In today’s world, many ask…what is Real Food? Well, this may be a difficult question to answer if we look at what has been considered “food” within the last 50 years or so. The answer may surprise some people or scare others. The reality is, to define what real food really is, we need to start by defining what real food is NOT. Real food is not: processed carbohydrates, refined sugar, industrial seed, corn and vegetable oils, processed, packaged and refines foods, improperly prepared cereal grains, processed soy products, sodas, processed fruit juices, artificial coloring and sweeteners. The list goes on and on… Just look around in today’s local grocery stores. Over 75% of today’s stores are comprised of the list above in one way or another. This is why answering the question on real food can be so confusing. It’s no secret that we’re in a health epidemic. We have just simply moved away from eating real food. Food which naturally nourish our bodies, supply us with the proper nutrients required for a healthy and sustainable life.
Within this educational section, I will do my best in helping define what real food is. I will pull information from several well respected sources in our Health community, leaders in exercise, fitness and nutrition to share with you.
Where should our meats be coming from and HOW should the animals be raised & treated?
Is there REALLY a difference with grass-fed beef? Yes there is, and the effects on our health should not be underestimated.
Grass-fed & finished vs. Grain Fed or Feedlot raised Cows
What is the big deal with grass-fed beef anyway? Well, for one, the conjugated linoleic acid content (CLA) is scientifically proven to offer anti-cancer properties. (CLA) is a naturally occurring free fatty acid found mainly in meat and dairy products of Grass-fed Animals. Research has shown that grazing animals have 3-5 times more CLA than animals fattened on Grains in a feedlot. By simply switching from Grain-fed to grass-fed animals, you will greatly increase your intake of important CLA.
Another major difference between grass-fed and grain-fed animals is the Omega 3 / Omega 6 ratios. The importance here cannot be underestimated. omega-3 and omega-6 are known as “essential” fatty acids because the body can’t produce them itself. So, it’s up to us to incorporate them into our diet. The typical Western diet is rich in omega-6. (Think corn, soy, peanut, safflower, and other oils.) As for the prevalence of omega-3? Not so much. (Think fish, flax, algae, walnuts, and animal products from Grass-fed sources. A pastured diet or Grass-fed diet results in a nearly 1:1 ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. What does a grain-fed ratio look like? Try as much as 30:1. A skewed ratio is a prescription for inflammation and possible precursor/risk factor for chronic disease. Omega 3’s are known to be Anti-inflammatory as omega-6 fatty acids are known to be pro-inflammatory. There’s no secret that we need to do all we can to lower inflammation in our bodies. By increasing our consumption of omega 3’s and lowering our omega 6 intake, we are well underway to lowering the damaging inflammation which cause disease. Omega-6, when left to its own devices, wreaks havoc, inciting and oxidizing LDL in the body (a real cholesterol threat). Lower ratios have been associated with higher bone density and decreased risk for diabetes, arrhythmia and heart disease.
Grain is not a rich source of Omega 3, so standard, grain-finishing practices cause the Omega 3 level to decrease dramatically.
Free-range , Cage-free & open pasture raised poultry: What does this all mean? It can be very confusing. What I have found to be the most important is that the poultry be raised in “Open Pastures”. What this means is that the poultry is eating what it should be, in open fields, roaming free, without being confined to cages and under the sunny skies. Why is it so important for our chicken, turkey and other fowl roam freely under the sun? Well, for starters, they are absorbing the ever important Vitamin D. Pastured means raised on grass but supplemented with grain-based feeds. The best pastured feeds contain flax seed though, so that improves the nutritional profile including the essential Omega-3 Fatty Acid. Even though they are supplemented, pastured chickens are still in a league all their own. “Free Range” birds are raised in huge chicken houses with doors that allow access to small outside pens that are nothing but dirt. All of the food and water is inside the building. Therefore “Free Range” birds are fed grain, lots of grain and virtually nothing but grain. Therefore in terms of nutrition, they are no different than any other bird sold in the super market.
The same can be said for organic chickens. Chickens that are not pastured but fed organic feeds are nutritionally exactly the same as mass produced Tyson chickens. Grain’s nutritional drawbacks are identical whether the grain is organic, GMO, natural, whole grain, or milled.
