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There's no such thing as healthy foods: it's all in the balance.

Mon, 3 September, 2018

Healthy and unhealthy food; this is good for you and that isn’t; you shouldn’t eat so much/should eat more of one damn thing or another. Spoken often enough to the point of being trivial, I’m getting tired of hearing things like that.

It gets worse: packed with goodness, packed full of nutrients, bursting with wellness. I’m positively allergic to the ‘packed with’ expression which is only second worst to ‘goodness’ as referring to food content. It suggests that the foodstuffs will perform magic on you: eat in front of a mirror and watch your skin more and more glowing, your flab disappearing, your lifespan visibly increasing, like a health meter in a game ratcheting up the green.

Image Source: Getty Images

I’m leaving allergies and intolerances aside – although an interesting research has been published about how children schooled in a meticulously nut-free environment were more prone to developing nut allergies – but this strict division of foods into healthy and unhealthy is just so much nonsense. It doesn’t seem to occur to anyone that if indeed some food products had incredibly beneficial effect healthwise and others pushed us towards an early grave, evolution would have made sure we digested only the good stuff? I know, I know – evolution doesn’t take into account Maccy D’s and sugary fizz which tickle the buds but will kill you in overload. But that is precisely the point: in overload.

If your diet consists exclusively of sugar, your teeth will soon fall out followed by further health calamities. But I honestly dread to think what would happen to someone who ate only kale? Humans are omnivores – OMNIVORES; as in EAT EVERYTHING. It doesn’t only mean that anything is comestible for us; it also means that we should get nutrition from various sources.

There are no healthy and unhealthy foods. Some, obviously, have more nutrients and others less; some will be rich in iron or Vitamin B and others not so much. Some will cause you to put on weight more than others, and the latter tend to taste not as good as the former. It is all about the balance, proportions and moderation. Good diet is a well-balanced diet with no excess of one type of nutrient over another, a sensible amounts and proportion of fats, proteins and carbohydrates for the demands of a given lifestyle.

Those beliefs in the ‘goodness’ of certain foodstuffs have spawned all the dangerous hocus-pocus: alleged cancer victims miraculously restored to wellness thanks to the diet based on chia seeds; incidentally promoting sales of their own very special chia elixir, or at least a wonder working cookbook.

No wonder snake oil has been selling well for centuries: people always expect a miraculous prescription to stave off death, old age and illness. Ethical convictions aside, is it worth tucking into cauliflower curry instead of ripe camembert and sip nettle smoothie instead of chilled Chablis? Of course, if it makes you happy to deprive yourself of the, arguably, second greatest pleasure in life, it’s all fine. If you enjoy quinoa more than creamy risotto and really love courgetti – fine again though I can’t help getting cross-eyed with wonder at people who do.

I know about allergies – I have friends who have to lead nutless lives and I’m allergic to oysters; it makes me very sad to have to forsake seafood platters. But why delude yourself that unjustified denial of some foods will be beneficial to you in any way? I guess people who shrink in terror at the sight of a glass of (full fat God forbid) cow’s milk are the same people who will not have plants in their bedrooms, for the idiotic reason that plants absorb oxygen*.

Extremism in the attitudes to food, health and weight reigns supreme.

*I couldn’t quite believe it, but there it is. An Internet scare of bedroom plants which admittedly consume oxygen during the night when photosynthesis can’t take place, and don’t release any back into the room. Your bedroom aspidistra is going to suffocate you? How about we think of the amounts of oxygen it breathes in?


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