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Healthy Foods

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What does Healthy Food mean?

The definition of “healthy food” is purely subjective and devoid of any scientific-nutritional criteria. In fact, what is healthy for one subject may NOT be healthy for another; this applies both from a “real” and “ideological” point of view.
Probably, the only category of foods unequivocally considered NOT healthy is that of “junk foods” or “junk-food”, to which we can add that of spirits; moreover, regarding the many (more or less well-founded) beliefs that concern human nutrition today, the concepts of “healthy” and “harmful” are absolutely subjective.
To give some examples, supporters of the well-known “Zone Diet” are strongly convinced that the major flaw of contemporary nutrition is that of including cereals, legumes, tubers, frying fats and red meats (obviously, this is a “simplification” that affects only one of the many key points of Berry Sears). On the contrary, it considers vegetables, certain fruits, oilseeds and a few others to be healthy foods.
Macrobiotic supporters, on the other hand, completely abolish foods that they consider to be in acid-base imbalance; but also potatoes, tomatoes and aubergines.
Followers of the Paleolithic diet repudiate cereals, legumes, most sweet fruit, milk, its derivatives and many others.
As regards the classic (academic) method, however, in addition to junk foods (obviously excluded from most nutritional styles), no type of food is excluded. Healthy are defined as those free of contaminants, safe from a chemical point of view and containing molecules useful for humans; whether it is relevant or not is dictated above all by the portion, the frequency of consumption, the nutritional context, the physiological and/or pathological state of the person.
To give an example, according to the Mediterranean diet, wheat is a healthy food, as long as it is not part of the celiac disease diet. Similarly, milk is considered a suitable food, as long as it is excluded from the diet of lactose intolerants. Dried fruit is included among healthy foods but must be excluded from the diet plan of those suffering from diverticulosis (to avoid acute diverticulitis). Red wine, being rich in antioxidants, is allowed in the diet of adults as long as it is equal to or less than 2 glasses per day; however, it is completely eliminated from the diet of hypertensives.
In short, in compliance with OBJECTIVE chemical and nutritional properties, as well as the state of health of the people in question, foods can be considered healthy ONLY if they are well included in the overall diet. What many don't know is that even apparently healthier foods, if in excess, hide properties that are harmful to the human body.

Which Foods Can Be Defined as Healthy?

As we have said, beyond beliefs and philosophies, the definition of healthy must respect “at least” some fundamental principles: hygiene, safety, presence of nutritional molecules, absence or limited presence of anti-nutritional molecules, absence or limited presence of potentially inappropriate nutritional molecules.
For simplicity, we will briefly describe healthy foods respecting the differentiation in the 7 fundamental food groups (INRAN and SINU).

  • Group 1: meat, fish products and eggs. Of this group it is essential to remember that ONLY the fresh ones can be defined as “objectively” healthy. They must be free of prions, viruses, bacteria and parasites, and not contain significant pharmacological traces (hormones, antibiotics, etc.). Those with a prevalence of unsaturated fatty acids are healthier than saturated ones, with little cholesterol, rich in iron, vitamins. D and group B vitamins. Cured meats, canned fish products, salted products, etc. should be consumed sparingly.
  • Group 2: milk and derivatives. Milk must also be totally safe from a microbiological point of view, from a contaminants point of view (this time also from the processing cycle) and from pharmaceuticals. Furthermore, unlike the previous group, products subjected to human manipulation, i.e. skimming (preferably partial), are healthier. Let's be clear, in a balanced diet, two or three daily portions of whole milk or yogurt and two weekly portions of cheese (as a dish) DO NOT create any imbalance in the nutritional balance. However, being aware that saturated fats and cholesterol are “potentially” harmful, since they are “on average” in excess, it is better to reduce the total quantity in the collective diet (in this case, STOP butter and cream). A final observation must be made about yogurts; if natural they are certainly excellent foods, while those sweetened (with sugar or additives) represent a less healthy alternative.
  • Group 3: cereals, derivatives and tubers. There isn't much to say; once the absence of mold or residues of agricultural treatments has been ascertained, it is simply necessary to prefer WHOLE and (in the case of cereals) WHOLE WHOLE ones. Potatoes are tubers, but (when cooked) they boast a nutritional intake more similar to that of a cereal rather than a vegetable. These are basically healthy foods (I repeat that I am talking about “raw” products, not derivatives that include the presence of added fats, salt or sugar) but, boasting a high carbohydrate – energy content, the relative portions must respect individual needs. Also be careful when using bran; it is rich in fiber but also in anti-nutritional components that bind certain minerals and prevent their absorption (especially phytates).
  • Group 4: legumes. What was said in the previous paragraph applies. They are very healthy foods but, even when energy needs allow, they must be consumed in reasonable portions. This is due to the fact that whole ones with peel contain a fair amount of anti-nutritional molecules (phytates and protease inhibitors).
  • Group 5: Seasoning fats and oils. Leaving aside butter (already mentioned in group 2), I DO NOT include other seasoning fats of animal origin among healthy foods, even though I still consider them better than hydrogenated and/or fractionated vegetable fats. Instead, I include oilseeds, very caloric and rich in so-called “good fats” (not surprisingly, oil is extracted from many of these products).
    The healthiest “condiment” vegetable oils are those cold-pressed, as they are rich in vitamin E, antioxidants and polyunsaturated fatty acids that are still biologically active (not deteriorated by extraction processes). This group includes extra virgin olive oil, linseed oil, grape seed oil, corn oil, etc. Among those suitable for cooking, however, extra virgin olive oil and peanut oil are healthier (since they are mainly unsaturated but still resistant to high temperatures). I remind readers that the consumption of oilseeds must be strictly correlated to that of the total oil in the diet; as one increases, the other should decrease (lipids should not exceed 25-30% of total energy). In addition to the desirable chemical content, it is also essential that (to be defined as healthy foods) vegetable oils and oilseeds are in an excellent state of preservation; ESPECIALLY (but not only!) those rich in omega 3, which tend to deteriorate quickly if: exposed to light, heat and oxygen. Oilseeds are also sensitive to mold contamination.
  • Group 7 and 8: Vegetables and fruit. All fresh foods are healthy foods from groups 7 and 8; preserves with added salt or sugar should be used marginally and in VERY small portions. Even this set of foods, to be defined as healthy, must respect the healthiness criterion from the point of view of agricultural treatment residues, contaminants, molds and parasites. Obviously, the level of maturation (or time of sampling) must also be suitable to guarantee its nutritional intake. We especially recommend seasonal vegetables and fruit from a “short supply chain”, as they are less preserved and hypothetically more nutritious. Furthermore, although they are foods to be consumed in abundance, we must not forget that they contain anti-nutritional molecules (for example, oxalates) which, if in excess, limit the absorption of certain minerals.
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