Ten ways to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy food
What is the difference between healthy and unhealthy food? When you decide to put only healthy food on your plate, how can you know what exactly to choose? There are so many definitions of ‘healthy food.’ Some sources promote healthy weight-loss with NutraSweet. Others declared Nutrasweet a brain-damaging exitotoxin. Both use scientific data to back their position. How could you interpret data correctly? Who should you believe?
In the world of food there are super heroes and there are bad guys, but most of the foods are in between. Over time, I developed ten principles to test the degree of ‘healthiness’ of a specific food. Using these as a guideline helped me to decide what choices were best.
As you read through, you might find some terms you aren’t familiar with. I urge you to learn more about them. And if you have any specific health conditions, you’ll want to avoid some ingredients, and focus on others. Whether you are looking to boost energy, lose weight, or reduce blood pressure, apply these universal principles to decide what foods are good for you.
Ten Principles for Defining Healthy and Unhealthy Foods
1. Healthy food is alkaline rather than acidic.
Acidosis, the state when your body is too acidic, is the root cause of many diseases. Body cells need an alkaline environment to function, while cancer and invader bacteria thrive in the acidic medium. Healthy blood Ph has to be slightly alkaline. The body maintains its Ph balance through a series of complex chemical reactions, and the food you eat has either an acid or alkaline-forming effect. When you eat acidic foods, the body starts its balancing process, making blood neutral again – and for that calcium is drawn from the bones to be used as a base. Most of the fruit and vegetables are alkaline, while meat, eggs and cheese have an acidic effect. Get the full list of alkaline foods, split into highly, moderately, and mildly alkaline categories.
2. Healthy food provides the maximum of nutrients, balanced naturally
Only whole foods provide an optimal nutrition for every cell in the body. Research shows that vitamins naturally present in the food are much better digested and used by the body than individual extracted vitamins. You are less likely to overdose on vitamins and minerals in food than from extracts or artificial substitutes. An overdose can be just as unwanted as a deficiency.
My conclusion? Eat whole foods, especially super foods from the top healthy food list, and use extracted or chemically produced vitamins only when absolutely necessary for a short period of time (for example, vitamin B-12).
3. Healthy food provides antioxidants
Antioxidants aid the natural defense of your system against free radicals released by food metabolism. Without antioxidants present, free radicals are wandering around your body, harming cells membranes and altering DNA. Cells either die, or become vulnerable to invaders like cancer, candida or viruses. You won’t feel the harm right away. Neurosurgeon Dr. Blaylock estimates that 70% of cells in certain parts of your brain need to die for you to experience dementia. Antioxidants come from some vitamins, plant phytochemicals or are made by the body. They are abundant in beans, greens, fruit and vegetables.
4. Healthy food provides a balance of the essential amino-acids (protein) - mostly from non-animal sources
Amino-acids are the bricks your body is built from, and there are nine essential ones that cannot be generated by your body. They must come from food.
Both plant and meat proteins supply all essential amino-acids. “Every plant food doesn’t exactly match the pattern; however when the diet provides an assortment of plant proteins over the course of the day, all amino acids are present in abundance.”. There is a body of evidence that a diet high in animal protein is correlated with higher incidences of cancer and cardiovascular disease in humans.
One of the healthiest forms of animal protein would be fermented probiotic foods, such as kefir.
If you examine your diet, you will likely find lots of animal protein and not enough plant protein. Aim for more plants in your diet; replace animal protein wherever possible.
5. Healthy food provides fibre and complex carbohydrates
Carbs are necessary as a source of energy. They are divided into simple carbs (sugar) and complex carbs (high-fibre foods, starches) based on the molecule build. Complex carbohydrates are high-fibre foods, which improve your digestion and provide energy. Unlike simple carbs, they provide energy without side effects like obesity, mood swings and blood sugar spikes.
Along with starches, fibre is the other important category of complex carbohydrates. Fibre is indigestible part of plants that moves food though the digestive system and helps eliminating it properly. Only 25-30 grams of fibre is needed for body to properly function; yet most people’s diet, filled with processed foods, doesn’t provide it.
6. Healthy food is not processed or refined.
Processing and refining makes the foods unhealthy to various extent. For example, vegetable oils in reasonable amounts are good for you. They get hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated in order to increase shelf life, and then used in baking and cooking. Hydrogenation converts formerly good oils into infamous trans-fat, any amount of which has long-term disasterous effect on your body.
