A couple of people sent me the link to this article about identical twin brothers who performed a nutrition experiment on themselves. One of them adopted a diet very low in fat while the other followed a diet extremely low in carbohydrates.
By the end, neither one of them felt well. One brother concluded, “We should not vilify a single nutrient. It is too easy to demonize fat or sugar, but that enables you to let yourself off the hook in other ways. The enemy is right in front of us in the shape of processed foods.”
While I agree with the first part of what he said, his last sentence undermines his initial point. Just as it makes no sense to scapegoat a particular nutrient that exists in the larger context of one’s eating pattern, it is similarly ridiculous to blame a particular form of food (in this case, processed food) that exists in the vast expanse that is one’s overall lifestyle. To do so is to badly oversimplify what is a very complex picture. Exclusion, oversimplification, and blame rarely lead to good nutrition.
The people I have seen who have been able to attain and maintain good health are the people who find balance: balance in their eating, and balance in their lifestyles. Every food has its pros and cons and therefore no food is “the enemy.” Even processed foods have their upsides: enjoyment, convenience, shelf life, price, etc. Otherwise, nobody would ever eat them.
While eating processed foods all the time clearly has ramifications, so does never eating them. Decreased enjoyment, social isolation, weight gain (yes, gain), preoccupation with food, and eating disorders can all result from this kind of restriction. Misled by a culture of dieting and nutritional scapegoating, many well-intentioned individuals struggle with these issues. Joanne and I regularly work with such patients at our practice, where we help them to find a healthier relationship with food and ultimately better health overall.
The time to leave exclusion and scapegoating behind is now. Instead, understand that every food can have its place in a healthy lifestyle. Pursue balance. We are here to help.