Good vs Bad Foods

I get a lot of questions about which foods are really “good” for us vs foods that are “bad” for us.   Many of us are creating lists in our mind about foods that are the good guys and foods that are the bad guys.  Perhaps you’ve wondered or wanted to ask me some of these questions too:

  • Which foods are really the good foods I should eat?
  • What foods do you eat on a good day?
  • What bad foods should I avoid?
  • What foods do you eat when you’re being bad?

As a nutrition geek, these questions come with the territory … but truthfully, I am often stumped when it comes to answering.  I assume the “good” foods are believed to be good for you and make you a “good” person for choosing them, while the “bad” foods are unhealthy to the body and make you a “bad” person for eating them.  Or at least you have no self control or make bad choices.  Either way, we assume the “health gods” are docking you a few points when you eat “bad foods”.

You see, I don’t believe that any foods are intrinsically “good” or “bad”.  While we can make arguments for why certain foods have health benefits and others may be health depleters … that doesn’t really quantify the food as good or evil.  It also doesn’t make you a “good” or “bad” person for eating it.  It’s just not that simple.

Here are the top 3 reasons to throw the “good” / “bad” dichotomy out the window:

#1 Individuality:  When it comes to which foods create desirable effects in your body, this is an individualized pursuit.  Many foods are health promoting for some individuals and can create negative effects in others. Dairy is a common example, and I see some of my clients thrive on dairy, while others are lactose intolerant or have a dairy sensitivity.  There are very few foods that will consistently deplete health across the board.  The individualized approach applies not only to health, but also to personal preference. As a vegetarian, you may choose to eat animal foods OR find that they’re not a fit for you.

#2 All or Nothing:  When we categorize a food as “good” or “bad”, we don’t leave room for situational interpretations.  Is it “good” to drink 100 gallons of water a day?  Is it “bad” to have 1 piece of chocolate a week?  Probably not.  If you avoid a food because it’s “bad”, you may be missing out on some of the positive effects of the food.  And, having an unlimited amount of a “good” food, might have undesirable effects.  It is important to consider the effects of the food, and choose consciously.  That might mean that sometimes you choose foods that are health depleters because you enjoy the taste.  I know, I do!  The occasional side of french fries is something I enjoy!

#3 Moralizing:  If we label foods as “good” or “bad”, we tend to attribute that label to the person who is eating.  We do this to ourselves.  If you have a salad for lunch, are you good?  If you have a piece of cake for dessert, are you bad?  How does this judgement of yourself impact you?  Health comes not only from eating healthful foods, but also from healthy thoughts and attitudes.  When you judge a food OR yourself as “bad”, you’ll be less in tune with the natural effect of the food on your body.  And, you may gravitate to foods just because you think they’re “bad”.  You rebel!

So, I challenge you to make a list of the foods you think are good and bad.  Why do you think so?  What if you considered that all food is just FOOD?  How would that affect your relationship to food?  I’d love to hear from you – please leave a comment below on this juicy topic.



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