The definition of food is: ‘Material that contains essential nutrients, which are assimilated by an organism to produce energy, stimulate growth and maintain life.'
Sugar is not a food. Chemicals are not food. Preservatives are not food.
They lack essential nutrients.
Is it any wonder that these substances are linked so many issues in our world from diabetes to obesity to sleep deprivation to cases of Attention Deficit Disorder?
What are the benefits of avoiding processed foods and instead, opting for real food? Well, a lot actually. Below, I will outline 3 BIG reasons to consider eating real food for your overall health.
1. You feel much more satiated.....all the time
If you eat a lot of processed/packaged foods, odds are that you feel hungry a LOT. And that's not just your metabolism or by chance - processed foods are actually CREATED with this in mind.
Your 'bliss point' (the point at which you enjoy foods the most) is researched, studied and has employees ('food scientists') dedicated to create the greatest amount of 'crave'.
One of the most disturbing targets in the 'bliss point' research are kids.
Lunchables, for example, are a hit with kids around the US. However, these highly processed, sugar/salt/unhealthy fat-filled 'non-food' lunches were first formulated for addiction. The former CEO of Philip Morris (owner of Oscar Meyer) was quoted as saying "when you take apart a Lunchable, the most healthy part is the napkin." Each tray contains highly processed foods to be able to have a shelf life of 2+ months.
2+ months should be your FIRST indication that this is NOT. REAL. FOOD.
Not to mention, the average Lunchable contains 13 teaspoons of sugar and more sodium than most kids should consume in a day.
Reason # 2: You feel hungry all the time if your daily intake includes processed foods because they contain refined carbohydrates.
Ever heard the term 'simple carbs' or 'complex carbs?' Processed carbs are called 'simple carbs because they are quickly broken down in your digestive system. What's the issue here? This quick breakdown leads to quick blood sugar level increase and insulin spikes. Quick digest (aka: quick burn) means quick to hunger again VERY shortly after consumption of the simple carb. Which can lead to over consumption. Imagine - if a majority of your food (the Standard American Diet) is made up of processed foods - where this will lead.
Nutrient-dense food (aka: real food) by contrast, are foods that are full of micronutrients such as minerals, vitamins, amino acids and more. Cooking foods like nutrient-rich green veggies in healthy-fat oils like coconut oil topped with amino-acid rich grassfed steak will help you stay satiated longer becuase of the higher healthy-fat content and higher nutrient density.
Yes these foods are more calorcially dense - but what this leads to is your body wanting to consume less because it feels more satiated. And it is getting essential nutrients it needs to function optimally!
2. your sleep will vastly improve - And Thus, Your health
I am notably called the 'sleep fanatic' by many friends and family and have even written a very detailed post here about the incredible health benefits of sleep.
Why? Well, Contrary to popular belief - calories and exercise are only a FRACTION of the 'health' equation. Without adequate sleep, your body will suffer in the health department - more than you realize.
This is why when people ask me what steps to take to start their health journey, my first answer is always 'Get 7-9 hours of sleep a night' followed by'focus on nutrient-dense foods.'They go hand-in-hand.
When sleep deprived, a down regulation of the hormone leptin occurs (the hormone responsible for telling your body you are full) and an increase in the hormones ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and cortisol (the stress hormone). Another hormone at play is insulin which is responsible for regulating blood sugar in the body.
New studies from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center show that sleep deprivation leads to insulin resistance (when insulin becomes less able to lower levels of sugar in the blood - a characteristic of type2 diabetes and pre-diabetes). Basically, the more sugar/processed carbs we take in, the more our pancreas produces insulin and the more our body becomes resistant to it - thus leading to insulin resistance.
When sleep deprived, people are more prone to consume foods higher in sugar and their bodies are less able to lower the levels of blood sugar in the body. Consumption of these sugary foods also cause fatigue and sluggishness that can affect your daily routine as well as your sleep cycle.
So how exactly do nutrient-dense foods help sleep?
If lack of sleep = #hormonewars then adequate sleep = #hormonehealth
The building blocks of hormones:
These building blocks are found in real, nutrient-dense, whole foods. Healthy hormone production also relies upon essential vitamins and nutrients that real-foods contain and processed foods are devoid of.
Sex hormones are highly dependent on healthy sources of saturated fat (like coconut oil) and cholesterol (ever wonder why human breast milk is called Colostrum?) for regulation. Ladies - we all know when our progesterone and estrogen is off - our sleep suffers (among other things!)
Consuming real foods helps tonaturally regulate our hormones, thus leading to less cravings, natural circadian rhythms better sleep! And all of that = better health.
3. your energy will skyrocket
How many of you LIVE on caffeine because you feel you just don't have energy? Energy drinks, coffee, energy shots, pre-workout, etc.
Hundreds of thousands of people are relying on caffeine in drink and supplement form to get them through their day simply because they lack adequate nutrients to supply them with energy! Don't believe me? Ask anyone you know who eats daily processed foods to cut all caffeine consumption and observe their energy throughout the day (crash and burn).
Carbohydrates, including refined sugars, are converted in to energy. BUT - theyrequire certain vitamins and minerals in order to be converted in to energy. Since refined sugars have been stripped of micronutrients - you end up with an energy deficiency.
Refined sugars found in processed foods are 'quick-burn' - meaning they cause a rapid rise in insulin levels followed by a 'crash' and feelings of sluggishness and lethargy (hello energy thief!)
Contrast this with consuming nutrient-dense, real-foods and you have nutrients present to convert in to energy. And sustainable energy at that! Foods like healthy fats, nutrient-rich proteins and antioxidant rich vegetables and starches FUEL our body and our energy naturally without the need of a stimulant to keep us going.
It's true that each macronutrient (protein, carbs, fats) play essential roles in our energy levels - but thesource matters.
Would you rather feel satiated longer, have long lasting energy and sleep through the night?
Then avoiding processed foods and focusing on real, nutrient-dense foods is your game!