On the other hand, when we say “Pastured Poultry” or “Pastured Chickens” the birds were literally put on grass where they ate grass and bugs that ate grass. Either the birds are kept in very large, grass-covered paddocks where they roam at will, or they are in small pens and the pens are moved on a daily basis to fresh grass. Pastured birds will have grazed grass and eaten bugs (bugs that eat grass) while still being supplemented with a grain-based feed that includes flax seed. They are not 100% grass-fed, but they are nutritionally far better than any other poultry classification.
Wild Caught Fish: From our oceans, Lakes and rivers to our table for better nutrients . From both a nutritional and environmental impact perspective, farmed fish are far inferior to their wild counterparts:
Despite being much fattier, farmed fish provide less usable beneficial omega 3 fats than wild fish.
Due to the feedlot conditions of aquafarming, farm-raised fish are doused with antibiotics and exposed to more concentrated pesticides than their wild kin. Farmed salmon, in addition, are given a salmon-colored dye in their feed, without which, their flesh would be an unappetizing grey color.
Aquafarming also raises a number of environmental concerns, the most important of which may be its negative impact on wild salmon. It has now been established that sea lice from farms kill up to 95% of juvenile wild salmon that migrate past them.(Krkosek M, Lewis MA. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.)
Nutritional Differences: Omega 3 Fat Content FDA statistics on the nutritional content (protein and fat-ratios) of farm versus wild salmon show that:
The fat content of farmed salmon is excessively high–30-35% by weight.
Wild salmon have a 20% higher protein content and a 20% lower fat content than farm-raised salmon.
Farm-raised fish contain much higher amounts of pro-inflammatory omega 6 fats than wild fish.
Wild Fish Provide More Omega-3 Fats
wild fish were found to have a higher proportion of omega-3 fats in comparison to omega 6 fats than the cultivated fish. Wild fish were found to have 33% more omega 3 fatty acids than their farm-raised counterparts. wild caught fish contained approximately 33% more omega 3s than cultivated or farm raised fish
Antibiotic and Pesticide Use
Disease and parasites, which would normally exist in relatively low levels in fish scattered around the oceans, can run rampant in densely packed oceanic feedlots. To survive, farmed fish are vaccinated as small fry. Later, they are given antibiotics or pesticides to ward off infection.
Pastured pork: Why Pastured Pork?
So you might be asking, “What exactly is pastured pork and why should I be eating it instead of what I can buy in the grocery store?”
You hear a lot about “grass-fed and pastured” meat products these days and maybe you are a little confused. Sometimes it is hard to understand the difference between grass-fed and pastured. Is it 100% grass-fed? What is “pastured”?
The term “pastured” when referring to pigs, help minimize confusion. They do get the benefits of fresh air, sunshine and grass! Everything on the farm, from babies and their mothers to those ready for market, get the advantages of being raised on pasture.
Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E increase with pork that has been raised on pasture! With open pastures, The pigs spend their days outside enjoying the natural environment that God created for them. Pigs raised outdoors tend to stay healthier, not needing the low level antibiotics used in confinement situations, which in turn does lead to much lower stress levels.
All these: fresh air, sunshine, grass, exercise, no antibiotics and low stress, contribute to healthy pork which is naturally lean, yet delicious and flavorful! It’s important to have real “natural pork”! pigs you can see are raised in their natural environment, not in a confinement system and then sent off to have the meat minimally processed so that they may call it “natural pork”. The best thing to do is to get to know the farmer and their product!
Gluten: More and more are discovering personal challenges with Gluten and it’s negative effects to our health.
Healthy Fats: It’s like putting premium fuel in our bodies engine.
Let’s make one thing extremely clear from the beginning. All fats ARE NOT created equal. Fats are vital nutrients required by the body for both energy and the construction/maintenance of “structural” elements, such as cell membranes.
Although all fats to some extent contain both saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, they are generally categorized by levels of saturation:
Monounsaturated Fats: Monounsaturated fats are found in numerous oils, including olive oil, flaxseed oil, sesame seed oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, corn oil and peanut oil. Notice that we use the word “found” and not comprise. The fact is, these oils contain varying levels of monounsaturated fat. The rest is a mix of polyunsaturated and saturated. Olive oil, for example, contains about 75% monounsaturated fat, and canola 60%. By the way, these fats are also found in avocados and nuts. They’re granted approval (as much as any fat is in conventional wisdom) as a “healthy fat.”