One of the best things you can do to improve your health is to eat real food. But what does that mean? Real food comes from nature, spoils over a reasonable amount of time, is minimally processed and contains only food as ingredients.
One research study showed that you actually burn twice as many calories digesting minimally processed foods compared to highly processed foods! (1)
Ideally, a pure food is one you’d find in nature – a peach, corn on the cob or an avocado. Pure foods don’t typically contain ingredients, they are the ingredient.
Minimally processed foods may contain added ingredients like sugar, salt and fats to give them more flavor and extend shelf life. These foods may also contain some artificial ingredients and preservatives. You can find many convenient options in this category by checking the ingredients. The label should be short with ingredients you recognize and can pronounce.
Highly processed foods no longer resemble their original form in nature and often contain several artificial ingredients like trans fats, food coloring and preservatives. Highly processed foods also tend to contain excessive amounts of salt and sugar. These foods usually taste good and have a long shelf life but tend to provide little nutrition.
Barr SB and Wright JC. Postprandial energy expenditure in whole-food and processed-food meals: implications for daily energy expenditure. Food Nutr Res. 2010 Jul 2;54. doi: 10.3402/fnr.v54i0.5144