Eating natural foods is key to healthier 2011

LOS ANGELES But it doesn't have to be complicated. Getting back to basics might be the key to a healthier 2011.

A diet of all natural foods---nothing processed, no preservatives, no refined sugars. It's the latest craze, but unlike popular diets of the past, this has dietitians smiling.

"It's just no different than what we as dietitians and nutrition experts have been saying for years and years," said Julie Schwartz, a registered dietician. "It's healthy eating."

Fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, whole grains and even dairy products are all allowed if they're natural and not processed, according to Schwartz. It makes our body work the way it's supposed to.

"We wouldn't think about putting oil in the gasoline section of a car. Yet when we're eating really processed foods, we're putting sludge where it should be easy, efficient burning gasoline," said Schwartz.

Schwartz said shopping on the perimeter of the grocery store is the best way to avoid processed foods. When in doubt, read nutrition labels to make sure your food is chemical-free.

"Think of label reading as a curiosity to empower you with more information. When you look at a label, you're seeing that food. You're seeing beans. So anytime we're seeing something else, we don't really need that in the food," said Schwartz.

A recent study shows that those who read ingredient and nutrition labels tend to eat healthier than those who rarely or never do. It results in significant decreases in the intake of total calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium and sugar.

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