What is real food?
Real food means food that is healthy, natural, of good quality, without additives and that has not been artificially processed. In general terms, the term real food may be associated with concepts such as natural, healthy, good and quality. Real food means quality raw materials, natural production processes and products without additives or other artificial ingredients. However, realfooding is more than just a term for healthy, natural products – it is a movement, a lifestyle.
The origins of realfooding
The decision to opt for quality food that is as natural as possible is not new, and nor is the knowledge that ultra-processed foods that contain additives, colourings and preservatives are not good for our health. It could be said that there has always been a sensitivity towards naturally, locally grown products, given that their benefits in terms of both flavour and health are unquestionable. However, over the last few decades, we have seen an increase in the consumption of ultra-processed and additive-laden foods, accompanied by the widespread use of new chemical techniques for food processing, the cheapening of ultra-processed foods and the endemic acceleration of life. Realfooding is the trend that aims to combat this pernicious trend by adopting lifestyles that are based on the most natural and healthy food possible.
Real food in Spain
As Spaniards, when we hear the Anglicism ‘realfooding’, we might be mistakenly think it is a movement that was born in and is only practised in English-speaking countries, but nothing could be further from the truth. Spanish nutritionist Carlos Ríos has implemented the realfooding movement in the country and has created a solid community around it both in social networks and in real life. In his Instagram account, which has more than 1.5 million followers, promotes healthy eating by sharing beneficial recipes and other nutritional tips. Ríos is not the only real food guru, confirming that the real food lifestyle is very much a reality in Spain.
The true meaning of “natural”
Natural food is a key aspect of real food, but what do we mean by this? Natural food is defined as any food item whose ingredients are unprocessed. In other words, for a food item to be natural, it cannot contain any artificial ingredients or food additives such as sweeteners, preservatives, colourings or flavourings. The meaning of the term natural is regulated in some countries in order to regulate food product labelling and to avoid an incorrect or misleading use of the term for commercial purposes. However, natural may easily be identified as any food item that comes from plants or animals to which nothing has been added during processing.
The importance of raw materials
For a product that has no added preservatives, colourings or chemical flavour enhancers to be good, it must necessarily be of very good quality. That is why we emphasise the importance of raw materials in the context of real food. At VitaSnacks, we pay special attention to the selection of the raw materials used for the production of all our products. We firmly believe that the quality of the raw materials is key to producing a good, tasty and healthy finished product. And how to detect the quality of raw materials? The key is proximity production. By controlling the entire cultivation process of the raw materials we use to produce our products, we are able to guarantee that the standards set by organic certifications are met. This ensures that the food is free of chemicals, which results in superior taste and quality. Therefore, organic cultivation of all our fruit and vegetables ensures a final product that is free of chemical additives and that requires no added fats, sugars or salts thanks to its original good taste.
The processes involved in food processing
While raw materials are the foundation upon which tasty and healthy food is sustained, they are not everything. The realfooding movement not only highlights the need for natural and quality raw materials, but also mentions the processes involved in the production of these foods. In order to be considered real food, they cannot be ultra-processed products. Ultra-processed food is food that has been produced using artificial processes: they are edible industrial preparations. The production process of these ultra-processed products includes adding fats, sugars, salts and other additives to the food item to ensure that the final product does not lack flavour. All these industrial food production processes do not take into account the nutritional value of the food and prioritise other aspects such as appearance, taste and the cost of the final product. Maintaining the original taste and nutritional value of food throughout the food manufacturing process is both a challenge and a responsibility.
Technology at the service of people
The development of industrial food processing is not necessarily bad for people; on the contrary, it has helped us experiment with our traditional raw materials and give them a twist to be able to enjoy them in different ways. We must know how to preserve what is really important throughout the food manufacturing process, such as nutritional value, natural components and original taste, and avoid ever prioritising other needs, such as production costs or technical difficulties. The key is to keep in mind that industry must always be at the service of society: technological innovation is always a tool at the service of people’s well-being, and the latter must never be compromised. We believe that technology helps us to improve the quality of the products we consume by enhancing all their nutritional values and original flavours, and that is why we at VitaSnacks are proud of our innovative and unique food texturization technique.
