(4/5) Step beyond Healthy/Unhealthy

Step Beyond Healthy/Unhealthy


Aim of Article: to explain the importance of context before labelling foods healthy/unhealthy


Foods are often labelled healthy/unhealthy, which on the surface does not seem like such a big deal; however aside from the obvious toxin foods (trans-fats, burnt food etc.), so much of whether a food is good for your strategy or not depends on context.

For an extreme example, let’s take two foods, one that has been marketed as healthy super-food kale and one that has been the face of unhealthy food the infamous cheeseburger.

If you are trapped on a desert island with limited food and are given the choice of 500g of cheese burger or 500g of kale, In this scenario, where starvation is a real factor, of course you are not going to pick the kale. The cheese burger with copious amount of fat, protein and carbs is going to be the ‘healthier’ choice as it is going to keep you alive and healthier for longer. Whereas kale, despite its helpful micronutrient content, its minimal carbohydrate, protein and fat content is going to be of little value to you.

Whereas take the exact same foods and apply them to a different island where there is too much food and overconsumption is a real threat, then in this scenario, kale, with its lower macronutrient and energy content is arguably going to be the healthier choice as it addresses the issue of eating too much by filling the hapless islander up and preventing further gluttony.

This is an over-the-top example, but you get the point. Issues can arise when people feel they are eating healthily, when in fact the food may not be the best for their strategy. Some less extreme examples include:;

  • Nuts – a  ‘healthy’ food that is packed full of protein fats and micronutrients, but as they are so calorific it is easy to overeat them while on a fat-loss focused diet.
  • White rice – a high carb low nutrient food, which is often demonised. However it can be a useful tool for a typical hard-gainer who is hitting all his macro and micro targets but struggling to hit his daily kcal target.  


Take home message: don’t rely on marketing to tell you if food is healthy or not, take responsibility for what you eat and decide for yourself if that food fits your game-plan.