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Just Eat Real Food

Real food has life in it, and that life is a sign of good nutrition. 

Onion sprouting roots and shoots

Where there’s life, there’s nutrition

Just Eat Real Food. It’s my favourite line when it comes to diet. There are lots of good ‘diets’ around that can benefit people, and the thing the good ones have in common is that they revolve around real food.

Firstly, what is real food? Simply, it’s food that is unprocessed, as natural as possible. For example, check out the onion I took a photo of. This onion had been left too long in a pantry and it decided it was time to break out. Real food has life in it, and that life is a sign of good nutrition. In the obvious case of meat, hopefully no actual life, but the proteins, fats, and nutrients required for life are sitting dormant. Eating real food gives your body the best chance of capturing those nutrients and turning them into healthy cells.

Secondly, what is processed food? That is a trickier question, because obviously some foods are more processed than others. The NOVA food classification system groups foods into 4 categories, from unprocessed to ultra-processed. The further a food is along the chain, the less benefits it has for your body, almost regardless of the ‘nutrients’ inside the food. For example, ultra-processed foods contain little, if any, whole foods but have plenty of food extracts and artificial components in them. Frozen, pre-prepared meals are a good example that can be mistaken for good food because of supposed nutrient levels, when the level of processing they’ve been through negates any nutrient benefit. The NOVA system is what has been used in multiple studies assessing the impact of such foods on health.

That brings me to thirdly. Why avoid processed food? A great example is this study which found that even when diets are matched for calories and macronutrients (fat, protein etc.), a diet based on unprocessed food meant a decrease in body weight for the participants. Again, the difference is that the act of processing food at least partially destroys its value. Is what you’re putting in your mouth contributing to your health or detracting from it? The more processed the food is the more likely it’s detracting from your health one way or another.

All of that might make you wonder why food is processed. Food is processed for multiple reasons such as longer shelf-life, convenient consumption, and improving taste. It can also make food cheaper. For example, squeezing an orange here in Australia is relatively expensive but squeezing lots of oranges in another country with cheaper labour, drying the juice into a powder and importing it to Australia is much cheaper. That is why most juices you find at the supermarket use reconstituted juice, the processing of which destroys the enzymes that confer much of the benefit of the juice itself.

Sometimes old advice is good advice. Remember your mum saying ‘eat your veggies’? She was right. A diet based primarily on fresh vegetables – the sort that you could put in a garden and grow right up until you eat them – and complemented by fruits, nuts, seeds and meats is much more likely to give your body what it needs than a diet based on foods that come out of a bottle or a packet. Next time you’re at the shops see if you can swap a processed, packeted food for something from the fruit & veggie section, your body will thank you for it.


Toowoomba Chiropractor Dr Michael Osborne

Meet Dr Michael

Hobbies: I enjoy hiking, camping and kayaking with my family.
Favourite Movie: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Ultimate Holiday Destination: Europe – yes, the whole lot

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