When you walk into a grocery store you are confronted with a vast array of food choices. But how much of what is in the stores can still be considered food? Food can be defined as any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink in order to maintain life and growth. Some definitions talk about carbohydrates, fats, and proteins along with vitamins and minerals, but I think the 2 phrases “nutritious substance” and “maintain life and growth”, say a lot.
Using that definition, you can walk through any grocery store, pick up an item and ask yourself “Will this nourish me?”, and “Is this necessary for life and growth?” I’m assuming that most people reading this are adults, so you could eliminate the word “growth” in the second question, unless you are looking to grow horizontally (I’m assuming most of you aren’t.)
With those two questions, it’s very easy to walk into the produce section of any store and answer yes. Vegetables and fruit nourish us and are necessary for life due to their vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient content. Move into the meat and fish section, and again you can answer yes to those questions. Meat, fish, and eggs offer us excellent sources of protein and fat-soluble vitamins. My preference is always free-range and pasture-raised versions of these foods, but look for antibiotic-free and hormone-free options if you don’t have free-range or pasture raised available to you.
Keep walking through the store, and other items start to become more vague. You’ve already got produce and meat in your cart. These are the most nutrient-dense foods available in the store. Walk through the bread section. Unfortunately, compared to the foods in your cart, even the multi-grain breads don’t stack up nutritionally. And they definitely aren’t needed to maintain life. Now move into the aisles where the packaged foods are. Unless you are walking through a health food store there is very little in those aisles that is needed to maintain life or that can be called a nutritious substance. Look on the nutritional label on the back! Don’t be fooled by what you see there. The vitamins listed there are often synthetic vitamins that have been added to the product. Synthetic vitamins can’t be used by the body in the same way that those occurring naturally in food can, so those numbers don’t give you an accurate picture. Now look through the ingredient list. How many words do you recognize as being food. I’m always a bit shocked looking at ingredient lists.
If you are lucky, you’ll stumble across a few items that meet the criteria to be considered food. You might find some raw nuts, a natural almond butter, some raw honey or maybe a soup or stew that was made locally.
One really easy way to help you determine if your food is still food is to ask yourself, “Could I hunt this or go out into nature and gather it?” Step into the shoes of your distant ancestors (no, they wouldn’t actually have had shoes) and look around to see what nature has provided us: fish, game, eggs, greens, berries, root vegetables, nuts and seeds, and seasonal fruit. Now that’s REAL FOOD!
Happy, Healthy Eating!