not yet official, merely a rumor, albeit a good one.
For those who are not sure what real food means, it basically means whole foods, anything not highly processed, not artificial, and containing 5 or fewer whole ingredients. This means mostly avoiding ingredients that you would not cook at home, avoiding added salt/sugars, and avoiding most take out shops and restaurants.
If you are thinking of avoiding processed foods, the no no’s to avoid may include:
- No refined grains like white flour and white rice. Only 100% whole grains can be consumed. To add to this, items containing wheat must actually say whole wheat, not just wheat alone.
- No refined or artificial sugars and sweeteners like added sugars of any form including corn syrup, cane juice, or artificial kinds such as Splenda. Only naturally occurring sugars are acceptable, along with honey and pure maple syrup in moderation.
- You can eat nothing out of a package that contains more than five ingredients, which means that packages of HoHos, Twinkies, Cheetos, or Ding Dongs are definitely out.
- No deep-fried foods, so the likes of french fries and onion rings are going to be put on hold.
- No fast food. This means no Burger King, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, or anything like that.
- No soda/pop/fountain drink. Beverages are to include only water milk, naturally sweetened coffee and tea, occasional all-natural juices as well as wine in beer in moderation.
- No factory-farmed meat, only locally raised meat products, and where that is not possible only grass-fed free-range meat products.
What you can eat still leaves a lot after eliminating the above:
- Any whole food that is basically more of a product of nature than that of the food industry.
- Fruits and vegetables, these are typically best fresh at a local farmers’ market.
- Dairy products like eggs(cage-free preferred), cheese, milk, and unsweetened yogurt.
- 100% whole wheat and whole grains like quinoa and brown rice.
- Grass-fed and free-range meats, locally raised when possible and preferably in moderation.
- Seafood, wild-caught is the best choice over farm-raised, but this is not always an option.
- Seeds, nuts, popcorn, and dried fruit as snacks.
This is not a vegan or vegetarian challenge, although you can make it that way easily if you so choose. The point is to cut out all artificial and processed food from your diet because the truth is most Americans eat very unhealthy food and need a serious eating habit overhaul. You don’t necessarily need to buy all organic or go to a farmers’ market, but you probably should read ingredient labels. A quick rule of thumb on ingredients- if you can’t pronounce it don’t buy it. At first, these changes may not be easy, but it will get easier and become like a new normal.
Not only will these sustained lifestyle changes improve your health they can also save in your pocketbook, especially over the long haul of healthcare costs in the future. You can experience a variety of personal health benefits like better digestion, improved regularity, more energy, improved weight management, your skin may clear up, decreased inflammation, sense of taste changes, lowered risk for chronic diseases, and as a plus, you will be supporting your immune system with all the nutrients and antioxidants contained in the fruits and veggies.
This isn’t just hype, science supports the theory that processed foods should be avoided. Whether it be a low carb, low fat, paleo, keto, or Mediterranean diet expert, the one thing that most experts can agree on is that it is best to avoid processed foods, especially those that are ultra-processed, and the National Institute of Health has joined in on this providing some solid scientific evidence to back up the advice.
Processed foods often appear to be healthy, but the truth is that these types of foods are what is making a lot of Americans unhealthy, overweight, and sick. Chronic diseases like diabetes, stroke, cancer, and coronary heart disease are among the leading killers that can be traced back to the industrialization of our food industry.
Processed foods are most often loaded with added sugars and fats while being void of nutrients, studies suggest that the altered textures and taste actually make the body crave more of it. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases around 40% of American adults are obese and over 18% of children and teens are obese. Those with obesity can face some devasting health issues, a reduced life expectancy, and experience stigma and discrimination to go along with the increased risk of chronic diseases like fatty liver disease, sleep apnea, metabolic syndrome, osteoarthritis, diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, as well as many other disorders.
Even if this new real food challenge doesn’t get passed the planning on and rumor stages, it is still worth trying just to see the health benefits of eating healthy for 100 days and removing processed foods from your diet, you are worth it. You may even like the changes in your body and health and decide to keep it as a new lifestyle habit.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before making any changes to your wellness routine.
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