Why “real food” is better than nutrition pills
We all struggle with it. Don’t tell me you don’t.
The frenetic pace of modern life, the feeling that there aren’t enough hours in a day, the awareness that we should eat well to sustain our busy lives – contrast with the practicality and convenience of takeaways and so-called ‘junk food’.
More of us than ever are battling the bulge (62% of UK adults are classed as overweight or obese, versus 53% twenty years ago, according to Government statistics). Here at Currency UK, not a day goes by without a water-cooler conversation about the latest fad diet, or celebrity food craze. As with most companies based in the City of London, days consist of rush-hour commutes, breakfast on the move, al-desko lunch, and evenings spent recovering from the hectic day with a convenience food dinner.
The “experts” tell us we should cook fresh, healthy meals every day to ‘tick the boxes’ of our daily nutritional needs – but who’s got time for that?
The food supplement industry is bigger than ever – worth a whopping $26.42 billion in 2015 and expected to reach $278 billion by 2024. Plugging the nutrient gaps with pills and other supplements makes sense, right? Surely a more focused and sustainable way to ‘tick all the boxes’ (while avoiding the unhealthy bits) is the way to go?
Is “real food” really as important as the experts say, or is it perfectly feasible to consume all the important nutrients we need to survive and thrive, in pill form? We decided to take a dip into the complex world of food nutrition in search of a compelling reason why “real food” is the way to go.
We found five.
Reason 1 – Real food is more satisfying
For the purpose of this article, let’s pretend that “real food” is anything, well…real. So, anything that could reasonably be classed as ‘food’, since the opposing argument is for nutritional pills and engineered supplements.
The enjoyment and satisfaction we derive from what we eat is a critical part of a healthy diet. In fact, an office straw poll of pseudo-dieters (look it up) suggests that we can only chow down ‘light’ foods and tasteless supplements for so long. Becoming bored with the taste of diet food is one of the main reasons people cite for giving up on a diet, according to research conducted for the TV network, ABC News.
It’s the combination of protein, fats and carbohydrates that causes the taste-buds to tingle, so by going for real meat, real produce, and real baked goods, you’re feeding your body much more than just the micronutrients it needs.
Consuming real, unprocessed food isn’t the only answer – getting a good variety of foods in your diet is equally as important. We all know that eating the same foods over and over can grow old quickly, which sends us reaching for something naughty in subconscious rebellion. Including a variety of different foods in your diet is a healthy habit to get into. There are hundreds of different “real food” options, including a wide variety of meat, fish, dairy, vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, whole grains, and seeds.
Our advice is to make a point of regularly trying some real foods that you’ve never eaten before – don’t let your taste buds settle or stagnate. Shock them with foods that look or sound interesting, like chia seeds, organ meats, kiwi, kefir, and quinoa – they’ll thank you for it (if they could talk).
Thankfully, real food tastes delicious, and so the wonderful flavour of fresh, unprocessed and colour-rich food is undeniable. Once your taste buds get acquainted with real food, processed food and takeaways simply cannot compare.
Reason 2 – Real food is more nutritious
According to research conducted by the American Medical Association, it is generally best to get your vitamins and minerals naturally from foods, rather than nutritional supplements. There are exceptions, such as vitamin D, which should come from controlled sun exposure, and two B vitamins. According to the study, between 10% and 30% of older people don’t properly digest and absorb natural vitamin B-12 from real foods, explaining why B-12 supplements are often recommended to over 50s. The other exception to the ‘real food is better’ rule is vitamin B-9 (Folic acid), which is absorbed as much as 70% better by the body in supplement form, compared to naturally occurring B-9. This explains why folic acid is prescribed to pregnant (and soon to be pregnant) women.
Rest assured though, unprocessed animal and plant foods contain most of the vitamins and minerals you need for optimal health. For example, a single cup of broccoli or orange segments contains more than 100% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C. A single brazil nut provides all the selenium you need for an entire day – powerful stuff. Foods such as avocados, chia seeds, flaxseeds and blackberries are particularly high in fibre, the nutrient responsible for maintaining the digestive system and metabolic health. Obtaining fibre from real food is much better for you than taking a fibre supplement or eating processed food with added fibre.
Real food is packed with antioxidants and nutrients that support heart health, including healthy fats. In fact, unlike the trans fats found in vegetable oils and spreads, most naturally occurring fats are incredibly healthy. Take, for example, extra virgin olive oil – a great source of oleic acid that promotes heart health, and coconut oil – containing triglycerides, which have been shown to help with weight loss, according to a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Unlike supplements, it’s nearly impossible to overdose on most nutrients from unprocessed food.