Our texturization technique: an extremely realfooder process
And why are we so confident when claiming that our texturization process is 100% real food? Thanks to our innovative and exclusive TXME® fruit and vegetable texturization technique, we are able to achieve crispy and tasty results that maintain the nutritional value and essence of the original product. We do not use freezers or microwaves in the production process, which guarantees a short and natural drying process that prevents our products from oxidising or denaturalizing, thus preserving their flavour and intrinsic properties. Because we handle the production process with great care, always keeping in mind both the nutritional values and the taste, we do not need to resort to additives, sugars, salts or other flavour enhancers for the result to be good. And as we have seen, the real food movement promotes just this: the consumption of natural food, without additives and without having undergone artificial manufacturing processes.
Additives: our greatest enemies
We have been mentioning preservatives and colourings, as well as added sugars and fats. You might now be wondering why all these components should be avoided at all costs in the realfooding movement. Very briefly, we could divide additives into two broad categories: on the one hand, there are those that modify the taste, texture, smell or appearance of a product, while on the other, those that have an effect on the processing or preservation of products. Colourings, flavourings and sweeteners are additives that make food taste or smell a certain way, while preservatives, antioxidants and emulsifiers help certain foods mix better with others or last longer. Needless to say, these are all substances that have no nutritional value of their own, and which if consumed in excess, could cause health issues. Therefore, achieving a natural product with nutritional value without resorting to the use of additives is no longer an option, but a necessity.
Additives threaten our health
Several scientific studies have shown the link between regular consumption of products with additives and negative effects on our health. Consuming products with additives carries a long list of health risks adults and children alike. This is, for instance, the case for some synthetic colourings that can cause ADHD in children or increase the risk of thyroid disease or anaemia in adults. There is also the more well-known effect of preservatives in pastries and baked goods, banned for anyone suffering from high cholesterol. The list of adverse health effects of additives is extensive, and we would encourage you to read up on some of the scientific studies dealing with this issue. Finally, there are some additives from the group of thickeners that do not produce negative effects per se, but that decrease the assimilation of certain natural nutrients that are present in the product. In the end, the result is equally negative, because what is the point of eating food that does not provide you with a positive nutrient intake due to containing additives?
Are processed foods real food?
Here we would need to differentiate between two types of food that have undergone processing before being consumed: those that are properly, naturally processed and those that are more commonly referred to as ultra-processed. Industrial pastries, pizzas, processed meat or fish are all examples of ultra-processed foods that may be found in the supermarket. They often contain food additives as well as refined raw materials such as salt, sugars, flour or vegetable oils. On the other hand, foods such as artisanal cheeses, natural canned fish, pulses and frozen vegetables are examples of products that have been processed, but that are real food because they contain no additives or refined products. In addition, temperature also plays a very important role in these food transformation processes. Something that may happen is that if the food has been subjected to high temperatures during processing, its natural nutritional values are lost, causing the product to denaturalize, and therefore also become ultra-processed food. Our textured fruits and vegetables are convenient and healthy real food options thanks to our natural, temperature-controlled manufacturing processes.
Ultra-processed foods are not food
This statement signifies a paradigm shift in the way we understand food and can also be one of the slogans of the real food movement. Ultra-processed foods are industrial preparations that are edible, but have no nutritional value of their own, as they are made from substances derived from other foods. They are a mixture of all these derivatives without containing any whole food. This is why all ultra-processed products contain long lists of ingredients on their labels, which often include refined raw materials, such as sugar, flour, salt, vegetable oils or proteins and additives. However, it is not only these long lists that immediately make them ultra-processed: the manufacturing processes to which these products have been subjected are equally indicative of their quality. Processes such as the hydrogenation or frying of oils, the hydrolysis of proteins or the refining and extrusion of flours or cereals are equally defining of what constitutes an ultra-processed product, a product which, let us remember for good, is not food.
The importance of taste
We at VitaSnack place great emphasis on the natural taste of all our products because we believe that taste is the key to the success of real food. If we quickly ask people what they would highlight most about an ultra-processed product, we would be forgiven to assume that many would reply taste. This answer is not just a feeling: the vast majority of additives added to ultra-processed foods are flavour enhancers in one form or another. Moreover, studies have shown that some of these flavourings can be addictive to people. In this sense, salt or added sugars try to disguise the flavour that the food has lost during a poor manufacturing process, because let’s not forget that sugar and salt are natural components found in whole fruits and vegetables. Other flavourings can be synthetic blends that artificially reproduce the flavours found in natural foods or artificial flavourings, which add a flavour to the food that we cannot identify with anything that exists in nature. The realfooding movement deliberately renounces all these flavour enhancers added to the food product and advocates respect for the natural taste of the food. That is why we at VitaSnacks take special care to maintain the natural and original flavour of our fruit and vegetables throughout the entire process of preparing our products. The ultimate goal is that our product does not need any additives – natural, synthetic or artificial – so that the consumer may enjoy the taste of good fruit or vegetables.
