Real food versus “stuff we eat”

I get lots and lots of questions about why some food items aren’t part of the Fast Metabolism Diet. In particular, lots of questions about packaged and prepared foods like “energy” bars, cereals, and supposedly “healthy” cookies. But my definition of food is simple: Food is something that was once alive and came from the land, sky or sea. If it doesn’t fit that basic definition, or if you’re not sure, then it’s probably better to skip it.

Foods should have a name that doesn’t sound like the answer to a chemistry exam.

Food has names like mango, avocado, chicken, steak, asparagus.

The other day, I flipped over a can of tomato soup — and found “monopotassium phosphate” on the label. Guess what that’s also used for? It’s an industrial fertilizer, an additive in cigarettes, and a fungicide. What’s it doing in SOUP?

Our commercial food industry uses all kinds of these chemicals in our food. These unpronounceable ingredients are used to add color, enhance visual appeal, and give items a shelf life long enough to outlast the zombie apocalypse. But to my mind, those foods are only fit for consumption by actual zombies.

Bottom line: If you scan the ingredients can can’t pronounce them, steer clear.

Real food was once alive.

That goes for our meats, fish, vegetables, nuts and fruits. If an ingredient was cooked up in a laboratory, it’s not food. If something that once started out as food has been  irradiated, genetically altered, atomically pulverized or has been messed with on a cellular level, it’s no longer food.

Chemicals, artificial sweeteners, fake colors and dyes, pesticides, paint thinners and preservatives are not food.

You should be able to spot real food in nature or on a farm. You can visit a cow. You can watch fish in a stream. You can grow carrots, or check out banana and coconut trees in the tropics. Good luck spotting monopotassium phosphate on your next vacation.

Hello, obesogens.

There’s a name for industrial chemicals that are found in, or used to manufacture our food: Obesogens. These ingredients mess around with your hormonal balance, and throw your body’s ability to metabolize fat out of whack. And they make you fat. Yet they’re in everything, including many of the “diet” foods you see lining the shelves at the supermarket. Again: Can’t pronounce it? Don’t eat it.

But the chemicals in food are safe, right?

Sure, those food additives, preservatives and pesticides have been judged safe by our government agencies. But “safe” doesn’t mean good for you. Your liver processes every morsel that passes your lips. But when the food you eat is full of chemicals, that’s a time-waster for your liver. Instead of turning real food into fuel your body can use, the liver has to try to break down obesogens. And when it’s overwhelmed? Your liver takes the easy route when it comes to metabolizing nutrients — it turns them into stored fat.

I am a nutritionist. I get emails, Facebook questions, texts and phone calls asking “can I eat this” and “can I eat that” from my clients. And honestly, if it’s a real food, the answer is almost always yes. But you’ll never hear me say yes to obesogens.