Reason 3 – Real food is better for you physically, mentally, and fiscally
Newsflash – your digestive tract is riddled with bacteria. Thankfully, it’s good bacteria, but it needs to be supported by your diet. Many real foods function as prebiotics, which your gut converts into fatty acids. It’s these fatty acids that can help to control blood sugar and provide other health benefits.
Want to retain your youthful, radiant skin? Better stick to real food. In addition to promoting better overall health, eating real food nourishes and helps protect your skin from the inside out. Studies suggest that eating more vegetables, fish, beans, and olive oil may help reduce wrinkles, loss of skin-elasticity and other age-related skin changes.
Want to keep your own teeth? Better stick to real food. The sugar and refined carbohydrates in processed foods promote dental decay by creating an environment for bacteria to thrive. Green tea has also been shown to protect tooth enamel. One study found rinsing with green tea significantly reduced the amount of erosion that occurred when people drank soda and brushed their teeth vigorously. How someone came to hypothesise this idea is anyone’s guess, but you can’t argue with science, right?
Want to maintain a healthy mental state? Better stick to real food, because the foods you consume affect your mood and emotions. The high you feel after eating processed foods high in sugar is often followed by a sluggish and sustained crash, severely affecting your mood. Consider, also, that a dieting mentality makes you focus only on the number on the scales – which isn’t a healthy way to live. Focusing on getting the right nutrition is a much healthier, more sustainable, and enjoyable way to live.
Anti-dieters will tell you that real food is more expensive than processed food, and in some ways, this is true. A 2013 analysis of 27 studies from 10 countries found that eating healthier food costs about £1.20 more than processed food per 2,000 calories. Consider the big picture, however. In the long run, this difference is minimal compared to the cost of managing chronic lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and obesity that a poor diet causes. Back in 2012, a US study found that people with diabetes spend 2.3 times more on medical supplies and health care than people who don’t have the condition.
So, real food might be more expensive in the short-term, but cheaper in the long-run because junk food costs you twice – food for thought.
Reason 4 – Real food is best for fat loss
There is a wealth of information available that suggests that a high intake of processed foods leads to overeating – thought to be caused by the sugars and flavourings commonly found in these types of foods. Research suggests that eating sugary foods increases your risk of obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease and heart disease. By contrast, real food doesn’t contain these harmful elements.
According to the International Diabetes Federation, more than 400 million people have diabetes worldwide. That number is expected to surpass 600 million within the next 25 years. Eating a diet high in fibrous plants and unprocessed animal foods can help to reduce blood sugar levels in people with diabetes and people who are at risk of developing the disease.
Even though fruit contains sugar, it’s also high in water and fibre, so it’s much less concentrated than the sugar found in fizzy drinks and processed foods. Once your body adjusts to eating whole, unprocessed foods, the cravings for sugary foods become less frequent and can even disappear altogether, because your taste buds adapt.
Real food contains antioxidants that help to balance the free radicals that damage your body’s cells. They are found in all real foods, especially plant foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and legumes. Fresh, unprocessed animal foods also contain antioxidants, but their levels are generally much lower than in plants.
Reason 5 – Real food is better for the environment
Take a walk around your local supermarket and observe the main difference between the fresh food aisles (fruit, vegetables, meat, fish) and every other aisle in the store. You will quickly see that the amount of packaging used in the latter is striking, and worrying. The UK destroys 170m tonnes of packaging waste every year, which is having a significantly detrimental impact on the environment.
With the world’s population steadily growing, so does the demand for food. Producing food to feed several billion people is taking a huge toll on the environment, mainly due to increased fuel needs, greenhouse gases and all that packaging that ends up in landfills.
The latest science suggests that developing sustainable systems based on real food could help to improve the health of our planet by reducing our energy needs, and decreasing the amount of non-biodegradable waste that we produce – something I’m sure we would all subscribe to.
Now, we’re not anti-supplement per se – but the benefits of “real food” are compelling enough that the whole Currency UK office is sold on the concept of ‘living real’.
So, if you are importing, exporting, or involved in any part of the “real food” production process – you have our unwavering support. Here at Currency UK, we could save you up to 4% on international money transfers to help increase your profit margin – because after all, the planet and its inhabitants need you.