Healthy or Unhealthy???

July 6th, 2016

Many people like to label food as “healthy” or “unhealthy.” There are some foods that seem to clearly fall on one side of the spectrum. Other foods may leave someone scratching their head and wondering exactly how to classify it. Different groups of people have different opinions of which foods are healthy and which are not. That leaves many people who continue to wonder: is this food healthy or not?

A recent article posted in The Upshot, a weekly email newsletter of the New York Times, reviewed a survey asking that very question. The survey was sent to members of the American Society for Nutrition (ASN) as well as to average consumers. Participants were asked to classify 52 common foods as “healthy” or “unhealthy.” The results were then compared between the two categories of respondents. As dietitians in Utah, it may be helpful for us to know how some foods are perceived by those we seek to assist in finding their way to health.

The survey found agreement on a number of foods. Items such as cookies, French fries, and white bread were pretty universally on the “unhealthy” side of the line. Fruits and vegetables, olive oil, and oatmeal were among those almost all participants considered to be “healthy.” (1)

Of course there were some foods that fell into a gray area, and their place on the spectrum varied depending on who you might ask. Coconut oil? Orange juice? Sushi? There was some discrepancy for these foods between respondents. While ASN members placed coconut oil and orange juice at a lower level of healthiness than the consumers did, sushi was placed higher by ASN members than by consumers. (1)

And what about granola bars??? To quote the article: “No food elicited a greater difference of opinion between [ASN members] and the public than granola bars. About 70 percent of Americans called it healthy, but less than 30 percent of nutritionists did.” (1)

As dietitians in Utah, we’re up against popular opinions and information coming from all sorts of directions and sources. Consumers look to us for correct, accurate, and reliable information. It may very well be some of our own clients or patients who are trying to sort through which foods they should be eating more of, and those that should be cut back for the sake of health. What are your thoughts on these “healthy” or “unhealthy” foods? Whichever way you look at it, it’s certainly food for thought.

Read the original article in The Upshot here.

1. Quealy K, Sanger-Katz M. Is sushi ‘healthy’? What about granola? Where Americans and nutritionists disagree. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/07/05/upshot/is-sushi-healthy-what-about-granola-where-americans-and-nutritionists-disagree.html?action=click&contentCollection=The%20Upshot&module=RelatedCoverage&region=Marginalia&pgtype=article&_r=0. Accessed 6 July 2016.

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