Healthy Food vs. Unhealthy Food

Food is sold in traditional grocery stores, bulk food warehouses, farmers markets and many other places. But how do you know healthy foods from unhealthy foods when you are somewhere that doesn't have labels, like in the farmers market?

Just because you are somewhere that you have fresh food from local farms doesn't mean it's "healthy".

What IS Healthy Food?

Actually, that question and its definition are currently under review as of late 2022 by the FDA. The FDA is updating the terms "healthy" and "nutrition" (that link will take you to the article from the FDA) to reflect more accurately details about what people need and how food has such a huge impact on your health.

In general, what the FDA is planning is to (finally) update their information to align with what nutritionist and health experts have been trying to get people to understand for many years.

You need to know:

  • How was it grown?
  • Were pesticides used?
  • If so, what sort of pesticides were used?
  • Were any additives that force the food to grow faster used?
  • Was salt added?
  • Is there hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fat in the ingredients?
  • Are there preservatives added?
  • Does the food have significant nutritional value?
  • How much protein is in the food?
  • Does the food contain saturated fat, partially hydrogenated fat or hydrogenated fat?

The FDA states that, as an example, to include the “healthy” claim on the package, a cereal would need to contain a certain amount of whole grains and adhere to limits for saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars. Nuts and seeds, higher fat fish, such as salmon, certain oils, and water are examples of foods that cannot currently be labeled as “healthy” but are part of a healthy dietary pattern and recommended by the Dietary Guidelines and would qualify to bear the “healthy” claim under the proposed definition announced today.

None of that information is generally provided when you are in an open market. So how do you know? ASK!

If you are unsure whether or not the preservatives you see listed on a label are good or bad, switch to fresh or a natural food alternative that doesn't use preservatives. Healthy food will state on the package that it contains an ingredient used for preserving the contents of the package. In that instance, you should easily be able to pronounce and understand that is a preservative.

When you are in a typical grocery store, you can read the label to find out if the product has the above answered. If a label does not disclose the above, you should move to another area of the store that does reveal the answers to the above questions, or perhaps consider a new store for your regular shopping.

Does that mean you must eat only organic? No. You can get fresh food, produce, etc., without purchasing Organic items. For more details about Organic production, the Mayo Clinic does a great job at outlining that term.

But healthy food goes beyond just a label or where you purchase. The type of food is also a serious consideration. So let's outline some of the basic food groups.

What Foods Are Healthy?

For the most part, most anybody could tell the difference between what we know is "good for you" as compared to "junk food". Good for you is food that has a lot of nutrients, little saturated fat or none, protein, and contains no man-made "stuff". But you already know that. And "junk food", well, you know very well all the food that goes into that category.

Here's an easier method to buy groceries. Look for the "Natural Food" section of your store. Usually, the natural foods are on the outer areas - not in the main aisles. However, some of the major corporate grocery stores have decided to make it more difficult for those of us who prefer healthy food and they have moved the health foods from around the outer aisles in with everything else.

So you will need to look for a sign displayed indicating "Natural". Go there. Buy from that area. And if you aren't sure with the dairy or some other foods, look at that label. When you read ingredients that you cannot pronounce or have never heard the term, maybe put that item back and look for one that has ingredients you understand.

In general, you should be looking at the ingredients label to assure there is no Saturated, Partially Saturated, or Hydrogenated Fat. Also, no salt added. Yes, folks. If you are a big fan of adding salt to everything, STOP!

NOTE: Hydrogenated fat is saturated fat that has been air-whipped before being added to foods, thus allowing the manufacturer to state that it does not contain saturated fat. Once you eat hydrogenated fat, it returns to its original state - saturated fat. Anything that lists hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fat is simply saturated fat. Don't purchase items with those ingredients.

Vegetables: Peas (next to eggs are the second best, natural source of protein); Broccoli; Corn; and all the other vegetables you like are very good for long as they are fresh and not grown with pesticides or Genetically Modified. If they are in a can, read the label to see if salt or preservatives were added. If yes, pass and look for an alternative without the junk.

Meat: Chicken & Turkey have less fat than any other meat and more protein (except some seafood). The fat from Chicken and Turkey is different and lighter on your stomach than other meats. It's much more healthy for you to eat either of these meats, but you may still eat whatever meat you desire - as long as there is no fat in them. Just remember, those other meats raise your bad Cholesterol level. Higher bad Cholesterol means your heart has to work harder as the Cholesterol builds in your arteries. The more it builds the harder your heart works until, eventually, your heart cannot pump as necessary which leads to serious health risks.

