Healthy food is good for us. We all know this and have been told to eat a balanced diet to maintain our health. But more and more these days there is confusion over what exactly healthy food means. Dietary fads seem to crop up every second while the supermarket shelves are packed with organic this and natural that.
The most common dietary fads seem to revolve around juicing, eating gluten free, coconut oil and coconut milk, multi grain versus white or brown bread and vitamin and mineral supplements. All these fads have been hailed as the best options in terms of healthy eating. However, medical evidence suggests otherwise. A review led by Dr. Andrew Freeman of the American College of Cardiology’s Lifestyle and Nutrition Work Group shows that most of the dietary fads being popularised have no real health benefits.
Juicing may improve absorption of some plant materials but it leaves out a lot of the fibre and nutrients contained in fruits and vegetables. Gluten free foods are only beneficial to people with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. Some gluten free foods have been found to contain 10-20% more calories than their gluten containing counterparts. Coconut oil is loaded with unhealthy saturated fats while coconut milk is also high in saturated fats and contains no calcium. Many types of bread labeled as multi grain contain refined grains making them more processed than healthy. Supplements are processed from natural products and this processing greatly reduces any benefits that may be aimed at. Eating a healthy diet with real, unprocessed foods negates the need for supplements.
Beyond dietary fads are the food manufacturers and their claims of real or natural foods as well as farmers with claims of organic produce.
The job of any manufacturer is to sell their products and make a profit. The food industry has jumped onto the health food craze to help sell their products with deceiving tag lines. Juices claiming to be fruit juices and comprised of sugar, artificial flavors and colors are sold with real fruit on their packaging. Foods are advertised as sugar free or low fat and thus the healthier choice. The artificial sweeteners used in sugar free foods are less healthy than sugar and more sugar as well as other highly processed ingredients are added to low fat foods to keep them tasty.
Organic farmers sell their produce at a higher price than non organic ones on the claim that their produce is the healthier option in terms of reduced risk of pesticide ingestion. The danger here is that the consumer trusts that the farmer and those handing out organic produce certificates are telling the truth and that their products are truly pesticide free and therefore truly organic.
Healthy eating is critical for healthy living. Farmers and food manufacturers have taken advantage of the healthy eating phenomenon that is going around to increase their profits. Many of the products being marketed as healthy aren’t and most of the dietary fads being bandied around have no real health benefits.
Most doctors and nutritionists generally advise that the best thing for one to do is to eat unprocessed foods as much as possible. Make purchases as often as possible from trustworthy farmers markets and cook at home as often as possible so as to have control over what exactly is on your plate. Additionally, study the ingredients listed on food packages keenly to avoid high sugar, high fat and overly processed foods full of artificial flavours and sweeteners. If someone tells you something is healthy, be it part of a food industry marketing strategy in the supermarket, a sign from a farmer or a blog on the internet, look twice before jumping on it.