Once in a while one reads something that causes a double take. An article on the Washington Post entitled “No food is healthy. Not even kale” essentially made the point that no food is healthy. Sounds totally against all current thinking.
We hear so much about whether one food or another is “healthy”. Views on this seem to change weekly and are often contradictory. Pontificating experts are forever telling us what to do. Worse still, they often criticise lower carbohydrate diets like Paleo, which are in fact quite nutritious.
But if you think about it for a moment, the notion that no food is healthy actually makes tremendous sense. Food can provide nutrition but is not of itself healthy. As human beings, we can be healthy or not and it is not solely a function of what we eat. Roxanne Sukol of the Cleveland Clinic told the Post “Our food isn’t healthy. We are healthy. Our food is nutritious. Words are the key to giving people the tools they need to figure out what to eat. Everyone is so confused”.
This nails it. So may people are confused about a myriad of claims made about foods. This is particularly the case with processed foods with “added” this or that. Why has it been added and what process was involved? Some are labeled “natural” or “all natural” but what does that mean?
Confusion is worsened when what we are told is “healthy” one week and is bad for us the next. This (apart from studies often being meaningless) is generally because the studies looked at different aspects of health. A food that may be “healthy” for one part of the body may be “unhealthy” for another.
Lets keep it simple.
American food writer Michael Pollan has observed that a person who lived 90 or even 50 years ago would not recognize much of what is in supermarkets today as food. They would genuinely wonder what was in those pretty boxes. For most of human history food did not come in boxes. It was not manufactured. If you did not eat it within a short space of time you had to throw it out.
Today things are different. But our bodies have not changed, nor has what they need to be healthy.
An apple or carrot is “natural”. It has not been processed and nothing has been added. Butter is churned milk. Eggs are unprocessed. Meat, fish, poultry and legumes are not processed. You can see the pattern here.
If we eat nutritious foods then we are more likely to be healthy. Real food comes from nature. Until recently it was growing somewhere or moving around.
These foods need no claims and labels. They are not processed.
If we change our thinking about foods then the question is not, is this food healthy, but is this food giving me nutrition that my body needs?
Once we can answer that question, the decision about what to eat becomes very straightforward and we have no need of pontificating “experts”.