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No Whole Food is Bad

No Whole Food is Bad

At the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, founder Marc David explores the emotional factors that influence what we eat and how our mental states influence the impact of those foods on our bodies.  In this article, David argues that the paradigm suggesting that some foods are “good” and others “bad” is an overly simplified take on nutrition that only serves to induce guilt, lower metabolism, and promote suboptimal eating habits.  This is perhaps one of the most important yet most overlooked concepts in the field of nutrition.

 

Food is Amoral

In the article, David explains that certain foods – usually those perceived to be “too high” in calories, fat, salt, or carbohydrates – are often labeled as “bad.”   If we indulge in them, therefore, we must be bad, too (or weak-willed, lazy, etc.).  As a result of this way of thinking, we punish ourselves emotionally.  That, in turn, causes the body to react with a stress response, which actually lowers metabolism.

But there is more too it than that.  By labeling a food “bad,” we write off the food and fail to study its nuances in depth.  The exceptions to this are highly processed food products with artificial ingredients – which probably are, in fact, bad.  But whole foods are a different story.  Yes, butter has some saturated fat and is probably not healthy if eaten in excess.  On the other hand, Vitamin A, for example, is fat soluble, meaning our bodies absorb more of it when eaten in combination with fat.  So sautéing certain vegetables with a little bit of butter is probably beneficial.  Similarly, Egg Beaters are fat free, whereas real eggs are not.  But real eggs, if they come from free-range chickens fed an appropriate diet, are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.  So disregarding a food because we believe it to be “bad” is a risky practice because it increases the likelihood that we will miss out on those foods’ many important nutritional benefits.

 

Food Culture

When we examine traditional food cultures from around the world, foods whose nutritional benefits are complimentary are often intuitively combined.  For example, beans and rice have been traditionally paired together in many cultures.  As it turns out, when eaten together, beans and whole grain rice provide complete protein but, if eaten separately, they provide only partial protein.  The same is true in the case of the vegetables sautéed in a reasonable amount of butter or olive oil – the two foods are probably more beneficial when eaten together.

Food cultures give us a reference.  They help us build an understanding of what foods work well together, what benefits particular foods provide, and how much of a food is good to eat.  But diet fads attack this intuitive knowledge.  They tell us we shouldn’t eat butter or olive oil because they are high in fact.  They denounce rice for being too high in carbohydrates.  The result is a fractured diet that lacks many of the health benefits we would enjoy if we simply listened to our cultural wisdom and ate reasonable amounts of varied whole foods.  Of course, moderation is important.  Slathering everything in butter is not a good idea.  But even moderation is something that is taught by food cultures.  When we eat intuitively, we know how much is too much.  We can feel it.

 

Personalized Eating

Finally, it is important to refrain from labeling foods as “good” or “bad” because different body types require different types of food.  In Ayurvedic medicine, there are five doshas.  In simple terms, a dosha can be thought of as part body type part constutition.  Some doshas gain more nutritional benefits from diets that are largely plant-based, whereas other doshas require more dairy and meat.

But you don’t have to subscribe to Ayurveda to clearly see that some people do better on certain foods than others.  A meal at a macrobiotic restaurant serving quinoa and steamed vegetables might be perfect for one person, but may leave her dining partner still feeling hungry.  For people with average cholesterol and a tendency toward anemia, red meat might be a good option.  But someone with dangerously high cholesterol might want to eat primarily white meat.  When we label certain foods as “bad,” we fail to realize that, though some foods are not right for some people, they may play an important role in helping others achieve healthy, balanced diets.

 

Read more: Ayurveda, Conscious Consumer, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Fitness, Food, General Health, Health, Mental Wellness, Spirit, Women's Health

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Sarah Cooke

Sarah Cooke is a writer living in California. She is interested in organic food and green living. Sarah holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Naropa University, an M.A. in Humanities from NYU, and a B.A. in Political Science from Loyola Marymount University. She has written for a number of publications, and she studied Pastry Arts at the Institute for Culinary Education. Her interests include running, yoga, baking, and poetry. Read more on her blog.

57 comments

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10:21PM PDT on Jun 2, 2013

Thanks for sharing!

