Often due to convenience or lack of inspiration, many of us fall into the trap of depending on processed food like ready meals or fast food. Whilst that burger and fries may taste good, the additives and preservatives they contain probably aren’t doing your health or your wallet a lot of good in the long-term. In contrast, a clean, healthy diet that focuses on fresh, natural foods provides nutrients in only a few ingredients. If you’re curious about the benefits of a simple diet, read on for advice on how it could help you.
What is a simple, natural diet?
Whether you call it clean eating or simply avoiding processed foods, the basic idea is to eliminate pre-prepared or refined products from your diet. Processed food, includes any food that has been altered from its natural state in some way. That means things like takeaways, snacks like crisps and ready meals are a no-no. Instead, aim to make homemade meals using unprocessed, whole foods like fruit, vegetables, proteins, whole grains and healthy fats.
The benefits of eating natural foods
As well avoiding processed foods which may contain added salt, sugar and fat, there are several reasons to opt for natural foods. These include:
- According to cholesterol charity Heart UK, eating food with too much saturated fat increases cholesterol levels. This includes foods like sausages, cakes, puddings, pastries, biscuits and pies. They recommend swapping saturated fat with healthy unsaturated fats to improve cholesterol levels. So go for whole grains, fruit and vegetables and plant-based foods like nuts, beans and seeds instead.
- In several scientific studies, foods like processed meats, fried foods, sweets and refined grains were linked to inflammation as well as an increased risk of heart disease. It was found that even when unhealthy ingredients weren’t added to processed foods, they were lacking many of the vitamins and minerals provided in natural, unprocessed products.
- Processed foods could cause weight gain over time. This could be because they take less energy to digest and absorb than natural, unrefined foods. In one study, healthy adults ate a 600 calorie meal with one group eating natural food whilst the other group ate processed food. The group that ate natural foods burned twice as many calories as they digested their meals.
- Eating homemade food is kinder to your bank balance. Cooking meals with fewer ingredients at home tends to be cheaper than eating out or buying supermarket ready meals. At home, you can save money and make several meals in batches to freeze and last you throughout the week. Also, any leftovers can be saved and reheated to eat another day.
- Simple food is quick and easy. When you’re hungry and in a hurry, grabbing something to eat can seem quicker than making yourself at home. In fact, whipping up a healthy salad, stir fry or heating up something you’ve made earlier can take mere minutes. What’s more, you don’t even have to leave the house.
- You’ll know exactly what’s on your plate. Some pre-packaged meals and foods are not what they seem. Unless you read the labels, you’d most likely be unaware of that many contain high levels of fat, salt and sugar. If you prepare and cook your own meals, the food you eat is no longer a guessing game.
- It’s easy to control food allergies and intolerances. If you or your family has a food allergy, you’ll understand the importance of avoiding ingredients that trigger symptoms. Managing food allergies is a lot simpler if you take control of cooking your own food in your own kitchen with ingredients you trust.
- Home cooking could be the key to managing your weight. According to one study, people who cooked most of their meals at home were found to eat less carbohydrates, sugar and fat than compared to those who ate out more often.
There you have it, next time you’re tempted by crisps or a stodgy pastry, remember that avoiding prepared foods and choosing fresh, natural foods could save you time, money and do wonders for your waistline.
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