Can we stop hating ‘healthy food’?

It’s a new year, so let’s start off on the right foot: healthy food tastes fine. Bad food is bad, regardless of what’s in it. You can have underseasoned, overcooked junk food just as it is entirely possible to have healthy food that is tasty and wonderful. The thing that’s bad isn’t the fact that it’s healthful.

Imagine a scene where there is a table laden with the finest foods you can imagine, whatever those are. Great big salads, chocolate cakes, whatever. Also on the table is a plateful of hard drugs. Now bring in someone who is hopelessly hooked on whatever drug is on that plate – heroin, cocaine, meth. That person could try everything on that table and enjoy it, but it’s reasonable to predict that s/he will then turn to the host and say, “That was really tasty! I still prefer (heroin/coke/meth), though.”

And that’s what sugar’s like. The villain in this scenario is the drug. And the drug that’s in everything edible is sugar. Call it what you like – glucose, refined carbs, white bread – it lights up the human brain like a pinball machine. There are evolutionary reasons for this, largely to do with acquisition of calories as infants, and that most poisonous foods are bitter in taste.

The thing is that we’re more evolved than that now. We know that sugar is bad for us. Diets high in sugar cause most diseases the developed world deals with, not just because sugar is fattening and obesity is a root cause of many such diseases. It’s also because of a lack of vegetables, and a body attuned to seeking out the taste of sugar will rebel against greenery, which often has a bitter taste.

There is hope. I think it’s something that should be done to mark the transition from childhood to adulthood, something to kick the sugar habit out of our brains, and to help us learn what foods we actually like, rather than those we’re compelled to consume.

A fucking potato.

In summary: you can have good food and bad food, healthy and junky, and none of these categories is mutually exclusive. The way we judge ‘good’ from ‘bad’ food is largely based on that food’s non-nutritive content, mostly sugar, but also fat and salt. And sugar doesn’t need to taste ‘sweet’ to be sugar; refined carbohydrates in the form of flour, pasta, and bread are just as bad, if not worse for their insidious nature.

Okay, sorry for another rant, but I needed to get this out. At least it was short.

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