Tastes good = unhealthy??

I’ve been reading The Taste of Sweet by Joanne Chen, and it has me thinking.  Do many people really equate ‘tastes good’ with unhealthy?  I don’t know that this is something I would ever have agreed with.

Of course, before you can answer this question, you have to decide what is ‘unhealthy’ food.  After reading and thinking, I’ve come to a conclusion that doesn’t agree with either the current orthodox opinion or the main competitor.  I do not believe that fat, saturated fat, or cholesterol in food is any measure of its healthiness.  I also do not believe that carbs, sugar, or wheat are unhealthy.  It’s processing and chemical ingredients that I have suspicions about.

What this means is that a homemade chocolate chip cookie isn’t on my ‘awful for you’ list.  It’s something that can be quite healthy in moderation (i.e. the family sharing a batch of homemade cookies or two a week).  A package of cookies from the grocery store is much more unhealthy, with the hydrogenated oils usually used, preservatives, and the fact that much more of the preparation is done in a factory.

How does this relate to taste?  Homemade chocolate chip cookies do taste much better than anything from the store.  So in this case, healthier and tastes better are the same foods.

Actually, this is probably an almost universal rule.  For any food which has both a packaged and homemade version, the homemade version is healthier because it is less processed.  It also can always be better tasting, if enough time and money are put into the effort.  However, none of us have the time and energy to do this for all foods.

Then we should consider the foods that just can’t be made at home.  Some foods can’t be made without the use of processes that we just can’t replicate at home.  In my mind, many of these are also the most unhealthy foods.

Some of these considerations also apply to ingredients.  White flour that has not been bleached or bromated has been made for over a century.  It’s not far beyond what we could do at home, if we wanted.  We at least can make whole wheat flour.  Canola and soybean oils require industrial processes that we cannot possibly do at home.  Olive oil and lard were made at home, or at least on family farms, for centuries if not longer.

Do I want to live on a farm and eat nothing that I have not grown and processed every step of the way myself?  No, of course not,  But I do want to eat foods where I could conceivably make that food truly from scratch myself (i.e. plant a seed or raise an animal), if in the proper climate.  Like other grand ideals, I need to do what I can and be at peace with the fact I could always do more.  This afternoon, the way this looks is the following:

  • My crockpot has been working all day on corned beef.  I brined it myself for the last week and a half, but I used a purchased spice mixture.
  • I just put two loaves of homemade white bread in the oven.  They could have been whole grain, but that wasn’t what I wanted today.  I did use unbleached, unbromated white flour from King Arthur Flour.  The recipe I used called for shortening, and so I used a palm oil shortening instead of hydrogenated or interesterified shortening.  I’m making bread of the kind I want to eat, using the best ingredients easily available to me.
  • I’ll be steaming a fresh vegetable later.  Not organic, so I could have done better, but still a fresh veggie.  I’ll probably serve it with a little butter and and herb or two.

As the above set of examples shows, I do what I can about nutrition, and refuse to feel any guilt for the things that I can’t or choose not to do.

Returning to the original question, I think that given my definition of healthy food as less processed, and a variety of foods, tasty does not in any way imply unhealthy.

I would like to hear what you, the reader think.  Do healthy and tasty conflict?

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