Why NO foods are unhealthy

Nov 23, 2021

Why NO foods are unhealthy?

What foods are healthy?- My definition of healthy food is food that gives your body something that it needs.

What does every person need from food?

  • Energy (calories) and nutrients (calories are the most important thing we get from food because our bodies cannot function without them)

Every food has something that your body needs, therefore, every food can be part of healthy eating.  The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the credentialing organization for registered dietitians, also endorses this view in their position statement titled the Total Diet Approach.

To take this one step further, I will state that no foods that are “Unhealthy” foods.  The term unhealthy infers that something is harmful to health or “bad.”  The labeling of specific foods as unhealthy is an overgeneralization and gives people the wrong idea about many foods.

Nutritious foods can be viewed as healthy because they give your body nutrients that your body needs. But less healthy (in regards to less nutritious) is not the same as unhealthy.

Foods I often hear of labeled as “unhealthy” include:

  • White bread

  • Fast food

  • Candy

Let’s unpack these statements and why they might be viewed as unhealthy…

  • White bread- is refined which means that much of the nutrients and fiber are removed during processing.  However, white bread has the same energy and nutrients as whole grain bread because it is enriched with nutrients (it often has less fiber unless it is fortified)

  • Fast food- is often higher in calories, fat and sodium.  Your body needs calories, fat and sodium so what’s important is whether it is meeting or exceeding your specific needs.

  • Candy- is low in nutrients and high in sugar.  Although candy does not provide vitamins and minerals, it can provide fuel.  Sugar is a molecule of carbohydrate, and carbohydrates are your body’s preferred source of energy.  All carbohydrates are broken down by the body into the same molecules called saccharides (“sugar”).  These molecules are used by the body the same whether they came from candy or oatmeal. So although candy will not help you meet your vitamin or mineral needs (so it isn’t recommended to make up a large part of your intake), it is not harmful.

Eating any one food does not have an impact on a person’s health, and therefore, no foods are unhealthy. Please do not overgeneralize or exaggerate this statement by stating that if all a person ate was fast food that they wouldn’t be healthy because the same would be true if all a person ate was carrots.  I am not talking about extremes.  The point is that it’s not about the individual foods consumed, but the overall nutritional integrity of one’s diet and principles (moderation, variety and balance) in which foods are consumed.

I choose to think of foods as they apply to what they provide your body.  Therefore, if I’m categorizing foods, I categorize them as nutrient dense or energy dense (some foods fall in both categories).  A person needs a balance of foods from both categories to meet their full nutrition needs.

Written by Krista Godfrey, MS, RD, LMNT


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