We highly recommend reading some books that are more thorough on the subject. There are so MANY helpful resources that we won’t list them all here, but one of the best resources for why we should eat a Real Foods diet is Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, by Dr. Weston A. Price. If you have the time and inclination, this book is highly recommended. The pictures alone are worth it.
Another very important book to consider reading cover to cover is Sally Fallon’s, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF), Nourishing Traditions. This cookbook features over 500 recipes and well-researched information about why traditional foods and methods are what our bodies need for optimal health.
Here are the bare-bones basics without any lengthy explanations, a crash course of sorts, just some simple rules to follow. You can decide to what extent you will follow these rules, but if you follow them 100%, you will be doing a great deal for your health. Some people cannot follow them completely for various reasons, be it food allergies/intolerance or food budget difficulties. The best advise is to do as much as you can, and above all else, use your own reason and research to determine the best course for yourself in your circumstances.
What is a Real Food Diet?
- Eat good amounts of saturated fats like coconut oil, butter and ghee. Animal fats like lard, tallow, duck and goose fat are also good, but only if they come from animals raised in open pastures. Acceptable vegetable fats are olive oil, avocado oil, nut oils and flax oil and should be reserved for drizzling over foods, but not used in cooking.
- Eat moderate portions of animal protein like beef, lamb, game, poultry, organ meats (liver, kidney, etc), raw dairy, eggs, wild-caught fish and shellfish. It’s okay to eat the fatty-cuts! Protein should always be accompanied by fat. Always seek out the best quality meat possible, preferably from animals raised on pasture who are grass-fed. If this is not possible, only consume lean cuts of conventional meats and supplement your fat with extra coconut oil, butter or ghee.
- Eat a moderate amount of vegetables either cooked or raw and always accompanied by fat. Vegetables may be fresh, frozen or fermented, but should not come from a can. Try to choose organic, local and seasonal produce whenever possible.
- Save or acquire beef, lamb, fish and poultry bones and shellfish shells to make mineral rich bone broths and stocks to consume on a regular basis.
- Consume lacto-fermented vegetables (relish, sauerkraut, pickles) and fruits (chutneys, preserves) as condiments with every meal if possible but at least regularly. Fermenting provides excellent nutrients and much needed probiotics.
- Eat low to moderate amounts of fruits and nuts. Try to limit fruits to one serving a day. Nuts should always be prepared by soaking overnight in salt water and then dehydrated to crispiness before consuming to reduce phyates (see preparing grains below for more info), which are anti-nutrients. Consider cutting out fruits and nuts completely if you are trying to lose weight or heal from a disease or disorder. Try to choose organic, local and seasonal produce whenever possible.
- Properly prepare any grains (wheat, rice, oats, corn, millet, etc.) and legumes (pinto beans, navy beans, chickpeas, etc.) before consuming by soaking in a warm acidic mixture of 1 tbsp of acid (whey, lemon juice, vinegar) to 1 cup of grains, or in lacto-fermented dairy (yogurt, buttermilk, kefir) for 12 to 24 hours or longer–the addition of rye flour to the soaking is recommended as it contains a lot of phytase. Keeping your soaked grains or flours on a heating pad will reduce phytates more. Another option to the previous soaking method for grains and legumes may be sprouting to increase nutrients. For breads (even gluten-free breads), flours should be soaked, sprouted or fermented (sourdough) before baking. For wheat, try to choose a more ancient form or relative like Emmer, Einkorn, Spelt, Kamut, or Rye whenever possible. (see Living with Phytic Acid for research). It should be noted that it’s not necessary to avoid phytic acid completely, just reduce it as much as possible.
- Cut out all partially-hydrogenated and hydrogenated vegetable oils including, but not limited to: Crisco, Canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil and safflower oil.
- Use unrefined, whole, natural sugars sparingly. Options include Rapadura, Sucanat, honey, Grade B Maple Syrup, Date Sugar, Blackstrap Molasses, Coconut (Palm) sugar and Stevia powder. Eliminate highly processed and artificial sweeteners including, but not limited to, white and brown cane sugar, “raw” sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, aspertame, and sucralose (Splenda).
- Consume a moderate amount of raw, grass-fed and pasture-raised dairy as well as fermented grass-fed dairy (cultured butter, yogurt, kefir, sour cream, etc). If it is not possible to consume raw dairy, it’s best just to skip it altogether, or at least only consume organic, non-homogenized fermented dairy. Obviously, if you’re allergic, don’t consume.
- Limit soy to only fermented versions. Eliminate tofu, unfermented soy sauce, soy lecithin, textured vegetable protein, powdered soy protein, etc. Safe soy products include miso, natto, tempeh, shoyu and tamari.
- Consider supplementing with fermented cod liver oil and high-vitamin butter oil. These are both excellent sources of vitamins A and D, both vital nutrients.
- In general, if it’s in a box or a can, don’t eat it, even if it’s labeled as “organic.” Organic junk food is still junk food. Generally, if it has more than five ingredients or there are ANY ingredients on the label that are unrecognizable as food, then don’t eat it. Avoid additives, artificial and synthetic ingredients, colors, and flavors. Remember: Food, not nutrients.
- Eliminate caffeine. Sad, I know. If you can’t kick the coffee and chocolate, keep them minimal. Get the highest quality possible. Only consume raw cacao or bittersweet/dark chocolate. Watch out for soy lecithin!
- Consume some foods minimally cooked and even eaten raw, this includes meat and egg yolks. Avoid using the microwave to cook food and keep grilling to a minimum.
- Cut out the plastic and aluminum from the kitchen. If at all possible use only stainless steel, cast iron, glass and stone for all your kitchen uses.
- Don’t over exercise. Acceptable exercise may be low impact (walking, gardening, house work, TTapp), short and intense workouts (HIIT, sports games, etc.) or stretching (Yoga). Avoid long cardio routines.
- Get plenty of sleep, play outside in the sunshine (for vitamin D production), smile, laugh, explore, relax, and enjoy your life.