Carbohydrates: Potatoes; Natural Cereal; Natural Snack Chips; Crackers; etc. Carbohydrates do not make you fat just because they are Carbohydrates! Carbohydrates to your body are a necessity. They act like a log on a fire - as compared to a piece of paper in the fire. One burns for a long time and warms the room. The other, well, it's burned in less than a second in a hot fire and provides....nothing.

Consider processed sugar is the sheet of paper. Your body turns many things into a "type" of sugar that provides energy for your body. All sugars are NOT alike. If you eat processed sugar (granulated sugar), your body "thinks" you just provided some good energy to burn. When the sugar is burned very fast (which is always what happens with processed sugar), the body stops the energy flow because it realizes that you ate processed sugar and not carbohydrates or fruit which the body has to convert into a natural sugar. That conversion process takes time which allows you more energy for a longer period. Simple processed sugar burns you out and you feel like napping after it wears off. We've all watched children who've eaten sugar. They run around all full of energy - for a "short" period of time. Then, they end up laying on the floor ready to take a nap.

It's difficult to burn off carbohydrates because they are doing what they are supposed to do for the body - acting like that big log on the fire. Runners and seasoned athletes who compete for hours do what's called "carbo-load" the day before an event. Why? Because all those carbs take a long time to burn, and will provide energy for a long time.

Fruit: Banana; Apple; Peach; Pear; Orange; Pineapple (and the list goes on - you know all the fruits, or at least many that you enjoy). I just can't think of a bad fruit, although there are many I prefer not to eat.

Dairy: Milk; Cheese; Eggs; Yogurt; Let's stop there. Butter is obviously a dairy product, and it has a lot of fat. It adds flavor to cooking and baking. But, it's also high in Saturated Fat - the bad fat. So you need to limit how much butter you use. Like salt, it can enhance flavor, but it's not healthy for you to eat a lot. There are many dairy products, but those not listed here are products you should also avoid, or use very sparingly due to the high saturated fat content and other UN-healthy ingredients.

What's wrong with saturated fat you may ask? Let me explain how to identify saturated fat compared to unsaturated fat so that you can truly understand the difference. Saturated fat is any fat that is "solid" at room temperature. After you ingest saturated fat, even if it was a liquid at the time you ate that saturated fat, it will return to the solid form or at least near the solid form making it very difficult to your blood to pass through your body. The more you eat, the slower your blood flows. When your blood can no longer flow "enough", you have a heart attack - or worse. That fat builds up on the walls of your blood supply and narrows the stream of blood through the body.

Unsaturated fat is liquid at room temperature. Nothing wrong with that. Unsaturated fats are also used by the body to transport nutrients through the body.

Seafood: Fish; Shellfish; Most anything found in the ocean is healthy for you, although man has polluted many areas of the sea so that some fish is not "as" healthy as it once was.

Seaweed is consumed by many, and it's alright as long as you don't eat a lot because it's loaded with salt. Salt is salt regardless from where it comes or the color or anything else. Salt - sodium - should only be consumed in small doses per day - 2.3 grams (2,300 milligrams) or less. 1 teaspoon of table salt contains 2,325 milligrams. Think of how much salt you eat daily and understand, 1 teaspoon was your limit for the day! Keep that number in your mind every time you pick up a salt shaker or consider adding salt to what you are cooking or baking.

When you hear advertisements or other information stating how good red meat is for you, that's the cattle, pork and other industries trying to sell their products - nothing more. Does that mean meat other than fish, turkey and chicken is bad? All other meats do have protein which is very good for you. But, if you put aside the flavor you like from those meats, the high salt content and high fat content in all of those other meats are what make them "less healthy" for you. So eat those meats only a few times weekly instead of having them as your main diet.

Food that is not listed here should be considered as something not recommended. Canned foods are not listed because there are "organic" canned foods and "non-organic" canned foods and they differ greatly! If you purchase something in a can, read the label. If it has salt, fat, partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated fat, or preservatives (things you cannot pronounce), put the can down.

Salt?!  What's Wrong With Salt?!

If you never added salt to anything you would live longer and be much, much healthier! If you limited your additional salt to say 100 grains in your hand per day (or 2.5 grams which is about a teaspoon), that's great. You already eat salt from most foods naturally.

Celery has a high salt content. I'm sure you didn't know that. Name a food and it's most likely got "some" salt. That said, adding salt to your baking, cooking or especially on everything you have on your plate is horrible!

If a recipe you have calls for a teaspoon of salt, just slowly pour into your hand a very small amount of salt - about the amount you might actually be able to count each grain - and that's the amount the recipe "needs". In general, when a recipe calls for salt, it's because the person who wrote the recipe wanted to make the flavors in the recipe more enhanced. It has nothing to do with whether or not the recipe will work without the salt.

