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Health Hath No Fury Like a Salad Scorned

January 20, 2016

Did you happen to see the recent article by Michael Ruhlman in The Washington Post? The title jumps right off the page and is designed to shock readers from their complacency. No food is healthy. Not even kale.

The kale backlash will be long and it will be fierce. But as much as this piece may on its face seem to be an anti-kale salvo, it’s not. Largely, it’s about semantics. Much like you can’t have a healthy guitar, you can’t have a healthy salad. The leaves, once separated from the plant, are no longer a living thing that can be described as being in good health.

Some food might promote health, and those would best be described as healthful. But Mr. Ruhlman would rather you take a more precise approach and look at food based on its nutritional content. His argument is that we should be evaluating our food choices based on the nutrition they provide, rather than some likely mistaken idea of what foods are good and what foods are bad.

As he blithely points out, if anyone tried to live entirely on kale salad, that person would be very unhealthy indeed.

But there’s an important point he has left out.

Food is a daily opportunity for us to bring pleasure into our lives. Regardless of whether eggs have a lot of protein in them, they are delicious. Despite some who cast doubt about their impact on the cardiovascular system, it’s hard to be unhappy when staring down at a gorgeous sunny side up egg.

When I read the title of the article, I had thought Mr. Ruhlman was going somewhere else with the argument. Oddly, my first thought went to a deep dark place.

There is no healthful food because regardless of what we eat, we’re all still going to die.

But then as I thought about it more, maybe there is a biological basis for the fact there’s no healthful food. And that’s because no living organism actually wants to be another’s food. Perhaps the unhealthfulness of food all stems from an elaborate set of survival mechanisms.

The bottom line here isn’t to try and live like a monk. But rather to be suspicious of what people will tell you is a healthful choice, and consider what’s in your food. Low fat yogurt may be fine. But low fat half and half is a terrible plan.

Seriously. That stuff is just foul.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 20, 2016 11:16 am

    I have been on the anti-kale bandwagon for quite a while. Not because I have any especial hatred for kale, but because the craze seemed so horridly arbitrary. Why not Swiss chard? Collards? Beet tops? Escarole? Why ignore other healthful greens because of kale? And let’s be honest, kale isn’t exactly an entry level green in terms of taste and texture. The kale craze may have put untold thousands of budding greens lovers off their cud forever. A shame.

    Like I always say, can we stop pretending to love things? Like kale and Troy?

    • Bob W. permalink
      January 20, 2016 4:32 pm

      The day the Collar City announces they have wooed upstate’s first White Castle franchise, you will hear a scream of dispair from Delmar that will rend the heavens.

      • Bob W. permalink
        January 20, 2016 4:35 pm

        Sonofa…despair, dagnabit. Humor failure.

  2. January 20, 2016 11:33 am

    It’s the world we live in. Everything is hyped. EVERYTHING. The key is to always be skeptical. Skepticism is a virtue, and it’s underrated. Methinks Mr. Dave is the poster child for skepticism, and I respect that.

    About “we should be evaluating our food choices based on the nutrition they provide”. This is a problem in and of itself. I don’t know who coined the phrase, but it’s a good one, “Eat food, don’t eat nutrients.”

    Too many people do exactly that. They eat nutrients, from processed foods. A good example is the cereal aisle. The boxes are all plastered with the nutrients they provide, “Whole day’s supply of iron!”, etc. If you’re eating processed foods because of the nutrients they provide, you’re not eating well.

    Now, let’s talk about Troy. ;)

  3. Laura K. permalink
    January 20, 2016 12:42 pm

    Cauliflower is the new kale. In part, because it can replace flour and rice in some recipes. And now, because everybody needs cauliflower pizza crust, a head of it costs $6. Six dollars.

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