Mark Twain once said “The secret to success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside”
Lately I’ve seen the term “real food” floating around the internet and social media. I’ve heard comments stating, “no food served in restaurants is real food”, along with “anything processed isn’t real food”.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines food as “a material consisting essentially of protein, carbohydrate, and fat used in the body of an organism to sustain growth, repair, and vital processes and to furnish energy; also : such food together with supplementary substances (as minerals, vitamins, and condiments)”
Just because something is processed doesn’t make it any less real because everything at some point was processed. We don’t put live animals on our plates; they are harvested and processed into retail cuts before we consume them. We don’t walk out into the garden and eat from the plant (or at least we shouldn’t), we pick the produce (or someone does) and wash it before eating. These are all forms of processing.
I’ll admit, there is a lot of “junk food” out there. Some are full of unneeded sugars while some have twice the fat and carbohydrates that any individual should consume at one time. However, calling processed foods anything other than real food is extreme. Junk food or not, we are still obtaining nutrients of some sort from them, though they may not be nutrients we actually need, our bodies will still utilized a portion of the vitamins and minerals provided.
I was sitting at dinner with a coworker and he suggested the chicken breast he was eating wasn’t “real food”. This comment brought up some concern; do people think food isn’t real just because they don’t fully understand how certain items are processed?
The form of marination and curing meats that we practice today has been around for hundreds of years, using the same nitrites, phosphates and salts along the way. If anything, our food processing techniques have greatly improved, providing safer food products than in previous years and allowing processors to process these foods without losing valuable nutrients that were once lost.
Another example took place in a Subway restaurant while ordering a sandwich. When asked what kind of cheese I wanted the “sandwich artist” informed me that American cheese was not healthy because it was processed. I kindly replied, “Ma’am, all of your cheese is processed”. I received an immediate response from the sandwich artist of “no sir it’s not”.
Last I checked, cows don’t typically give us cheese straight from the udder. This brings me back to my original point; it doesn’t matter if it’s “All Natural”, “Organic” or “Conventionally raised” all cheese is processed along with almost everything that we consume.
Food processing not only allows us to provide customers with wholesome and nutritious sustenance but also allows food scientists and processors to ensure the safety of the food our customers are consuming.
So I ask you, what is your definition of “real food”?
Do you try to avoid highly processed foods? If so why?