Fear of Food

What I learned from the internet in the last week:

  • Beans are good for you. (source)
  • Beans are bad for you. (source)
  • Whole grains are healthy and we should eat more of them. (source)
  • Grains are bad for you. Whole grains are worst. (source)
  • Saturated fats (lard, etc.) are good for you. (source)
  • Saturated fats (lard, etc.) are bad for you. (source)
  • A daily handful of nuts will reduce your risk of heart disease. (source)
  • Nuts are toxic and eating them causes heart disease. (source)
  • Fiber is essential and more is better. (source)
  • Fiber is causing all our intestinal problems and we should avoid it. (source)
  • Broccoli, cauliflower, green leafy, bok choy, cabbage, cress, and brussel sprouts are really healthy foods we should eat a lot of. (source)
  • Broccoli, cauliflower, green leafy, bok choy, cabbage, cress, and brussel sprouts are harmful and should only be eaten occasionally.( source)
  • Oils and/or margarine are healthier than butter. (source)
  • Butter is healthier than oil and/or margarine. (source)
  • Fruits and vegetables are healthiest when thoroughly cooked. (source)
  • Fruits and vegetables are healthiest when eaten raw. (source)
  • Fruit juices are good for you because they lack fiber. (source)
  • Fruit juices are bad for you because they lack fiber. (source)
  • Etc.

After going through and eliminating all the foods that are supposedly hazardous to my health, I was left with… squash! Yup. Zucchini, winter squash, and cucumbers were the only foods that had no accusers. Could this be why zucchini plants are so prolific? Is God trying to tell us something? Could be—but man does not live by zucchini alone—and who would even want to?

Of course, some people are allergic to certain foods (I am), or intolerant, or have a specific disease for which they need to adjust their diet. It’s pretty obvious that we shouldn’t eat foods that make us feel bad! But what about food we’ve always eaten and enjoyed?

So many of the websites I visited in my research seemed to be selling something—nutritional supplements, informative videos or books, subscriptions—and most were using fear to motivate potential buyers. Eat this or you’ll have heart disease. Don’t eat that or you’ll develop cancer. This food is toxic. That food will ruin your digestive system. Be very afraid.

While it’s certainly true that some diets are healthier than others—at least we know that lots of junk food and sugar are bad for us—the web sites I visited were discussing various foods traditionally considered healthy—vegetables, grains, fats, and fiber. If all this “real” food is so awful, how does anyone manage to reach the ripe old age of 90 or 100?

With so much conflicting advice out there, all with reasonable-sounding, persuasive arguments, it’s impossible to know what comprises an optimal diet. (Having the willpower to stick to it once we find it is another issue!) I don’t have a degree in nutrition and I’m not a medical doctor, although my biology background helps a bit. However, I read and mostly understood the research that was cited, and none of it was completely conclusive.

Most studies look at one food or one nutrient (usually fed in excess to mice)—isolated from the rest of the meal. But we don’t live that way. We don’t eat specific nutrients—we eat food. We don’t yet understand all the interactions going on between our bodies and the foods we eat that. That’s why we need to approach this whole topic with humility. Unfortunately, humility doesn’t generate wealth.

Rather than stress over every meal I prepare and serve, there has to be a better way to approach all this. So what should we do? Until I’m convinced otherwise, here’s my plan. I will…

  1. enjoy a variety of (real) foods (Genesis 41:35, Matthew 26:26, Acts 10:14-15),
  2. with thanksgiving (Romans 14:6b),
  3. in moderation (Proverbs 30:8b-9),
  4. including chocolate (1 Timothy 4:3),
  5. and remembering that “whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Amen. Let’s eat!

3 thoughts on “Fear of Food

  1. Favorite article was the one on “beans are bad” sited Wikipedia no less than 3 times! Man that is some good research… lol
    Favorite quote from grains are bad article: “studies show that human brain function and physical ability peaked just prior to the agricultural revolution as well”.
    Problems with this quote:
    A. no citation
    B. Interesting that our physical ability peaked yet people are accomplishing more amazing feats every year.
    C. Human brain function peaked…. Really….. I don’t know about you but I feel like there are some pretty smart people out there. I guess they just don’t hang out with Wellness Mama…

  2. Ironically, the news is suddenly full of another study showing eating animal protein (meat and dairy) in middle age is as bad for you as smoking. We’re running out of food options!

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