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What Should I Eat?

Two commandments of nutrition By Christopher J. Stadtherr, MD The world of nutrition research is quite complex, riddled with politics and emotion that get in the way of a true understanding of what foods we should be eating to achieve optimal health as humans. As a result, there is endless debate on what constitutes a proper human diet. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are two simple rules for nutrition.

Eat real food. The concept of real food is quite simple—so simple, in fact, that nobody had to even think about it just a couple generations ago, when families largely produced their own food. The majority of their food came from either their own labors or that of another local farmer.

Now, however, we are surrounded by a terrible food environment peddling highly processed food-like items in a deceptive manner. What is real food?

• Real food comes from the land. Real food is minimally processed, as close to its original form as possible. There may be minimal processing, such as butter or cheese being made from cream. Real food can also be preserved with curing or canning. It does not come from a manufacturing plant/factory.

• Real food is plants and animals. Real food is whole food. There are no chemicals, additives, dyes, binders, emulsifiers, colorants, or artificial preservatives … etc. in real food.

• Real food is recognizable as food. If you can’t tell by looking at a food item where it came from, it’s not real food. Another rule of thumb: If your great-grandmother doesn’t recognize it as real food, it’s not.

• Real food IS ingredients; it does not HAVE ingredients. Thus, if there is a nutrition label, especially with a list of ingredients, use caution.

• Real food spoils. Real food does not have shelf life. Real food must be procured and consumed within a period of several days, unlike the legions of packaged, ultra-processed items throughout the aisles of the supermarket.

Eat only when you’re hungry. We are blessed with an abundance of food in our modern culture, but that doesn’t mean that we should be eating to match that supply. We all know that it’s easy to overeat. Eating is pleasurable and is often the centerpiece of social gatherings. It’s important, however, to learn to recognize the difference between true physiologic hunger and hunger driven by emotion. Only then can we truly get a grasp on our relationship with food to set us on a path to a healthy lifestyle.

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