Food: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

Now more than ever, the information about what food is good and what food is bad is extremely confusing and contradictory. 

At Tari App, we don’t align with one specific diet type. We realize that each person is different, each culture is different, and that there are many different diets that can produce a nutritious, healthy life! 

However, we are passionate about teaching the basics of nutrition that extend across all diets, all cultures, and warn against common dangers that most experts agree on. 

Without creating a confusing food list using overly scientific terms, we have provided some general rules for determining the properties that define good foods, the properties that define bad foods, and the properties that define the ugly foods(really, really bad foods)!

By understanding these principles, you can begin to make healthy food decisions each day even if you are not following an exact “diet.”

The Good Foods 

Unprocessed

Prior to the industrial revolution, most people ate real food that was cooked in the home. 

Because there were no pre-made foods or pre-made meals that were mass-produced in a factory, people were required to buy their own ingredients like fruits, vegetables, rice, grains, flour, salt, eggs, milk, and meat to cook their own meals. This led people to eat real food, not food that contains artificial ingredients, harmful preservatives, and dangerous chemicals.

It is best to eat real food, and ideally, food that is cooked in your home. If you buy packaged food, you should be able to read the ingredients and actually understand the ingredients on the label!

Nutrient-Dense 

The best foods are dense in nutrients, specifically protein, vitamins, and minerals. This means a lot of healthy nutrients are packed into a reasonable serving. 

For example: A cup of broccoli contains about 135% of your daily value of Vitamin C and only contains about 30 calories. A cup of french fries contains about 9% of your daily value of Vitamin C and contains about 400 calories. 

You would have to eat 15 servings of french fries to get the same Vitamin C as a serving of broccoli. And instead of 30 calories consumed by eating the broccoli, you would have eaten 6,000 calories of fries, just to get the same amount of healthy Vitamin C!

Think of nutrients as something you want to buy, and calories as currency. 

Eating nutrient-dense food is like getting an amazing deal! You get a ton of amazing, healthy nutrients, without paying the price of a lot of calories. 

The ‘Hippie Adjectives’: Whole, Fresh, Raw, Organic 

First, we will disclose that we mean no harm to hippies. If being a hippie means loving others and eating natural foods, then here at Tari App, we consider ourselves hippies too!

We use the term “hippie adjectives” because often, the terms whole, fresh, raw, and organic conjure up images of Whole Foods grocery bags in the back of Subaru Outback. 

The truth is that foods are best when they are a whole, meaning the entire food. It is healthier to eat an entire orange than drink a glass of orange juice, and consuming superfood powders made of crushed up vegetables is never as nutritious as actually eating real, whole vegetables. 

Eating fresh is important, particularly for produce, because foods lose their nutrient content, the longer they sit around after harvest. 

Raw is important because like fresh, many foods lose some of their nutrient content when they are cooked. Heat can kill certain nutrients. Cooking is part of every culture and is an important aspect of helping us enjoying eating healthy. Just remember to pack in some raw vegetables every once in a while! 

Organic is likely the most overused of the “hippie adjectives.” Very simply, organic means that no pesticide, antibiotics, or genetic modifications were used when growing and producing the food. 

When given a choice, when available, and when affordable to your budget, organic is always a better choice than nonorganic. 

That said, if organic is not available or reasonable for you, don’t allow organic unavailability to give you an excuse to dip out on healthy produce. With any food, both organic and or nonorganic, always wash your food thoroughly before eating it.  

The Bad Foods

Processed

As we mentioned in the “good foods” section, ultra-processed foods can contain artificial ingredients, harmful preservatives, and dangerous chemicals. 

Imagine someone walking up to you and saying, “Close your eyes, I am going to put something in your mouth and you are going to eat it.” 

You would think they were crazy! 

However, that is essentially what we are doing when we eat fast food or ultra-processed food. Even if we read the ingredient label, terms like Butylated Hydroxyanisole, Potassium Benzoate, Sodium Nitrates and Aspartame have little meaning to us. (They should because they are each bad!)

Today there are hundreds of chemicals that we are “supposed to steer clear of,” but it can be extremely overwhelming to try to remember all these harmful ingredients and read through every food label.

