Real Food Challenge

What’s new among the late-comers super healthy nutritional trends? Well, let’s have a deeper look at the Real Food challenge. This new trend, or philosophy as their proponents call it, is gaining more and more popularity worldwide, especially among American housewives, very much into healthy lifestyles.

It has little in common with veganism and vegetarianism and it is not actually something particularly new!It advocates a return to food conceived as REAL FOOD in capital letters: let’s say mainly traditional food, what we ate in the past when we were not surrounded by processed food, light food and snack bars! Basically what we were used to eat before we have morphed agriculture into a processed food industry where we take wheat, corn and maybe soya and either make it sweat with sugar or high fructose corn syrup, or make it savory with salt and spices.


As the American author and professor of journalism at the UC Berkeley graduate school of journalism Michael Pollan points out in his book “In defense of food”, most of what we are consuming is not food and how we are consuming it, watching tv etc., is not really eating. Instead of food we are consuming “edible foodlike substances” packaged with health claims which prove to be anything but healthy.

According to this philosophy Real Food is food, which truly nourishes producers, consumers, communities and the earth.  It is a food system–from seed to plate–that fundamentally respects human dignity and health, animal welfare, social justice and environmental sustainability.

Just to give you a concrete, real example taken from one of the numerous blogs regarding real food trend: think about milk consumption, “Have you ever had a glass of real milk? Are you sure about that?” they ask.

Milk bought in your local grocery store is either pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized milk harvested from conventional cows kept in confinement. These cows are not natural cows. They are highly-engineered freaks of nature. As recently as a century ago, a cow produced an average of two or three gallons of milk per day. Today’s conventional industrial dairy cow gives up to three or four times as much milk! What’s wrong with that, you ask. If science has helped us produce more milk per cow, then that means we can give more people milk for less money. That’s a good thing, right? Wrong. The increased milk yield comes at a cost. Not only does the milk produced from these cows contain an unnatural and disarmingly high amount of growth hormones (which in some studies have been linked to excessive tumor growth and cancer), but the cow herself is weak and disease-prone. Her milk is always laden with pus, and she is fed a steady stream of antibiotics to keep the sustained mastitis from overwhelming her system and killing her.


Raw milk, on the opposite, got a bad reputation in the 20’s when poor animal nutrition and dirty production methods led to increase epidemics of TB, infant diarrhea, undulant fever and other diseases. That’s when pasteurization (quick heat process designed to kill unpleasant bacteria and protect us against infectious diseases) was introduced. However, the flip side of this process is that heat alters milk’s amino acids lysine and tyrosine, making the whole complex of proteins less available; it promotes rancidity of unsaturated fatty acids and destruction of vitamins. Vitamin C loss in pasteurization usually exceeds 50%; loss of other water-soluble vitamins can run as high as 80%; the Wulzen or anti-stiffness factor is totally destroyed as is vitamin B12, needed for healthy blood and a properly functioning nervous system. Pasteurization reduces the availability of milks mineral components, such as calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and sulfur, as well as many trace minerals.

Instead, raw milk from healthy, pastured cows eating their natural diet of green grass has a lot of advantages. It contains lactic-acid-producing bacteria that protect against pathogens. It contains milk’s natural and full array of vitamins and minerals. It contains the enzymes your body uses to help digest it, easing your pancreatic load and preventing degenerative diseases. And, it comes rich with butter fat — good wholesome cream that I use to make fresh butter & cheese.

Here the 9-step rulebook:

  1. Whole foods that are more a product of nature than a product of industry
  2. Lots of fruits and vegetables (we recommend that you shop for these at your local farmers’ market)
  3. Dairy products like milk, unsweetened yogurt, eggs, and cheese
  4. 100% whole-wheat and whole-grains
  5. Seafood (wild caught is the optimal choice over farm-raised)
  6. Only locally raised meats such as pork, beef, and chicken (preferably in moderation)
  7. Beverages limited to water, milk, all natural juices, naturally sweetened coffee & tea, and, to help the adults keep their sanity, wine and beer!
  8. Snacks like dried fruit, seeds, nuts and popcorn
  9. All natural sweeteners including honey, 100% maple syrup, and fruit juice concentrates are acceptable in moderation

And then what we cannot not eat:

  1. No refined grains such as white flour or white rice (items containing wheat must say WHOLE wheat…not just “wheat”)
  2. No refined sweeteners such as sugar, any form of corn syrup, cane juice, or the artificial stuff like Splenda
  3. Nothing out of a box, can, bag, bottle or package that has more than 5 ingredients listed on the label
  4. No deep fried foods
  5. No “fast foods”

A major concern revolves around the topic of processed food and why we should avoid it.

Processed foods aren’t just microwave meals and other ready meals. The term ‘processed food’ applies to any food that has been altered from its natural state in some way, either for safety reasons or convenience. Processed foods aren’t necessarily unhealthy, but anything that’s been processed may contain added salt, sugar and fat. One advantage of cooking food from scratch at home is that you know exactly what is going into it, including the amount of added salt or sugar. However, even homemade food sometimes uses processed ingredients.


Ingredients such as salt, sugar and fat are sometimes added to processed foods to make their flavour more appealing and to prolong their shelf life, or in some cases to contribute to the food’s structure, such as salt in bread or sugar in cakes. This can lead to people eating more than the recommended amounts for these additives, as they may not be aware of how much has been added to the food they are buying and eating. These foods can also be higher in calories due to the high amounts of added sugar or fat in them. Furthermore, a diet high in red and processed meat (regularly eating more than 90g a day) has also been linked to an increased risk of bowel cancer. Some studies have also shown that eating a large amount of processed meat may be linked to a higher risk of cancer or heart disease.

…and also avoiding low-fat products.


The typical low-fat product tended to be high in carbs, might contain trans-fats and at the end of the day had a very similar calorie count to the original product. In fact when we eat foods high in carbs especially white refined ones, our bodies digest them more quickly. This can lead to blood sugar swings and cravings making it more difficult to control our overall calorie intake – which means that second or third ‘low fat’ biscuit starts to look very tempting! A diet too high in these refined carbs and sugars can be as unhealthy as a high-fat diet because it increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and causes high cholesterol levels. Quoting another time Michael Pollan: “We’ve gotten fat on low-fat products”.

It may seems too drastic and also quite difficult to implement this shift in our daily nutrition. Just to give you an idea, here you are the rule of thumb to get you started: “when at the grocery store, ask yourself if your great grandmother would have recognized what you’re putting in your cart as food”, or similarly, if you spot ingredients that you don’t recognize or are difficult to pronounce, chances are it’s not real food.

So then, have you been persuaded?

Claudia Viario


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