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Just What Is Health Food?

The dictionary defines health food as “any natural or prepared food popularly believed to promote good health” or “specific foods claimed to be especially beneficial to health.”

You’ll note that these are foods “believed” or “claimed” to be good food for your health. And that’s where it gets confusing. Not everyone believes the same things. Some people may believe a varied diet of meat and vegetables and grains is the most healthy diet. Others declare that a small amount of meat with larger amounts of grains and vegetables is the way to go. Vegetarians get rid of the meat, and vegans go even further and don’t eat ANY animal or dairy products.

Love Vegetables!

Love Veggies!

So who’s right? Which of these are health foods?

Then we get down to specific foods or groups of foods. For instance, at one point the experts said, “Don’t eat eggs!” Other times, we’ve been told to eat various supposedly healthy diets: Eat a low fat diet! Eat a high protein diet! Eat the right carbs! The list goes on and on.

So who’s right? Which of these are health foods?

What’s even more confusing is the so-called experts are usually citing some study or another that “proves” their point. If that’s the case, then how is it that some time later another study comes along that “proves” the exact opposite?

It makes it difficult to really know what is true health food and therefore beneficial for your body.

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Searching For True Health Food

There is one truth you can be sure of – just because the popular media trumpets a food as being a great health food – ‘don’t make it so’. There are fads in foods and diets just like there are fads in clothing, music and many other things.

In addition, just because someone did a study, doesn’t mean the results are accurate. The results can be inaccurate due to a poorly designed study. Or the results can be inaccurate because the people conducting the study skew the results to fit their needs, like a big company wanting to show their product has good benefits.

 Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital. ~ Aaron Levenstein

Just substitute “study results” for “statistics” and you’ve got it.  After all, people producing food products are in the business to make money and putting a spin on advertising is one way they entice you to part with your hard-earned money and buy their stuff! So when a big company is telling you what a great health food they’ve got, dig a little deeper to make sure the food lives up to the claim. In most cases, a manufactured food isn’t going to be as healthy for you as one that has had minimal to no processing.

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So What Is Health Food?
Healthy Bananas

Simply put, health food is nutrient dense, with vitamins and minerals and phytonutrients that are good for you.

Most of the time these are foods that are as close to their original state as possible. Fresh fruit and vegetables are a good example. The less processing a food has, the more of a health food it usually is.  For example, whole grain flours, like whole wheat, are much more nutritious than refined white flour that has been stripped of nutrients, then a few vitamins are artificially added back in to make it sound healthy.

Milk and meat and eggs from animals that have been fed natural foods, and kept in healthy environments are also generally more healthy for you. Think about it… whatever goes into that animal first hand is going to go into you second hand when you eat the meat, milk or eggs that came from it.

That means it’s also important that any food, no matter how full of nutrients, is also free of dangerous chemicals like pesticides, hormones or antibiotics. Otherwise, it isn’t really a healthy food.

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Super Health Foods

Many foods qualify as health food in the sense they have beneficial nutrients, but some foods are so nutrient dense – so full of good vitamins, minerals and other phytonutrients – that they’re an exceptionally good health food. These are the super health foods!

Among these super hero health foods are oats, walnuts, tomatoes, blueberries and more.  Obviously, the more of them you include in your diet the better.

So when considering what is a health food, don’t look for fads, don’t look for a food altered to supposedly make it healthier, don’t look for some chemical concoction. . . just use your common sense to guide you as to what is health food and what isn’t.

Bottom line: If the food is nutrient dense and free of undesirable chemicals, it’s health food.

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