What is healthy food, anyway?
The word healthy gets thrown around a lot when talking about food and meals, I must admit I also do this quite often, but it's pretty vague really. What does healthy food mean? and is healthy food the same for everyone?
After a quick google search, 'healthy' means 'in a good physical or mental condition; in good health' - but if we're talking about food, this doesn't really make sense. The food can help us to be in a good physical or mental condition, but the food itself is not 'healthy' in this way.
The second meaning was '(of a part of the body) not diseased' -so this also does not make sense if we're talking about food.
The third meaning that I stumbled across on google was 'indicating of promoting good health' -hallelujah we have a meaning that makes sense when talking about food. Healthy food is thus food that promotes good health. And health as defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) is a "State of complete physical, mental, and social well being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."
The way I see it then 'healthy' food might be that nutrient rich bowl of veggies, as it's providing your body with essential nutrition to function well, and promote good health, but what if you're gut isn't currently able to handle all that fibre, and a big bowl of raw veggies tips you over the edge? Then this might not be 'healthy' for you at this time. It's still a nutritious option, but it's not promoting good health for you just now. Similarly, an apple which is generally seen as a healthy option, and may well be one for many people, might not be so great for someone with IBS, who has an issue with FODMAPs.
Healthy food, or food that promotes physical, mental and social well being, will be different for everyone, and will be different depending on the situation. For example, someone who has high blood pressure might be looking to lower their salt intake, and so healthy food for them would be foods that contain lower sodium contents. But this doesn't make foods that contain sodium unhealthy for everyone else, yes most of us eat way too much and would benefit from cutting down a bit, but some other people might need to make sure they are eating enough salt to replace that lost through sweat, it really does depend on the person and their situation. Or what about if we've been unwell and lost a lot of weight, the food that will help us to gain weight and give our bodies energy to recover, the 'healthy food' for our bodies at this time, might look quite different to general healthy eating. Or if we're doing a lot of exercise, our bodies will need extra nutrition - in the form of carbohydrates and protein, in order to recover from the exercise and to replenish our stores, and the quantity and type of food that's healthy for this person will look very different to someone else who's not exercising.
Other food such as chocolate and pizza are often labelled as unhealthy, which I also don't think is correct. Sure it's not good to fill your diet with only these things, but what if you're enjoying pizza with friends and that's contributing to your social well being, or if you are overcoming an eating disorder and learning to eat these previously restricted foods is actually a very healthy thing for you at this time.
So as we can see from these examples, healthy food for one person could look completely different to another, and that's ok. We're all individuals, we've all got our own things going on health-wise, and we all have to work with what we've got going on. So while I still use the term healthy, because it's an easy way to communicate that something is nutritious, perhaps I should start using the term nutritious more. Or should it all just be called food? What do you think? Do you use the term healthy and nutritious interchangeably?
If you found this article useful, share it on!