When you get 10 registered dietitian and nutritionists in a single room, there chance of talking food is bound to happen. Even though there is a debate about some of the subjects, we would all agree that the question that we hear most is basically, is it healthy? and other iterations of the same question.
Most consumers have this idea about what is healthy and what isn’t so healthy. The good news is, so do nutritionists. The New York Times recently did a survey that contrasted the responses of members of the American Society of Nutritionists and the public and both of them disagree to what is considered healthy.
Preparation and perception
There are some foods that were in the study that were obvious. Kale is healthy while trans-fat isn’t. Many foods actually fall in between. This is because that the term healthy does not actually account for the preparation method or quantity, and those can be some serious issues. The dose can make the poison, but it can also bring the benefit.
Take a look at chicken. In this study, chicken was one of the foods that were considered healthy by most of the public and nutritionists, but the preparation method and the quantity that happens to be eaten wasn’t even specified. That is the flaw, simply because baked chicken eaten without the skin on it actually has less fat and less calories than battered and deep fried chicken that has the skin on, so it most likely would not be scored the same as just plain chicken. The truth is that half of the fat resides in the skin on the chicken, so just asking about chicken isn’t really specific.
Defining healthy isn’t that easy
Nutritional science has always been something that was dynamic. That is what makes it completely fascinating. We know a lot more now than we did over 10 years ago, and we are still learning more.
Even when it comes to other nutritionists, there may be a lot of surprising disagreements. There have been nutritionists that have been split on granola. This is a food that was considered so healthy was disputed by the experts who explain why nutritionists and the public come to different conclusions about it. Granola does have plenty of great ingredients such as dried fruits, nuts, whole grain oats, but when it comes to the crunchiness, that is caused by adding sugar and some fats.
A cup of granola weighs a lot more than just a cup of puffy cereal, and people don’t eat cereal by the weight, they eat it by the volume. The fact is that most people just pour the same size bowl of cereal without knowing how dense it is. A single ounce of plain granola is only around a fourth of a cup but various types of flaked cereal is a full cup, so all in all it can be said that one ounce of each type of cereal will look different. Granola does have healthy ingredients; you just have to eat it in healthy amounts.
Healthy versus popular
In the study, whenever a public stated that a food was healthy and nutritionists did not, it was suspected that the media coverage and popularity, as well as celebrity endorsements had a lot to do with it. Take for example, only 37% of nutritionists rated coconut oil as being healthy, but 71% of the public stated it was healthy.
Since 90% of coconut oil is saturated fat, plus there isn’t a lot of supporting evidence that happens to be in its favor, it is best that we all stick to olive oil. The PREDIMED study of a Mediterranean diet has been demonstrated in clinical trials that there are benefits to having some olive oil daily. Although, quantity still is important, even for healthy foods.
The agreement from nutritionists and the public that French fries were unhealthy is mystifying. The only reason that fries would be unhealthy is if you eat a whole lot of them way too often. Basically French fries are just oil and potatoes. Baked potatoes managed to get a really great rating from nutritionists, but let’s be honest, we eat them with added fat like butter or sour cream. In either form, potatoes are really a nutritional powerhouse that is loaded with minerals, vitamins, and fiber. They even count as a vegetable.