7:40AM PDT on Apr 16, 2012

SMILE! THERE WOULD NEVER BE PERFECT WITH ALL THE FOODS.. THAT NEED TO UNDERSTAND WHAT YOUR BODY CAN TAKE IT OR NOT.... IT DEPEND ON YOUR BODY... THAT WHAT WE WOULD DO THAT, STUDY ON THE FOODS, TO SEE IF THAT FIT IN OUR BODY... SOME FOODS MAY GO TO WRONG... IT CANT MAKE SO PERFECT.. ALL IT NEED TO LIVE WITH BALANCED AND IT NOT NEED TO GO MORE GREEN OR STRICTS AS ORGANICS. THAT IS TRUE... ALL WE HAVE TO GO AS ALIKE TO KEEPING GOING IN BALANCE AND JUST DO IN MODERATION WITH BAD FOODS..
SOME ARE IN THEIR OWN WAY OF EATING WHAT THE FOODS HAS MADE THE PERSON FEELS GOOD .... LIKE I DO... EAT WHAT THAT HAS MADE ME SO HAPPY AND SO PLEASURE TO EATING AND FIT FOR MY STOMACH... THIS IS SAME THING FOR YOUR STOMACH TOO... SOME FOODS CAN CAUSED BAD DEPRESSION INSIDE OF YOUR BODY...EXSAMPLE IF SOMEONE EAT WHEAT AND DIDNT FEELS GOOD SO THAT WOULD BE SAME WITH VEGETABLES THAT COMES WITH SAME FAMILY FOODS THAT CAN'T HAVE WITH WHEAT... MANY ARE HAVING ALLERGY TO FOODS BUT IT NEED TO STUDY MORE WHICH THEY CAN TAKE IT OR NOT... IF THIS WORK OUT THEN STAY WITH IT... MOST IMPORTANT FOR NOW IT , EAT IN BALANCE AND MUST KEEP YOURSELF IN HAPPY BUT SOME FOODS CAN MAKE YOU SADNESS OR EATING MORE... THAT IS WHY I SAID NOT PERFECT.... JUST KEEP SMILING AND WORK ON YOUR BODY WHICH ARE MAKE YOU VERY HAPPY... TAKE LOTS OF WALKS... THAT IS MOSTLY IMPORTANT TO GET YOUR BODY OUT OF THE STRESS... THAT STRESS IS THAT NUMBER ONE KILLER.... IT CAN CAUSE MANY ILLNESS FROM THE STRESSES... IF SOMETHING FOODS ARE

10:22PM PDT on Apr 2, 2012

as the old saying goes... we are what we eat?

9:40AM PDT on Mar 20, 2012

I agree that each person's diet must be comprised of variety and personalization.

1:26PM PDT on Mar 13, 2012

I have always been a big believer in eating the real thing vs fake substitues, such as real butter is healthier than margerine, real sugar better than fake sweeteners, etc. I have also read that fake salt is harmful and real salt is much better for you in moderation. Also that eating fresh instead of canned, frozen or packaged foods is better, and home made instead of fast food is definitely better. The fat and salt content of processed foods and fast food is really scary. Learning to make my own salad dressings has been fun and is so much healthier than bottled stuff. Eating fresh whole fruits veggies nuts and grains is so much more delicious too! The one complaint I have is that it is very time consuming to prepare everything fresh from scratch all the time, so the lure of things that are already prepared, fast, easy and convenient is still hard to resist.

1:00AM PDT on Mar 13, 2012

I must admit, I love eating bell peppers whole, like you would an apple. I get some stares, but it is personalized and I love it...

7:29PM PDT on Mar 12, 2012

Sarah Cooke, you make so much sense! I am one of those people whose body cannot tolerate whole wheat, milk, iodized salt, and many other foods that most everyone say eat and do not give any alternatives. I have suffered my whole life with these "food sensitivities" that I call allergies. My stomach swells up until it looks like I am pregnant or swallowed a watermelon whole; sometimes my tongue and throat swell and I am most uncomfortable and at times have had to go to the doctor for a shot to help bring the swelling down. I have learned what I can eat and what I can't but it is very difficult. There are so many hidden additives in seemingly innocent food that I sometimes have a reaction to things that I have no idea what caused it....it is not easy. I thank you for bringing up that what is good for one person may be toxic for another.

4:28PM PDT on Mar 12, 2012

Great article, and a refreshing one to read in lieu of so many one-sided and biased ones in Care.2 lately. I certainly agree regarding a moderate amount of butter and whole eggs, anyway. Butter is saturated fat, yes, but the imitation stuff is just plain nasty and bad for you, yet people think it's okay because it's "fake". Why eat something that has no BENEFICIAL NUTRIENTS simply because they don't have the bad ones of the "real" thing? Eggs? Eggbeaters might not be bad, but they aren't good, either. Might as well boil cardboard & use that to make omelettes.

4:07PM PDT on Mar 12, 2012

Cheers.

3:01PM PDT on Mar 12, 2012

GOOD READ, MAY MAKE SOME CHANGES TO MY DIET NOW.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

people are talking

I want to thank the great spell caster that was able to bring back my lover within the period of 48 …

Human on the floor = playtime!

Will try some of these. I read about putting a bowl of ice in front of a fan but haven't tried it.

at a certain age, hot peppers just add to hot flashes - staying away from that.

Thanks for that - one needs to take responsibility for one's health and wellness.

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