Recently a friend of mine posted to Twitter that she was eating eggs for a snack, because she wanted to eat healthier and was using a list she’d found online. Now, I am all in favor of eating eggs. They’re delicious and, when laid by healthy chickens, are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. Since there are still some sources saying eggs are bad for you, especially if you eat the yolk (which is where just about all the good stuff lives), I admit I was curious to see this list and sent her a message to tell her. She was happy to oblige and admitted she was glad I had said something about it. Guess my blogging is paying off, even if I am not a formal expert in any sense of the word on these matters.
So, on to this list. I’ve been feeling testy lately with the way “healthy” gets banded around to sell foods. Remember when a certain puffed rice cereal was claiming it could prevent bird flu? That sort of thing, only not quite so extreme in their presentations.
At first, given that the domain was whfoods.com, I confess that I was a little concerned it might be from Whole
PaycheckFoods, who have been promoting more of a “plant-based” diet. It’s not their work and for that alone I give it a thumbs up. The list has some great foods and ideas on it… and some things which had me utterly cringing.
I think I am in awe. There is CHICKEN LIVER on this list! Liver, rich in vitamins like A and K2 and a sacred food in many cultures. Huzzah! We may be bringing back offal yet. There is also a nice selection of seafoods; some good meats; a lack of refined sugar, wheat, and salt; nuts; vegetables, fruits; natural sweeteners; and some highly nutritious grains.
The list featured at the bottom highlights very good points about healthy foods: nutrient dense, which has been something of a key phrase among people following traditional food diets; whole foods; familiar foods (aka you don’t have to look to exotic places to find the good stuff); available; affordable; and tasty. All things I can get behind!
But there’s a lot on this list that bothers me.
Item one: Where is all the good fat? The only fat listed in this collection is olive oil. Certainly it’s not a bad fat, but it does somewhat contradict one of their points. Olive oil was originally found in the Mediterranean, which is a far distance from the United States. Granted there are not people growing olive trees in this country, but its adoption into the American diet is a fairly recent one.
Apparently, unless you count the nuts and fish, there is no such thing as a healthy fat. Yes yes, I know what the current thinking says about fat. I hate to break it to you, traditional fats are not going to make you fat. You’re much more likely to get fat, and do a lot of damage to your healthy, by eating the “modern” fats like margarine, hydrogenated oils, and the ubiquitous bottled suff dominating the shelves of supermarkets today. Fats used 100 years ago, like BUTTER and animal fats solid at room temperature, are both much easier for your body to properly process but also contain a slew of nutrients critical for good health.
The grains give me a lot of pause as well. First, it is very difficult for people to digest whole grains in their natural state. This is why traditional cultures would often soak, sprout, and ferment their grains to remove anti-nutrients and make them much easier to digest. In the case of quinoa, the list is again breaking its rule of familiar, as quinoa is grown in South America and has only recently seen a high demand in Western culture. Additionally, that demand has led to a major price hike in the countries of origin. The New York Times had an article about this earlier in the year (and woe to my degree I can’t find a link for it) that this has been a boon to farmers but a bust to the people who depended on quinoa as a major source of protein. They’ve had to turn to imported, overly-processed and imported cheap food instead of the food upon which their ancestors had relied for generations. Finally, unless you buy organic, the corn you’re eating is very likely genetically engineers. GE food has yet to be proven safe for long term human consumption. Also consider if you want to eat food which has a trademark attached to it.
If you’re interested in this topic I highly recommend the documentaries The Future of Food and King Corn, both of which I reviewed here
I’ve got three bits of ugly for you.
First, the “lean” meats. Why lean? As I noted above, fat isn’t bad for you. In a healthy animal you WANT fat. Not to mention, what is so wrong with eating beef? It’s very worth your while to find a source for grass-fed beef, not to mention more organ meats from both beef and the animals listed. More liver, more kidneys, more hearts. If you’re worried about so many animals being killed for specific cuts, expand what you’ll put on your plate. Organ meats were not originally included in the diet to gross out kids. They were eaten FIRST (and predators do this anyway) because they were where you found the most nutrient-dense bits of the animal.
Secondly, what is with that dairy section? Low fat dairy only? Are you mad? Again note The Skinny on Fats. Dairy fat is not your enemy. Again, when the animal is healthy, that fat does a lot for your health. Besides, skim milk tastes pretty bad. I thought the healthy food was supposed to be delicious. For that matter, when fat gets stripped out of things like yogurt, sugar is put in its place for flavor. THIS is where the problem lies. You’ve taken a food which people in eastern Europe cited as the key to their good health (remember ads for yougurt in the 1980s?) and put something in it which causes a slew of issues.
Finally, the soy. An issue I have yet to really cover in this blog. To sum it up though, soy is not the health food it’s been sold to be. In its unfermented state (a la soy milk, texturized vegetable protein, soybean oil), it is full of anti-nutrients, estrogen-boosting compounds, and has actually become one of the more prevalent allergens in the United States due to being found in so many processed foods. It’s also another one of those foods you are likely to find genetically engineered.
Thank you Monsanto.
Lists like this is why I feel very skeptical whenever I see a food blazoned with that “healthy” label. Consider what falls under that category right now.
HEALTHY! (Whatever that means in the next five minutes)
Low calorie (you need a certain amount of calories per day just to maintain bodily function. Going below this and putting yourself into starvation mode is a great way to make yourself sick. No wonder why such diets don’t work and people “cheat” on them.)
Vegetarian and Vegan (since animal products are not inherently “bad” for you and the lack thereof does not mean it’s full of good stuff. If the ingredient list reads more like a chemistry lab experiment instead of recognizable food, it’s not real food.)
This is why I no longer describe food as “healthy,” instead calling it nutritious. Or at least when I consider it to be such.
So what do you think of the list? And what is on your roster of “healthy” foods?