The "Real Food Lifestyle"

If you follow my blog and receive Nutrilicious News you’ll know that I am all for Real Food. Guiding my clients back to Real Food is my mission, and that for me is a top priority before starting to worry about whether to eat gluten-free, Paleo, a vegetarian or vegan or even pegan diet. All of the above – if based on Real Food – have the potential to help us recover from chronic disease, get our energy back, and improve our general wellbeing. Conversely, all of the above have the potential to making us sick, too. It’s the Real Food aspect that counts.


nutritionist Southend-on-Sea Leigh-on-Sea

Vegetarian and vegan diets consistently achieve excellent health improvements, but it all depends: Bread, jam, chips, biscuits, ketchup, crisps, and fizzy drinks are all vegetarian or even vegan. You can’t argue with that, but a diet based on those foods is not healthy. I hasten to add that most vegetarians and vegans do not base their diets on the above and consequently are generally found to be in a better state of health than most omnivores.

You can buy ‘Paleo cookies’, ‘Paleo brownies’, and ‘Paleo pizza’, too, all dairy- and grain-free. But healthy? And how likely is it that our caveman ancestors, whose diet the Paleo Diet is fashioned after, consumed such things?

There are stacks and stacks of gluten-free foods in every supermarket’s health aisle and health food shops. Great! If you’re coeliac or suffer from non-coeliac gluten sensitivity or have are sensitive to wheat, you can eat those things without having to worry about them causing symptoms. But many, if not most, of these products are highly processed. Sugar and trans-fats are ‘gluten-free’ by nature, so they may well be in there. Many gluten-free products have a high glycaemic load and will spike insulin levels. That’s not healthy, however big it says ‘gluten-free’ on the packet, so bear that in mind.

Real Food is what matters.

 Our ancestral diets would have been very diverse. Some people lived by the sea, some in the mountains, some where it’s cold, some where it’s hot. In some areas, you’d find abundant plant foods at all times, in others hardly ever. And yet people have lived on a variety of local, traditional diets for thousands of years, and doing very well. Chronic diseases such as diabetes 2, heart disease or cancer were not their top killlers (but rather accidents, infection, violence, starvation). But you don’t even have to go back that far. Just ask your grandparents what they ate and you’ll find that it was mainly Real Food. While chronic illness was common then, too, the incidence was much, much lower than it is today. Shouldn’t that tell us something?   

Last week, a ‘damning’ report of the Public Health Collaboration UK made headline news. It’s available for download from the PHCUK website and is a great read. Do read it, it’s worth it. The PHC reacted to the recently unveiled ‘new’ Eatwell Guide as published by the NHS and British Dietetic Association. Among others, it compares the glycaemic load of two breakfasts: one that is in line with the Eatwell Guide, and one that is high in fat (and cholesterol), but low in carbohydrate, breaking all the rules of the Eatwell Guide. The former has a glycaemic load of 43, the latter of less than 1. Following the Eatwell Guide, the PHC argues, sets you up for obesity and diabetes.

Here’s one little snippet that says what I always say (and that’s why I copied and pasted it):


Although as humans we need a minimum amount of energy to maintain personal good health The Real Food Lifestyle does not recommend counting calories. Instead we recommend that individuals follow these three focuses for healthy living:

1. Eat real food, until you’re satisfied. These are foods that are naturally nutrient dense and are minimally altered from their natural state, which will nourish you and satisfy hunger.

2. Avoid fake foods, as much as you can. These are foods that have been highly- processed from their natural state with free sugars, highly-processed oils and fortified nutrients, which do not nourish you and will not satisfy hunger.

3. Be active every day, with an activity you enjoy. Whether it be a brisk walk up the stairs or a vigorous workout in an exercise class, it’ll help improve cardiovascular health, mood and sleep.

Of course there is controversy. The supporters of the official UK dietary guidelines deny the validity of the report and defend their views, but they are continuing to lose traction. Here's their response. (You may notice that the PHCUK Report contains 64 references. The rebuttal - while criticising the evidence used in the report, contains 0 references. We're just going to have to take their word for it.) The American authorities have accepted the evidence and removed their limit on fats. When will the UK catch up?

Another quote from the Report:

In light of this scientific evidence the Public Health Collaboration suggests that the UK stops recommending the avoidance of foods because of saturated fat content in order to focus on the consumption of food in its natural form, however much saturated fat it contains.

If you’d like to see what both sides have to say, here some links to the papers:

The Guardian, The Telegraph, and Michael Mosley’s opinion, also from The Telegraph.

And here some links to my own previous blog posts on the subjects in question:

Eat less, exercise more? – on the value of calorie counting

Fat? Sugar? Which is it? – a reading list
In this one, I collated a few books which nicely summarise the recent research on the low-fat debate and explain how it all went wrong.

Why balance blood sugar?

Vegetables are compulsory

Grandma didn’t need to know – Why our grandparents diets were much better than ours

There's loads more. Just keep reading!