A few years ago, something clicked for me. I looked at my food choices and realized they were not as healthy as I thought they were. One thing that helped me come to this conclusion was when I defined the term ‘health food’ for myself.
Picture this: You’re at work and you have a few jobs to do, some are pretty complicated. Then you get disrupted, someone needs your attention. You stop your work and go and deal with this new problem. When you return to your desk you discover the work has piled up, and it keeps on coming. You put a lot more energy into dealing with your usual jobs now, and you’re starting to feel tired. Then you get disrupted again. With a sigh, you go and deal with it. You come back and there is even more work to do. There’s so much work to do now that there’s no way you’ll be able to do a very good job on it. So you shove some to the side in order to tackle at least some of your jobs.
This is what it’s like in our bodies.
Every day, the body has jobs to do. Repairing at a cellular level, replicating DNA, controlling hormone release and thousands of other functions. Pretty hard work. It needs help. When we eat clean, (foods as close to nature as possible) the body may have bit of work in the digestion department, but the foods offer lots of nutrients in return. These nutrients can be the building blocks of new cells, so you literally are what you eat.
But when we eat sugar, processed food and junk food it’s like the knock on the door. The body slows down on its job upkeep and deals with all the problems the junk food brings. Too much sugar, too much salt, too much chemical weirdness. It leaves the body unable to do a very good job of remaining in health.
I realized that food can’t automatically ‘make us healthy’. Foods can either support our body’s quest to remain in balance (homeostasis), or they can disrupt that balance to varying degrees of adversity. The less time the body has to do its regular maintenance and upkeep jobs, the worse it is for our health.
Here are two quick ways to distinguishing ‘health foods’ from ‘non health foods’.
- I find the term ‘health food’ quite confusing. Instead of asking “is it healthy?” ask, “is it helpful?” If it doesn’t support the body then it’s totally up to you whether you eat it or not.
- Take a holistic look at the label. Just because it includes almonds, or has 1 of your 5 a day, or is low calorie, does not make it a health supporting food. Look at every ingredient, and take it all into account.
I often hear people asking whether a food product is healthy, when they aren’t even sure what exactly their question means. Eating some foods won’t cure you. Only the body can heal itself, and it does that when it can efficiently take everything it needs from the wide range of natural foods we offer it. When the body isn’t disrupted too often by modern, packaged and processed foods then it can use the foods we do eat to the best of its ability. We are, after all, totally adapted to eat some foods. And we absolutely need them too. But the foods we eat are only as healthy as the body is capable.
When I realized this, I saw that food was only a small part of remaining in balance. The body needs many other things to remain in health, and I shall write about this soon. Until then, check out my article on 5 Foods that Aren’t As Healthy As You Think, for a more detailed list of non health supporting foods.