Until quite recently, ‘healthy’ shopping meant shopping in a health food store, sometimes called a natural foods store. Now, however, most major supermarkets have extensive health foods and organics sections. This shows that the demand for these products is way up; healthy eating and natural foods is finally going mainstream! While this is a good thing, it also means more choices, which can be confusing, especially if you are new to the field.
Importance of Healthy and Natural Foods
While it’s not my job to tell you where to shop, you may want to familiarize yourself with a well-stocked health food store and do most of your shopping there for a while. You may be tempted to stick with your supermarket, thinking it’s more convenient (such as for nonfood purchases) and cheaper. This can be true, but a store that specializes in natural foods can be an easier way to get yourself comfortable with the many choices in this realm. Furthermore, you will not be tempted by the vast amounts of unhealthy foods sold by the truckload at regular supermarkets! Once you are more familiar with natural foods and know what you are looking for, you can always price shop and return to the regular markets.
Healthy, Natural and Organic: what’s in a name?
First of all, if you want to eat healthy, and help you in losing you’re going to have to start reading ingredient labels, as dull and time-consuming as this can be. You don’t really have to spend a lot of time going over every line of an ingredient list; you can quickly learn to ‘speed read’ and learn what to watch for.
When you start shopping for natural foods, you will quickly learn that many foods are labeled ‘natural,’ ‘all natural’ and ‘organic.’ These can be tricky to even the most savvy shopper. ‘All natural’ simply means that the product does not contain ingredients deemed ‘artificial’ by the FDA. Such products can still contain lots of ingredients you may want to avoid or limit such as excessive sugar or salt, the two biggies. If a product has the world ‘natural’ on the package but doesn’t say ‘all natural,’ be careful. It might very well have a combination of natural and artificial ingredients, which means it’s not all natural foods.
What is Organic Food?
‘Organic’ is even trickier, as there are various standards used to allow this description. In general, however, organic means that no harmful pesticides were used in the creation of the product. In the case of vegetables or fruits, it means that they weren’t sprayed with such chemicals. In the case of dairy or meat, it means the animals were fed on an organic diet. ‘Organic,’ like ‘all natural’ doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good for you. Organic products can and often do contain large quantities of sugars and sodium. More on this later.
In general, it’s a good idea to buy as much all natural, preferably organic diet, though an all organic diet can be difficult and expensive to adhere to; there is no need to be a purist. This is not as hard as it might sound, especially now, when so many companies are clamoring to meet the demand for healthier products. As we will see in the next chapter, the challenge is not so much in finding healthy products as in avoiding unhealthy ones!
As a rule, ‘all natural’ and organic are the minimum standards to look for when shopping for natural foods and for losing weight. That is, if products do not meet one or both of these standards, they probably are not very healthy. On the other hand, just because they do meet these standards doesn’t mean they are great for you. There are other things to look for, which I’ll go into later
Natural foods for Losing Weight
I’ll conclude with some thoughts about the whole natural foods concept for losing weight. To some, it’s a gimmick. People might point out that many ‘artificial’ ingredients are not necessarily unhealthy. After all, we are supposedly protected by law against anything that is toxic or seriously bad for us right? This is debatable, and a whole book could be written (and many have been!) on this topic. However, I’ll give you my brief take on it.
True, the hard evidence is sketchy that eating foods that contain artificial colors or flavors or preservatives by the way, those are broad terms which encompass hundreds of possible additives will make you sick, make you gain , lower your energy or cause any other specific negative result. How many writers of natural foods manuals will admit something like that? But seriously, my attitude is, why take chances? In many cases, the evidence is controversial that is, there are arguments both for and against many additives. Furthermore, many of these additives are relatively new, especially when measured against the many millenia of human history.
Natural Foods Improve Health
Mainstream scientists might argue that since lifespans are longer today than, say, a hundred or thousand years ago, that proves that our present ‘junk food’ diet can’t be so bad. I wouldn’t be so sure. There is also evidence that many degenerative diseases (cancer, heart disease, diabetes) are actually becoming more prevalent now. Also, what about the rise in maladies such as obesity, autism, ADD and many so-called mental illnesses such as depression and bi-polar disorder? Think of all the foods and drugs that you hear about years after many people have already been made sick by them that are pulled from the shelves, followed by lawsuits against the company that made them.
My guess is that, since you reading this, you are already inclined towards eating a natural foods diet, so I won’t spend any more time preaching to the choir.