Refining food is done using chemicals. During this process, most of the vitamins and enzymes get killed, and fibre gets removed. Common table salt has been stripped of microelements essential to your health, and aluminium calcium silicate added to help it run freely and not cake.
Sodium aluminium phosphate is an emulsifier in processed cheese, and potassium aluminium is used to whiten flour. "Laboratory animals cannot live for more than a few weeks on white bread, yet most of us like eating this denatured and impoverished food." (Rex Newnham, Odyssey, Dec/Jan 1983/4, p.14).
The bottom line is, try to buy your food in the most wholesome state, unprocessed. When you cook, choose unrefined ingredients wherever possible.
7. Healthy food doesn’t contain MSG and MSG-like substances
MSG (monosodium glutamate) is a natural taste enhancer and food preservative. Being natural though doesn’t always mean it’s good for you. MSG is an excitotoxin, and it may have devastating effect on brain cells, especially those of young and unborn children. If you cannot lose those stubborn pounds, no matter how much you exercise and diet, check MSG content in the food you eat. And remember, fat mice used in clinical experiments are called "MSG mice" for a reason – they were fed MSG to become obese.
Read more about history of MSG discovery and use here: What is MSG?
Here I list ingredients containing MSG and other excitotoxins - a must have list for safe shopping.
Beware that many sea vegetables, for example, kombu, contain glutamate naturally. Since they have an abundance of minerals and vitamins and a very low dose of glutamate, excluding them from the diet will do more harm than good.
8. Healthy food contains no pesticides or hormones. Ideally.
These days, it’s hard to stay away from carcinogenic pesticides and waistline-thickening hormones. Most otherwise healthy foods contain pesticides or hormones. Milk and meat products have especially high concentrations.
Aim for organic food. If you cannot afford it, replace the foods from the top ten highest pesticide content list with organics, or other foods. Find more details here: Why eat organic food.
9. Healthy food doesn’t contain partially hydrogenated oil or trans-fats ( but it does contain omega-3 fats)
What’s wrong with the hydrogenated fats? Hydrogenation of oils, with removal of essential fatty acids, is used in the food industry to prolong shelf life of processed foods. The result is coronary heart disease, diabetes, brain disorders and more for those who consume them. These fake unhealthy fats are everywhere vegetable shortening is used. Avoid breads, cookies, doughnuts, French fries and frozen foods. Stop using margarine and use less vegetable oil. Go for flax oil to increase omega-3 fats in your diet.
Gone are the times when margarine was better than butter. Butter is back and so is fish oil! Turns out, we cannot live without small daily doses of saturated fats, and omega-3 is critical for our brains.
10. Healthy food doesn’t contain artificial sweeteners: aspartame, saccharin or sucralose
Artificial sweeteners are toxic. It’s mind boggling how many products quietly include them, following the recent low-carb fad. Foods with zero sugar calories are recommended everywhere – from Weight Watchers to teen fat loss boot camps. Beware if your sugar-free foods contain artificial substitutes. Research shows that aspartame can affect your brain. It’s been linked with MS, lupus, fibromyalgia and other central nervous disorders. Possible side effects of aspartame include headaches, migraines, panic attacks, dizziness, irritability, nausea, intestinal discomfort, skin rash, and nervousness. Splenda research is still ongoing. To be safe, avoid all artificial sweeteners – Splenda, Nutrasweet and Equal. Instead of substituting sugar in your diet, try to reduce it or use stevia instead.
Examples of unhealthy foods
- How to distinguish good calories from bad calories:
Learning to spot unhealthy foods: A killer oatmeal cookie
- Unhealthy ingredients in healthy looking foods:
"Healthy" unhealthy foods
Check your fridge for unhealthy foods...
Now you can take any food in your fridge and run a quick check. Award a point for every ‘Yes’ for point 1 to 5, and remove a point if that food contains undesirable ingredients from points 6 to 10. How did it score? Any negative-scoring foods? Send low scoring foods directly to the garbage bin.
Print out this healthy and unhealthy food definition and take it with you while shopping. It will help you distinguish healthy and unhealthy foods.
An average American will eat more than 100,000 meals during his or her expected 75 years. No single meal will make a huge difference, but collectively, they can make or break the health given to us at birth. And then, someone’s life may only include 30, 50 or 70 thousand meals …
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