No food on its own is unhealthy or bad for you

20th July, 2017

The reason no food on its own is bad for you and the damage that can ensue from such thinking…

Like with everything in life – context matters.

Extreme example to make a point:

If you were lost in the wilderness and all you had to eat for several weeks were cakes & pastries would they be bad for you?

A: No as this food contains the vital nutrients carbohydrate, protein and fat and believe it not, they even contain a range of vitamins and minerals. This food would also provide some water… It would help keep you alive.

Now I want you to imagine this same scenario but all you have to eat is broccoli, which would you be better off with, the cake or the broccoli?

If you said the cake, you’re right; while broccoli is an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals, it is a poor source of the vital nutrients carbohydrate, protein and fat. You might still be alive when you’re rescued after several weeks, but you would be in much worse shape.

More realistic example:

It’s 3.30pm and you’re hungry, in your mission to be healthy you’ve brought a nutritious snack of chopped up veggies and hummus. It’s been a crazy busy day and you don’t have time to take a break, let alone time to sit down and munch on veggies and hummus (plus you’re really quite hungry and the veggies are not calling to you). You decide to ignore your hunger and skip your break. By the time you finish work at 5.30pm, you’re ravenous and on the way home you grab some food from a vending machine, this doesn’t really satisfy you and you continue to much your way through whatever is easy to eat once you arrive home. You then find you’re not that hungry for dinner but think you should eat anyway as at least it’s a nutritious meal. You end up stuffed full and feeling like you’ve blown your mission to be healthy. Neither your physical or mental health benefit in this type of situation.

Now I want you to imagine the same scenario, but instead of ignoring your hunger, you grab a muesli bar you’ve hidden in your bottom draw – you hid it when everyone told you sugar was evil and muesli bars were full of this “evil” (most aren’t). When you finish work at 5.30pm, you’re a little hungry and now you have time to enjoy your veggies and hummus. By the time dinner rolls around, you’re moderately hungry again and finish your meal feeling comfortably full and content. You’re pleased you made a choice that felt right for you in that particular moment – that’s choosing to eat the muesli bar – as it served you well and you ate a range of nutritious foods that satisfied you.

Note: I am not saying the veggies and hummus are better than the muesli bar, or that muesli bars aren’t a good choice, quite the contrary. In the scenario described here, the muesli bar was a good choice. I am also not saying food from a vending machine is bad and there are times where such food does the job. One of the complexities with nutrition, is that it is not black and white (unless of course you have a food allergy or Coeliac disease) and there is no right or wrong choice.