Eat Real Food
Food should not just taste good, it should also make us feel good, not just the moment during or right after we are eating it, but for the days, weeks and months that follow. The desire for real, nourishing food is instinctual to us, and given the right tools, we will naturally be tempted by the inherent tastes found in the foods nature has provided us with: the inherent sweetness in vegetables and fruits, the density found in nuts, seeds and naturally occurring fats and oils, and the savoury tastes of animal proteins
A recent New York Times article explained how food manufacturers, restaurants and fast food chains are increasingly trying to cater to the demand for healthier food options in their products and on their menus. This is due to the increased demand from the public to decrease genetically modified ingredients and added sugars and unhealthy fats to our food supply.
As timely and positive of a move as this may be, processed or fast food options will never be better than healthy home-cooked meals. Preparing your own food is by far the best way to ensure you are eating the highest quality, most nutritious food. We are all able to tap into our ‘inner chef’, no special culinary training needed. A sense of adventure, a little knowledge and dollop of imagination can spark your cooking creativity.
Your first step is to reprogram your taste buds and retrain your brain to ditch those craving for the sugars and added fats you (along with the rest of us) have become an unwilling slave to. You can start by eating real, fresh, whole foods. Avoid food like substances, fake foods, processed, commercialized goods that are made in a plant rather than grow on a plant. You will notice these as they often come in convenience packages with enticing labels, deflecting from their sinister contents.
At first, this may sound difficult, or boring. I have some sure-fire methods to get you excited about eating real food and ignited about effectively fuelling your body, ditching all those added manufactured sugars and health-depleting fats.
Sautéing or roasting vegetables brings out their natural sweetness. Searing your animal protein, creating a nice brown crust, brings out the inherent flavours of the meat. Olive oil and grass fed, organic butter add wonderful savouriness and mouth texture to both. These types of good fats signal the brain that you are full, and keep you full, reducing the craving for a quick sugar fix.
The flavour of a meal can be further enhanced by the addition of fresh herbs just before serving. Cilantro, parsley, oregano, basil, dill and marjoram have unique tastes and aromas and come packed with phytonutrients (plant based nutrition)
Incorporating a good amount of healthy fats, like those found in avocados, coconut and tahini add that creamy, luscious texture found in many rich, tantalizing foods. You will increase the flavour of what you are making, and create a dish worthy of temptation, yet bereft of the added chemicals, additives and food-like substances.
Coconut aminos, balsamic vinegar, tomato paste, dried exotic mushrooms and umeboshi plum paste added to soups, stews, sauces and stir-fries provide that savory ‘umami’ flavor. This is what the Japanese call our 6th taste and is very satisfying to those salty/fatty cravings.
Spices that excite your taste buds, like cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, clove, ginger, and even cayenne or chipotle pepper powder are all extremely flavorful additions to a meal. Flavours that grab your attention help you focus on actually tasting our food rather than mindlessly gobbling it up. This is turn allows us to need less to feel satisfied.
Become accustomed to using some culinary essentials like real vanilla extract or vanilla bean or coconut butter. It is also wise to incorporate what you may consider common, every-day foods like lemons in some creative ways. For example, use lemon zest to add real zing to any meal!
Eating seasonal and local will ensure the best flavour. The succulence of a freshly picked vegetable or piece of fruit is no match for something that has travelled great distances on the back of a truck. Canned or packaged foods lose much of their ‘fresh’ taste and texture and often contain extra additives.
Digestion starts in your mouth with your saliva, which helps us taste all the unique, individual flavours of the foods we are eating. Dehydration may result in you not producing enough saliva, not allowing you to properly taste, enjoy and savour your food. Make sure you are well hydrated throughout the day.
Most medications interfere with your ability to both taste and smell (a large part of our taste is produced by aroma). Some can even cause you to have unpleasant or foreign tastes in your mouth. Check your medications and their side effects. Once eating more whole, real food becomes a part of your routine, you may require less of these medications as your body is given the tools to possibly learn to heal itself.
Probably one of the most important causes of improper taste perception is nutrient deficiencies. A lack of certain nutrients (especially zinc and magnesium) can greatly impact your ability to both taste and smell your food. Most of us living in Western societies suffer from nutrient deficiencies due to poor diet, environmental and lifestyle factors. Oysters, dark leafy greens and nuts and seeds are good additions to a real food eating plan. Working with your doctor can determine if an additional supplement is needed or if any further deficiencies exist.
If you would like more guidance in incorporating a real food eating plan into your lifestyle, or more assistance in how to break free of the hold sugars, unhealthy fats and manufactured foods have on your life, it is a smart idea to invest in the services of a professional, a coach, someone to walk you through the process, keep you accountable and on track when you need it, answer questions and deal with obstacles when they arise, and most important of all, be your cheerleader. After all, you, your health and your longevity are worth it!