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With mass amounts of conflicting and changing nutrition information all around, it’s easy to feel like there’s no consensus on which foods are healthy. Eggs, for example, have gone through multiple cycles of being evil, benign, and even beneficial. We’ve blamed fat, sugar, and carbs, then turned around and touted keto diets, juice cleanses, and grain bowls. When it comes down to it though, the truth is simple. In fact, the best nutritional advice can be explained in a single sentence from one of Fitness Formulary’s inspirations and supporters, cardiologist Dr. Elizabeth Klodas (inspired by Michael Pollan).
What defines “real” foods?
Real foods are usually defined as foods with an ingredient list of one, like an apple. These foods are the kinds we’ve been eating since the beginning, and they are mostly unprocessed, additive-free, and nutrient rich.
The more real foods you incorporate into your diet, the lower your daily intake of added sugar, preservatives, and other harmful ingredients will become.
And, conversely, the more nutrients and fiber you will consume.
Eating real food is also a better choice for the planet, as it likely involves far less packaging and far more local food products.
How much is too much?
The answer to this question, of course, depends on a whole myriad of factors. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, it’s difficult to eat too much. When it comes to fats, grains, and rich high-calorie foods, eating “too much” can result in weight gain and chronic health conditions.
Why mostly plants?
Eating a diet that is primarily plant-based comes with a host of benefits. You will…
- Lighten up on portion control when it comes to many plants, for example you’ll never really be eating too many vegetables.
- Get phytonutrients. Vegetables, fruits, and whole grains are rich in many vitamins, minerals, and other good-for-us things like antioxidants.
- Increase your fiber intake, something that is non-existent in animal-sourced foods.
- As a beneficial side effect, you will also likely experience better digestion!
- Shrink your carbon footprint. Animal products require far, far more resources to produce than plant products. This makes plants a more efficient source of nutrition, since nutrients and calories aren’t lost in the conversion (plant -> plant eaten by animal -> animal eaten by human).
- Maybe even save money. As it turns out, animal products (especially meat) are very expensive, especially when compared with other protein sources like legumes. Beans and lentils can be purchased for a very low price in any bulk section, and generally cost $1.50/lb, while quality chicken usually starts at $5/lb.
- Meet your protein requirements, and likely for cheaper. As an example, one pound of ground beef gets you 65 grams of protein and 1,500 calories. In one pound of boiled lentils (much cheaper), you get 41 g protein and 516 calories.