Is there really no such thing as healthy food?

September 8, 2017 7:31 am Published by Leave your thoughts

I was a little surprised the other day to witness someone being put firmly in their place about nutrition. ‘There’s no such thing as healthy food’, the objector said, ‘or unhealthy food. All food is neutral. It’s just how much of it you choose to eat that makes it healthy or unhealthy’. Was this person right, I wondered? Was all food inherently the same? Should Naturally Good Food just shut up shop right now?

We think we stock healthy food - but is that true?

Is there really no such thing as healthy food?

Well, probably not. I think many of us would accept that the objector had a point when referring to food in its natural state: eating one apple is ‘healthy’, but eating 30 apples really is ‘unhealthy’. Sugar, an entirely natural product growing out of the ground, could well be called ‘healthy’ if you nibbled just a tiny bit of sugar cane – however, eating several tablespoons of refined sugar a day is most definitely not good for your health. And so on and so on, for just about any foodstuff you care to mention.

The problem with the objector’s statement, however, is really to do with processed food. Let’s look at sugar again. Sugarcane, from which most sugar derives, is refreshing and energising. It’s rich in antioxidants, soluble fibre and phytonutrients and full of vitamins and minerals, such as iron and potassium.  All sorts of health benefits are cited for it. However, once sugarcane is processed and refined down into the white sugar we in the West use in much of our cooking, you’ve basically lost everything – apart from the sweetness.

A pile of fresh picked apples

One apple, fine. Thirty apples a day – not so good.

You can say much the same about grains. Take wheat, for instance. Like sugar, in its most natural state wheat is rich in all manner of nutritional benefits. But cut it down, strip it, throw away the outer husk, bran and germ, grind it into dust and mix it with a load of preservatives and stabilisers (to make, perhaps, a white hot-dog bun) and well, it’s not healthy at all any more.

The problem becomes even more pronounced when you look at more heavily processed food. There are packet, fast and ready meals that are so utterly depleted in nutrients (and in taste) as to do little more than temporarily line your stomach. There’s not much point claiming that these meals are healthy in moderation: they’re simply not.

Natural food is healthy food

At Naturally Good Food we operate with two pretty simple maxims when it comes to healthy and unhealthy food. First, we like our food as natural as possible. (Wherever possible, we prefer organic too, for many reasons, including the lack of chemical residues on the products.) So we buy and sell huge sacks of food in its natural form: natural dried fruit, nuts, seeds, grains, rice, pulses and so on.

We won't stock food that's depleted in nutrients.

Our ‘ready’ meals are only lightly processed and mostly organic.

Where we sell processed food, we like this to have been lightly processed, keeping as many of the nutrients as possible: we stock cold-pressed oils, for example, rather than refined oils; unrefined sugars rather than refined sugars; snack bars made from pressing together two or three basic ingredients, rather than bars filled with emulsifiers and flavourings.

We do also sell some food that’s been more highly processed, such as chocolate, cereals, biscuits, pitta breads and soups. However, we take great care when doing so to stock food that remains nutritious (and is usually organic). Even most of our ‘ready’ meals require a bit more work on the part of the consumer than simply piercing a microwaveable film and pressing a few buttons – but we believe that this is the only way to get good nutrition quickly.

Everything in moderation

And our second maxim? Everything in moderation. Even the healthiest of foods is unhealthy when eaten to excess – and some foods are only healthy when eaten in small amounts.

But we’re still ready to say that some foods are simply healthier than others – and proud to continue to stock them!




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This post was written by Yzanne

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