Yes, you need salt for your body. But you can be very healthy eating less than 2.5 grams of salt daily added to your food. The reason most people use so much salt is because...they have been abusing salt for many, many years. That means, they have trained their taste buds to high levels of salt for so long that they don't taste food that does not have high levels of salt added.

Salt opens the pores of your tongue. Doing so "tricks" the body into thinking there is a lot more "flavor" in the food with the salt. But if you never added salt to anything, over a few months your body would realize that there is a lot of flavor that you'd been missing because of too much salt. And, you can enhance the flavor of anything you cook by experimenting with "healthy" spices.

The reverse is also true. If you continue to add a lot of salt to your food, you will continue to "increase" the amount of salt you add because your tongue becomes overly used to the amount of salt - it needs more to bring out the flavor to which you are used. If you never used salt, you'd always be able to create the recipe the same each time and the flavor would be the same.

Use spices and other ingredients to enhance your food - not salt. Things like onion, red onion, garlic, onion powder, curry, giner and SO many other spices that there's not room to list them which can be used to provide wonderful flavors your entire family will enjoy, if you just did a little experimenting.

Don't reach for salt because it's a habit, or because you "can't taste" something. Go back to before you began cooking that meal and look at your ingredients. If you do not have any spices "other than" salt and pepper while cooking, then yes - the food could be very bland. But adding salt is NOT the answer!

Healthy food from Garrison Body in the "Men Cook" section will provide recipes and videos of how to cook healthy meal.

Keep These in Your Pantry

If you have spices like Garlic Powder (or fresh Garlic), Cumin, Ginger, Curry, Basil, Thyme, Rosemary, then you simply need to do a little experimenting. Or, you can read some recipes that use simple spices. You could make Ginger / Curry Chicken with a little onion powder and Garlic Powder. Grill that and you'll be surprised how good that chicken is, and moist (if you grill one side for just 3 or 4 minutes, then flip it back to cook 20 minutes on the other side, then flip again for an additional 20 minutes to grill both sides).

You don't need to add salt to that. Serve that with a baked potato and vegetables, no salt on any of that and you have a really healthy meal. Use shredded Parmesan Cheese on the vegetables if you wish, and that cheese, because it's got salt in it will be fine, along with Sun Dried Tomatoes with a little Poppy Seed dressing on your potato. The flavors with that combination are absolutely wonderful!

To make it easier for you to create a few recipes, take a look a "Men Cook" here in Garrison Body. There you will find a lot of great recipes, and the list has more added monthly.

Because salt is such a contentious subject to discuss, take a few minutes to read this article from Queensland Health Government site - Australia. Even though the article is from Australia, you can be certain that people in the U.S. are suffering from the exact same issues.

What sort of health issues come from too much salt? Here's a short-list:

  • enlarged heart muscle
  • headaches
  • heart failure
  • high blood pressure
  • kidney disease
  • kidney stones
  • osteoporosis
  • stomach cancer
  • stroke

Before you consider consulting your general practitioner (your typical doctor), you need to understand that most physicians have no training in health and nutrition! At best, they get 1 week of nutritional information during there years of training to become a doctor.

You will learn more facts about health and nutrition from Garrison Body than you will from your general practitioner. They are trained to fix things - not prevent. They can tell you what causes many health issues, but they don't know enough to tell you how to have great eating and cooking habits. They have no idea how many Calories are right your "your" body. But they will try, and the information is usually far from correct - or valuable. You'll be lucky if your doctor can quote the FDA on how many Calories you should eat daily.

But the FDA daily Calorie consumption information is based upon a very healthy, 20 year old male. Why? Because the FDA thought that would be a good model. If that's not your gender or age, then the information about how many Calories "you" should have daily are incorrect.

In all of this information, if you feel as if you cannot get answers that pertain to "you" and how "your" daily activities effect your body, then you are not wrong. But stay right here in Garrison Body because as you wander through the pages, you will find how to answer the questions that make sense "for you".

Where Can I Find Healthy Recipes?

Now THAT is a great question! Right here in Garrison Body! Keep your eyes on this site because during the redevelopment of this site (late 2022 and early 2023), there will be a section all about cooking called "Men Cook". And, please know that the recipes and methods are NOT what a typical "guy" would do. They are recipes for anybody. They prepared with care and focus on taste as well as simplicity. Yes, there will be many recipes that are quite complicated. But for the weekly meals, you'll find an array of good tasting, easy to prepare healthy foods most anybody will enjoy.