There are a lot of terms thrown around the nutrition arena, and things can get pretty confusing.
My aim here is to bring things back to basics and highlight how, actually, nourishing ourselves should come from a very simple principle; real food.
When I talk about real food, I mean food as nature intended. As close to what was grown/raised as possible, with the least amount of processing or harmful additions such as additives and pesticides. We can also look at it as how our ancestors ate. Food from the earth or ocean, not from the factory (for the most part). Not only is this beneficial for our health, but, in my humble opinion, its also best for our planet too.
Before I go any further, I want to highlight that whenever I'm giving advice to anyone, everything I say comes with a massive dose of realism. I know what it's like to live modern family life. Convenience does sometimes win. And that's OK. But when we realise just how saturated our shops and homes are with highly processed food that doesn't just lack nutrients but also contains ingredients that, in my opinion, should not be in our food, we can start making a conscious effort to get a little bit more back to nature, one step at a time.
Our society is also saturated with dietary guidance that is funded and driven by food industry giants (think Coca Cola, Kelloggs, Nestle etc) as well as the pharmaceutical industry. Scientific papers are fraught with bias. Diving in to this is really quite eye opening and overwhelming, but let's not be blind to it, let's start a real food revolution. Its how I'm raising my family and I invite you to do it too.
Nutrition really is very individual, everyones bodies and needs are different, and they change at different life stages. However, as a general guide, here's some foods that I recommend:
Organic/local vegetables and fruits in season where possible (organic food is just food as it was before pesticides and herbicides were invented, and even after washing they are still found in our food, yikes). Many small, independent growers aren't certified organic but still use minimal or no pesticides.
Ethically, naturally raised meat - local and grass-fed if you can. Support your local farmers and butchers.
Raw dairy - dairy (milk, butter, cheese, cream) that is unpasteurised retains its enzymes and nutrients.
Organic dairy - getting your hands on raw dairy isn't always that easy (depending on where you live), so full fat organic dairy is still a good option.
Fermented foods - unpasteurised, live fermented foods contains lots of beneficial bacteria. Natural yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi are all great examples. Organic if possible.
Free range or organic eggs - eggs are absolutely loaded with nutrients and a great source of protein and fat.
Wild-caught fish and seafood - as opposed to farmed. Its a whole lot more nutritious (higher in omega-3s for example) and better for the environment.
Organic beans, pulses and wholegrains.
Natural fats - extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, olives, avocados, raw or grass-fed butter, ghee, animal fats such as lard and tallow. Please don't be afraid of these perfectly natural, stable fats. They provide a wealth of nutrients, are the building blocks for our hormones, and, unlike seed oils such as sunflower oil and rapeseed oil (that are widely pushed as being healthy and are in almost every processed food) they are very stable which means that they don't turn toxic when exposed to light, heat or oxygen. Extra virgin olive oil isn't as stable as the others listed, so is best not used in high heat cooking.
Organ meats such as liver, heart, kidney - these days its rare that we eat nose-tail, but organ meats are incredibly nutritious. You want the meat to be top quality and organic, considering liver is an organ of detoxification. If the thought of eating organ meat makes your stomach turn (like me!) you can get it freeze dried in taste-less capsules. I really rate the ones from Ape Nutrition. From a personal experience, I found my energy levels excelled when I started taking these.
Organic sourdough bread - made traditionally and without the additives that you find in supermarket bread.
Herbs and spices - loaded with anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant compounds and make food interesting!
Nuts and seeds - best to purchase in their whole form as the fats in them easily oxidise and become rancid.
It has taken me a good few years to adopt my current eating and food buying habits, and there's still plenty of things I'm working on. I'm continually learning (and often unlearning and relearning) and experimenting and discovering. Small tweaks each week or month make a huge difference over time.
Here's to loving real food :)