As a general rule of thumb, stay away from ultra-processed food, and if you must buy prepackaged food, make sure you actually know that the ingredients listed are! 

Nutrient-Poor  

As the opposite of the nutrient-rich foods that we discussed in the “good foods” section, nutrient-poor foods tend to be high in caloric content but lack in healthy nutrients. These foods are often high in man-made fats and refined sugar.  

“Bad For Me” Foods 

Today the dramatization of food allergies are at an all-time high. 

For example, a once rare condition called Celiac disease, which causes people to be allergic to Gluten, a protein in many grains has caused the nation to over react with a plethora of Gluten-free products. However the number of people that are actually Gluten intolerant compared to the people who seek Gluten-free products has been estimated to be less than 5%. 

The truth is that certain food allergies, whether they be Gluten intolerances, Lactose intolerances, or others do exist. There may even be foods that you are not fully allergic to, but just don’t agree best with your body. 

What is critical to discover is the foods are bad for you. 

This is where a food logging habit can be very helpful. By logging the foods you eat, and noting unfavorable digestive conditions like upset stomach or bloat, you can start to become aware of which foods may not agree best with your body. 

Instead of following a food trend like Gluten-free, it is critical to learn more about your own body and be comfortable eliminating certain foods from your diet. 

The Ugly Foods 

Trans Fats 

There are three types of fats: unsaturated fats which are found in foods like salmon and olive oil; saturated fats which are found in foods like eggs, meat, and dairy; and trans fats which are found in deep-fried food, cakes, and other goods that contain “hydrogenated oils.”

While unsaturated and saturated fats are naturally occurring and are needed by your body in healthy servings, most Trans fat is man-made fat and is extremely harmful to your body. 

Trans fat is used in highly processed food, because it extends the shelf life of foods. Unfortunately, the same property that allows trans fat to extend the life of food on the shelf also lends itself harder for your body to breakdown. This leads to excess storage (of fat) and circulation blockage by clinging to your arteries, which can ultimately lead to heart disease. 

These foods tend to be highest in trans fat: refrigerated dough, frozen pizza, deep-fried foods, dressings, doughnuts, cookies, crackers, muffins, pie, and cake. When avoiding trans fat, steer clear of any food that contains hydrogenated oils. Unlike some of the other health-crazed terms out there, Trans fat truly is as bad as advertised

Refined Sugar 

It is almost comical to see the different diets battle each other out. 

There are low-fat diets, low-carb diets, high-fat (Keto) diets, plant-based diets, and region-based diets like the Mediterranean diet. While these diets all differ on some core beliefs, they all share a common enemy and unanimously agree that refined sugar is poison for your body.  

While our bodies do require some naturally occurring sugar (contained in foods like fruits, vegetables, and dairy), it is man-made, refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup (an industrialized form of sugar) that are extremely harmful in our diets. 

Sugar has been added to almost every food on the shelf today. Sugar is used because it makes foods taste better, is chemically shown to be addictive, and also helps preserve foods for longer shelf-life. 

Sugar wreaks havoc on the body and is now thought to be a source of almost every lifestyle-influenced disease including cancer, heath disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, depression, and obesity. 

Your diet should contain as minimal amount of refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup that you can accommodate in your lifestyle. Your body can process sugar as long as your intake is minimal (yes, you can occasionally eat Grandma’s chocolate chip cookies!)

The Best Questions… 

What to eat can be one of the most challenging decisions to make today. These simple questions can be most helpful as you move toward a healthier lifestyle:

– Is this food overly processed?

– Does this food contain trans fat?

– Does this food contain added processed sugar?   

– Will this food nourish me with healthy nutrients? 

– Will this food improve my health or reduce it?   

References 

Superlife The 5 Forces That Will Make You Healthy Fit and Eternally Awesome, Olien

Nutrition 5th Edition. Insel, Ross, McMahon, and Bernstein 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/trans-fat/art-20046114

https://www.thebetterhealthstore.com/043011_top-ten-toxic-ingredients-in-processed-food_01.html

https://www.unitypoint.org/livewell/article.aspx?id=a08a02ac-918c-493d-ba8a-6722940599d6

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