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What is a Healthy Food?

Defining words in your own way is difficult. See what a nutrition student thinks about healthy food.

A lot of my friends and family ask my opinions on different foods.  Sometimes, it’s something like “is this good for me?” or “is this healthy?”  My response to either of these questions is a shrug of the shoulders and a “I dunno, what do you want from your diet?”  If I have not made my stance on foods clear, I try and focus on what the person wants from their diet, rather than what many other sources (some with a severe lack of credibility) think.  Today I am going to discuss some aspects of what makes a food “healthy” in my opinion.

What/How many nutrients does it have?

Every food has nutrients, but different foods will have varying quality and quantity of things like vitamins and minerals.  Some foods are more nutritious (like fruits and vegetables) than others (like packaged snack foods).  For optimal health, it’s recommended to eat foods like fruits and vegetables over prepackaged meals.  These prepackaged meals can be high in fat, sugar, and/or salt.  While these are

My rule of thumb is fruits, vegetables, beans, and lean proteins are generally very nutritious.

What is the capacity for the food to do harm?

All food has the capability to kill you.  However, this capability is not equal in all foods.  Some foods are high in nutrients that can be toxic to you.  One example we learned in my biochemistry class is liver in some species of animals can contain enough vitamin A to give you vitamin A toxicity.

Other foods have a link to certain diseases.  Ingredients like refined sugar, alcohol, salt, and other food additives have been scrutinized and examined for many years now to see what sorts of effects they have on the body.  There is a lot of inconclusive research, so for now my non-professional advice is to limit these.

Is there any symbolism to the food?

The irony here is that I said earlier that foods high in fat and sugar is typically unhealthy.  However, ice cream can be healthy.  In a blog about eating disorders, the writer mentions that for her, buying and eating ice cream was a victory.  She had gotten ice cream and ate it, despite some of her struggles she faces with her eating disorder.  I would say that this is a case where ice cream is healthy, despite what previous health advice says.

I would not worry about what you eat too much, unless you need to.  Eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein foods are always a good way to go.  However, I still indulge in a lot of foods that are not considered “healthy.”  I’d rather enjoy good food on occasion, rather than worry about every single macro- and micronutrient.

What do you guys think?  Feel free to comment them below.

By The Nutrition Punk

I am a dietitian living in Portland, Oregon. I write about a variety of nutrition and heath topics, with the goal of improving people's understanding of food and nutrition so they may be empowered against all the misinformation that is out there.

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