Real food as the basis of your diet
The attractions of real food can be very conveniently combined in your diet. The most important thing is to establish a solid foundation upon which to build it. The fact that the foundations of your diet are natural foods without additives has a direct impact on the healthiness of your diet. That is why we at VitaSnacks recommend that you build your diet around certain key products, such as vegetables and pulses, meat and fish without additives and whole fruit. And as a snack? Avoid industrial pastries, which constitute the flagship of ultra-processed food, and join the trend towards healthy snacking. Our dehydrated and texturized fruit and vegetable products will provide you with the nutritional values you need, and they are always naturally flavoured and without any additives, sugars or added salt. That is why VitaSnack recommends a diet based on fruit and vegetables, with a moderate consumption of salt, fats and sugars, always combined with physical exercise. Real foods will provide you with the basis of your food diet on which you can improvise, play and experiment. And remember, apart from being good and tasty, real food can also be a lot of fun!
Eating properly has never been easier
Preparing dishes with real food is not at odds with practicality and ease. We need to get away from preconceived ideas that associate ultra-processed food with speed and convenience, and by simple opposition, real food with time, effort and resources. Eating well is also easy, if you know where to find quality products, with good raw materials made using processes that respect the food and its nutritional values. You might wonder how you can make sure that the food you eat is free of additives and rich in nutrients: you are not alone, we all need to be constantly reading the labels of the products we buy. Ensuring that everything we eat passes our own quality standards is key to eating well and healthily. And when it comes to inspiration for making all these dishes, now more than ever, with all the resources available online or on social media, it’s easy and convenient to find new ideas for your recipes. Cooking quality meats with healthy side dishes or tasty, protein-rich legume salads is not necessarily laborious or time-consuming. The same goes for VitaSnacks’ healthy snacks. Practicality and versatility are two of our maxims, which is why we offer products that are easy to consume and transport. Our recommendation is to always have snacks on hand for any occasion, as they are the perfect resource for mid-morning munchies, a healthy afternoon snack for the kids or an impromptu snack with friends.
The realfooding movement is more than a trend
As we have already mentioned, realfooding does not only refer to eating a healthy and balanced diet. Real food is a way of life, a unique look at the world around us and our role in it. The foundation of realfooding is food, a natural and healthy diet, but its benefits extend beyond food. This is why understanding the realfooding movement requires a structural change in the way we understand food, which involves recovering the Latin saying “Mens sana in corpore sano”. What we eat defines our health, our physical and emotional state, and also has an effect on aspects of our lives such as work, health and socialising. By changing the way we relate to food, we can also change many other aspects of our daily lives. Consequently, this is why the realfooding movement is having a more lasting impact on society, as it structurally changes the way we understand food.
The community around real food
One of the fundamental aspects of the realfooding movement is the community that is created around it. Social media accounts such as Carlos Ríos’ or Roberto Vidal’s, with a large Instagram follower base, attest to the social aspect of real food. Like any movement, real food embodies values and allows us to identify with them. The conscious consumption of natural and additive-free food, the rejection of ultra-processed products or the recognition of the nutritional values of natural products and their positive effect on health are very powerful values that we can all relate to. Being able to share the same way of understanding food, sustainability or body care helps to create a feeling of belonging to a collective, of feeling part of a community that shares values and a way of relating to food. Consequently, the community feeling that movements such as realfooding can inspire is very powerful and can have a very positive effect on society.
The future of realfooding
The realfood movement is not a fad or a passing trend: realfooding has been around for a long time and is here to stay. The interesting questions we can pose here are more about how the realfooding movement will evolve and grow, and less about whether real food will continue to exist as a movement. Will it cease to be an isolated movement and become popular? Can it bring about a structural change in the way people consume ultra-processed products? Will this encourage care for the sustainable cultivation of food raw materials? It seems that more and more people seem to be getting on board with maintaining a healthy diet built around natural foods and paying attention to what they eat. If there is a solid base of people who want to consume natural foods and with healthy and food-friendly manufacturing processes, the food industry will have no choice but to move towards forms of technological innovation that guarantee all these requirements demanded by the realfooding movement today. As a consequence, real food will cease to be a niche concern and become part of the mainstream.