Is there a such thing as a “bad” food? If so, how would you determine if a food is bad or good? What about “all things in moderation”?
I am not new to the field of nutrition…I have two master’s degrees (in vegan live food/nutrition and clinical nutrition). A long standing and constant point of controversy in the field of nutritional science is regarding if there are foods that are “bad” or not. Let’s unpack this a bit.
What do they say?
Most nutritional experts will agree that all foods are good (in various doses) and nothing is bad. Usually the premise is something like, they believe that deeming foods as good or bad creates confusion and self-condemnation. Not to mention for many of us, saying “don’t eat these foods”, just makes us want them even more. Call it human nature.
These colleagues of mine will also argue that “one bite of a donut isn’t going to kill you”. True.
Points well taken…however…
Why I dogmatically disagree:
First, let’s be honest here, who do you know who takes one bite of a donut?…ha ha…but seriously. Foods like that are addictive by nature and very few people consume processed foods in moderation. Typically, the more you eat, the more you want to eat.
Although I do believe there is a loving, gracious, non-judgmental, and also evidence-informed way to frame nutritional teachings, some foods are indeed toxic and thus, “bad”. Some foods are known to cause cancer and other diseases. In these cases, I can’t get on board with promoting these as good or safe. With a few exceptions, if I wouldn’t feed it to a pregnant or nursing client, then I wouldn’t feed it to anyone.
No problem…here are just a few examples:
- Nitrates- commonly found in processed meats such as hotdogs, pepperoni and sausage sticks. Nitrate consumption dramatically increases your risk of developing various types of cancer, including lymphoma1.
- Titanium dioxide- commonly found in many supplements, sunscreens as well as ice cream and many other processed sweets. Titanium dioxide damages cells, specifically of the intestinal tract and harms the microbiome. It is also associated with systemic inflammation, immune dysfunction and liver damage2. Children are especially susceptible to these issues and safe doses have not been established.
- Synthetic dyes- These usually have names like “Red5” or “Blue1” and are found in anything that has unnatural coloring such as candy, sodas, cereals (exp. Fruit Loops) and even certain supplements, especially any that are in the form of a gummy. These dyes have been linked to learning challenges, cancer, allergic reactions and neuro-cognitive issues3.
- Potassium bromate- most often found in pastries or baked goods such as breads, pastas and bagels. This works as a dough conditioner to give these foods it’s soft chewy consistency. In mice, this had been found to cause kidney and liver failure, even in small doses4 as well as impairing neurotransmitters and damaging brain tissue5. Human studies have associated potassium bromate with an increased risk of kidney cancer6.
- Chemical sweeteners- These “diabetic safe” sweeteners such as aspartame and NutraSweet are often found in diet sodas and many processed sweet foods that are labeled as “sugar free”. This is also strongly associated with cancer7. Although this sweetener is nearly 200 times sweeter than sugar, it was originally introduced as a way to reduce calories and thus obesity. However, those who use aspartame tend to have metabolic issues including weight gain and blood sugar challenges8. Consuming this substance while pregnant can have a negative impact on glucose metabolism and also tends to increase the risk of obesity in the babies8.
I believe that some substances that masquerade as food, are indeed poisons and for that reason, should be used extremely rarely if at all. Each person is unique but how much poison would you “safely” accept in your water supply? Air supply? You get the idea. Asking if a bite of something will kill you is the wrong question and a low standard. Way too low for a beautiful, mission-filled soul such as yourself!
Friends, what more do you need to know? You vote with your wallet every time you give your dollars to healthy whole food companies instead of processed junk food ones. If we want the world to be a safer and healthier place both now and for the future generations, we have to stop putting our health on the line for cheap momentary pleasures…they are a banquet in the grave.
Just in case this doesn’t go without saying, remember that there’s a significant distinction between eating a “bad” food and being a bad person. They are NOT the same. This is really where a great deal of the controversy lies. You can struggle with addictions to certain foods that are not health-promoting, but this is not a moral judgement. Eating too many cookies, may keep you from feeling your best, but please understand it does not make you a bad person. I have a friend who would argue that “you’re only a bad person if you don’t share the cookies”, ha ha. I have lots of dearly loved friends and family who live on a standard American diet. What someone eats and how much I care about or love them have little to nothing to do with each other.
For more information along these lines, check out my recent post on Reasons to Avoid Processed Foods.
If you or a loved one is having health challenges that you can’t seem to get to the bottom of, we’d love to help! Reach out to the clinic today for more information about scheduling your initial consultation. 269-204-6525
1. Yu M, Li C, Hu C, Jin J, Qian S, Jin J. The relationship between consumption of nitrite or nitrate and risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Sci Rep. 2020. doi:10.1038/s41598-020-57453-5
2. Baranowska-Wójcik E, Szwajgier D, Oleszczuk P, Winiarska-Mieczan A. Effects of Titanium Dioxide Nanoparticles Exposure on Human Health—a Review. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2020. doi:10.1007/s12011-019-01706-6
3. Silva MM, Lidon FC. Food preservatives – An overview on applications and side effects. Emirates J Food Agric. 2016. doi:10.9755/ejfa.2016-04-351
4. Altoom NG, Ajarem J, Allam AA, Maodaa SN, Abdel-Maksoud MA. Deleterious effects of potassium bromate administration on renal and hepatic tissues of Swiss mice. Saudi J Biol Sci. 2018. doi:10.1016/j.sjbs.2017.01.060
5. Ajarem J, Altoom NG, Allam AA, Maodaa SN, Abdel- Maksoud MA, Chow BKC. Oral administration of potassium bromate induces neurobehavioral changes, alters cerebral neurotransmitters level and impairs brain tissue of swiss mice. Behav Brain Funct. 2016. doi:10.1186/s12993-016-0098-8
6. Radford R, Frain H, Ryan MP, Slattery C, McMorrow T. Mechanisms of chemical carcinogenesis in the kidneys. Int J Mol Sci. 2013. doi:10.3390/ijms141019416
7. Landrigan PJ, Straif K. Aspartame and cancer – new evidence for causation. Environ Heal A Glob Access Sci Source. 2021. doi:10.1186/s12940-021-00725-y
8. Czarnecka K, Pilarz A, Rogut A, et al. Aspartame—true or false? Narrative review of safety analysis of general use in products. Nutrients. 2021. doi:10.3390/nu13061957
Nothing said or implied in this post is intended to treat, cure, diagnose or prevent any disease. It does not take the place of a qualified health care practitioner and is intended for educational purposes only.