I recently read the book Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck. As part of trying to be frugally green, as well as through a lot of the blog reading I do, I came across the concept of eating a whole foods, or traditional foods, diet.
This is the first book I’ve read on the subject, and I know I still have a lot (I mean A LOT) to learn. But, I wanted to share this book with you because I thought it was really good, it made a lot of sense to me, and it has inspired me to hopefully make some changes in the way our family eats in the coming months and years.
The book has specific chapters on dairy, meat, fish, fruits and veggies, and fats and goes into great detail about the difference between whole, real foods and the industrialized foods that have become standard in our diets.
She has done her research and is very thorough in her explanations of the health benefits, as well as the harmful health effects, of each of these categories of food. In some cases it is very eye opening and even stomach turning to read about the processes of industrialized food.
If you are looking for a reason to move away from eating industrialized, processed food, look no further. In fact, working on eliminating processed foods from our diet was one of my first goals after reading this book.
I was talking to my mom about this a little bit over the holidays and she said that you can’t know what to eat and what not to eat because the “experts” keep changing the rules on us. Nina does a great job of dispelling myths about everything from butter vs. margarine, to eggs, to saturated fat vs. trans fats in relation to overall health and specifically heart disease.
There is even an entire chapter on cholesterol, and while it got a little wordy for me at times, it was still really interesting to read because all I’ve ever known about cholesterol is what I hear on the pharmaceutical commercials, and I think they might have some kind of ulterior motive? Hmmmm…
She does also write a lot about evolution and the way that our ancestors ate and how we evolved in different ways because of our diets. While it was interesting to me to read about ancient human diets, I don’t necessarily believe in evolution.
So when she would go into an explanation for eating (or not eating) something based on evolution, I would just think about it through my understanding of God as Creator. That He would create us to eat things that are good for our bodies, and also give us, in His creation, food that would supply the nutrition we need to keep us healthy.
In fact, this is one of the reasons that the way of eating this book promotes makes so much sense to me. In the creation account in Genesis, it says that God gave every seed-bearing plant and all trees with fruit to Adam as food (Gen. 1:29-30). When God created the world and created man, he also created the food that man would need to live.
In this book, Nina writes about how amazing it is that a cow needs nothing more than a patch of grass and can provide us with milk, cream, butter, yogurt, cheese and meat – all full of essential nutrients and protein.
I don’t believe it was by accident that cows are such efficient converters of grass and vegetation (which humans can’t eat), into quality fat and protein that are so good for us. It’s not magic, it’s the design of an awesome Creator.
God has given us the food that we need to keep our bodies healthy and strong – real, whole foods. Nina’s definition of real foods is two-fold: 1) Foods that are old, meaning we have been eating them for a long time, and 2) Foods that are traditional, meaning the way we used to eat them. (pg. 1-2)
The only food she didn’t write much about, that I wish she did, was sugar. She talks about refined sugar as “the most villainous” of industrial foods, but doesn’t go into much detail or research about why, or what to eat in place of refined white sugar. I guess I’ll have to look elsewhere for that information.
At the end of the book Nina gives her advice for eating a real, whole foods diet, and this is what will be motivating me as I seek to make changes in what we eat at our house.
- Eat generous amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables daily
- Eat wild fish and seafood often
- Eat meat, game, poultry, and eggs from wild, pastured and grass-fed animals often
- Eat full-fat dairy foods, ideally raw and unhomogenized from grass-fed cows, often
- Eat only traditional fats, including butter, lard, poultry fat, coconut oil, and olive oil
- Eat whole grains and legumes
- Eat cultured and fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, miso and sourdough bread
- Eat unrefined sweeteners such as raw honey, evaporated cane juice, and pure maple syrup in moderation –Real Food, pg. 273
There is much, much more to the book than what I could cover here. I highly encourage you to read Real Food if you are at all interested in where our food comes from, what’s actually in some of the stuff that’s sold as “food”, and how the food we put into our bodies affects our health and well being.
As I said, I am just beginning to learn about real, whole foods and will probably not be posting a lot about it because there is still so much that I don’t know about, and so much that we don’t follow as far as eating goes at our house yet.
I just wanted to share this great book with you. I encourage you, if this whet your appetite for more information on whole foods to seek out real food blogs. There are tons out there, but the one that I have been reading and loving lately is Kitchen Stewardship. She has a great series she just started called Real Food Face-Off where she’s interviewing different real food bloggers. I’m sure you can find a blog you’ll want to follow through this series.