No food is healthy. Not even kale.

Not long ago, I watched a woman set a carton of Land O’ Lakes Fat-Free Half-and-Half on the conveyor belt at a supermarket.

“Can I ask you why you’re buying fat-free half-and-half?” I said. Half-and-half is defined by its fat content: about 10 percent, more than milk, less than cream.

“Because it’s fat-free?” she responded.

“Do you know what they replace the fat with?” I asked.

“Hmm,” she said, then lifted the carton and read the second ingredient on the label after skim milk: “Corn syrup.” She frowned at me. Then she set the carton back on the conveyor belt to be scanned along with the rest of her groceries.

The woman apparently hadn’t even thought to ask herself that question but had instead accepted the common belief that fat, an essential part of our diet, should be avoided whenever possible.

Then again, why should she question it, given that we allow food companies, advertisers and food researchers to do our thinking for us? In the 1970s, no one questioned whether eggs really were the heart-attack risk nutritionists warned us about. Now, of course, eggs have become such a cherished food that many people raise their own laying hens. Such examples of food confusion and misinformation abound.

The United States government once considered butter and margarine as one of seven food groups to consume daily. Look back at other advice that unfortunately is no longer a part of the FDA’s dietary guidelines. (Jayne W. Orenstein/The Washington Post)

“This country will never have a healthy food supply,” said Harry Balzer, an NPD Group analyst and a gleeful cynic when it comes to the American food shopper. “Never. Because the moment something becomes popular, someone will find a reason why it’s not healthy.”

Here, Balzer used the most dangerous term of all: “healthy.”

We are told by everyone, from doctors and nutritionists to food magazines and newspapers, to eat healthy food. We take for granted that a kale salad is healthy and that a Big Mac with fries is not.

I submit to you that our beloved kale salads are not “healthy.” And we are confusing ourselves by believing that they are. They are not healthy; they are nutritious. They may be delicious when prepared well, and the kale itself, while in the ground, may have been a healthy crop. But the kale on your plate is not healthy, and to describe it as such obscures what is most important about that kale salad: that it’s packed with nutrients your body needs. But this is not strictly about nomenclature. If all you ate was kale, you would become sick. Nomenclature rather shows us where to begin.

“ ‘Healthy’ is a bankrupt word,” Roxanne Sukol, preventive medicine specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, medical director of its Wellness Enterprise and a nutrition autodidact (“They didn’t teach us anything about nutrition in medical school”), told me as we strolled the aisles of a grocery store. “Our food isn’t healthy. We are healthy. Our food is nutritious. I’m all about the words. Words are the key to giving people the tools they need to figure out what to eat. Everyone’s so confused.”

 

Read Related Article → 12 ‘Unhealthy’ Foods Nutritionists Eat

Read Full Article → No food is healthy. Not even kale.

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