Is there such a thing as eating more than just “healthy”? Imagine this: I present to you, a fresh, full, bundle of vegetables, and a glinting, sinister glass of vodka. Which one would you consider a better example of healthy eating? For most people, it’s obvious. Come on, vegetables are considered the ideal “diet food” due to their low caloric value and rich nutrients, while alcohol is so often associated with a plethora of cardiovascular diseases.
However, are you certain that your bowl of vegetables is any healthier than your shot of vodka? People assume healthy eating means staying away from fast food, alcohol and the like, with the notion that only “healthy” greens and lean meats are good for them. Blindly assuming that any “healthy” food is good for you, regardless of factors like how it was prepared or processed, isn’t always healthy.
So how do you know if you’re eating it the right way? Well, for starters, you’re focusing on the wrong thing. It isn’t about what you eat. It’s about what you’re eating out of it. The act of consuming goods from a “healthy” food group shouldn’t be your end goal, but rather the essential nutrients that you’re getting out of eating it. Let’s look at this in three ways.
1. Proportion your mojitos and your red wine, because they aren’t the same.
Every food group has an “unhealthy” and “healthy” end. Even for alcohol, an article from SHAPE magazine has shown that an average mojito might have barely any nutritional content, with nearly two and a half times as many calories and eight times as much sugar compared to a glass of red wine. In fact, some studies have suggested that having one glass of red wine a night may be suitable for particular groups of people, as it contains antioxidants and essential nutrients for the body.
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However, this doesn’t mean that consuming large quantities of red wine will provide a healthy diet. Just like with all other foods, however, alcohol should be taken in moderation as it’s known to cause all sorts of harmful effects to your body, including liver damage, cardiovascular problems, and cognitive decline. Eat from all food groups in moderation, and in the right proportion to get a balance of all kinds of essential nutrients.
2. Cook nutritiously for your healthy food, or else...
Most people don’t seem to realize that while food can be healthy in its raw form, cooking methods like deep-frying or adding excessive sauce can drastically reduce the nutrition value of the meal. Take salad, for example, a basic kale salad is rich in fiber, protein, vitamins and has only 33 calories. But adding a single serving of thousand island sauce adds barely any nutritional value to the dish, and can bring the caloric intake up to nearly five times than without!
3. The factory makes it pretty, but does it make it healthy?
If every food was eaten fresh from the farms, pulled out from the ground and cooked on the spot, this wouldn’t be a concern. Unfortunately for our modernized world, most foods that we consume, like processed or “fat-free” foods, have been through extensive processing to increase shelf life or improve aesthetic appeal. Some of these alterations have resulted in the addition of harmful chemicals or removal of nutritious components. Even an originally “healthy” food like refined grains can lose their nutritional value, according to this news article from the Seattle Times, after undergoing these preparations in factories.
BOOM. Is your mind blown yet? I bet you never knew how many things went into “simple” healthy eating. But here’s the deal: at the end of the day, not all vegetable dishes must be healthy, and not all vodka drinks must be unhealthy. The key to a healthy, balanced diet, while still indulging in the pleasure of eating, is to understand the nutrients within your meals, and make the right choices to ensure that you’re still receiving those essential components in reasonable proportions. With a conscious, nutrient-rich diet, healthy eating is more than possible, even with that shot of vodka!
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