No food is healthy

Not even kale.

This op-ed from The Washington Post, published back in January, is one of the most fascinating takes on food I’ve read this year.

In it, Michael Ruhlman discusses the ridiculous ways we describe our eating habits, and how our word choices have real consequences.

His thesis:

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.

And there’s so much more to this article, including a primer on the very interesting, and sometimes dubious, ways that the FDA regulates food packaging.

Healthy is a bankrupt word,” the author quotes one doctor as saying, and I’m inclined to agree. I’m old enough now to see for myself how the “healthy” foods seem to come in and out of fashion as nutrition science evolves and fad diets rise and fall. Growing up in the 1990s, my idea of a “healthy” snack would probably have involved a key lime pie Yoplait and a 100-calorie pack of reduced-fat Cheez-its.

At its best, the word healthy teaches us to be mindful about nutritional choices. At its worst, it’s a fig leaf that helps people justify their disordered eating patterns to others, and to themselves.

Read the whole piece here.

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