They are everywhere, and it doesn’t matter if you know the terms. You have probably heard or seen terms such as “superfood,” “detox”, and “all-natural”. These are just a few of the health buzzwords that you might hear on social media or while chatting with your friends.
Although these terms might seem harmless and part of our everyday vocabulary, they can be misleading and even harmful. People believe that they eat healthier when they use buzzwords like “fat-free” or “all-natural” on their food packaging. These terms are often used as marketing strategies and have no scientific backing. The goal is to convince you that your food is safer or better than others, but there’s no evidence.
These are only a few of the many health buzzwords that you may have heard. Many others are misused or used frequently. Continue reading to find out which ones should be thrown out.
Clean eating is a way to eat foods that are as natural as possible. This sounds innocent, but aren’t we constantly told to eat more fruits or vegetables?
This term has a problem. It places food in “good” or “bad” categories, which is the opposite of clean and dirty. It also implies that there is a right way and a wrong way to eat. It ignores people who are unable to access fresh fruits or vegetables due to their location and income levels.
The vague term clean eating is also a fabrication since there is no scientific definition. This can lead to an obsession with healthy eating, and place vulnerable populations (such young adults) at high risk of disordered eating. Let’s not use the term “clean eating” to mean foods that have been washed thoroughly before being eaten.
Growing up in a Latinx family, I was exposed and taught traditional Latinx foods. I wouldn’t have thought of them until much later. Later, I learned that certain foods, like quinoa or chia seeds were being called “superfoods”. Another term, superfood, has no scientific basis but it is used to describe foods believed to have powerful healing properties such as preventing or slowing down aging.
This term may have been mentioned on magazine covers, TV health segments or social media. These foods may have some health benefits due to their nutritional content. However, research has not shown that one food can cure all illnesses.
In a market where people are looking to make quick money, calling something “superfood” is a common marketing tactic. Better to ensure your diet is diverse and includes many nutritional foods, rather than focusing on one fad ingredient.
Cleanse and detox
For a quick weight loss, many people resort to detoxes and cleansing in an attempt to flush out “toxins”. These may be in the form green juice fasting, meal replacement shakes or detox teas. Although they may not use the term “diet,” it is what they are. It’s not healthy or efficient.
Detoxes and cleanses are not supported by scientific evidence. They are a dangerous and unsustainable way to lose weight, or reset your body. Isabel Vasquez, RD at Nutritiously Yours LLC & Your Latina Nutrition states that although these cleanses can make you feel better initially, they are short-lived. She explains that these cleanses are not sustainable, and that if we consume too many vitamins, our urine excretes them.
Vasquez recommends that you hydrate properly and include fruits and vegetables in your diet to improve your digestion and overall health.
You don’t even need to detox your body. Your kidneys, liver, and other organs all help you cleanse on a regular basis. If you suspect that your organs aren’t cleansing properly, you should consult a doctor.
Processed foods are products that have been altered (e.g., washed and cut, milled or frozen), or infused with additives to preserve freshness. You can find a variety of foods in these foods, including cereals, canned beans and milk, fresh fruits, vegetables, olive oils, and your favorite cookies.
The problem with the term “processed food” is that it is used as an umbrella term, implying that everything you eat is unhealthy. People tend to think of processed food as fast foods with more calories, fat, and sugar.
Although these foods should not be eaten in large quantities, they can be preserved and enhanced with nutrients. You can eat a lot of processed foods like oatmeal and frozen fruit, which are safe and healthy. It doesn’t make processed foods bad or better. You can therefore let go of your fear about processed foods and enjoy them all in a balanced diet.
Cheat day, cheat meal
Cheat day or cheat meal are terms that refer to your intention to eat a high-calorie meal or meal. Although they sound harmless, they can have a significant impact on your relationship to food. Gabriela Barreto MS, RD. CDN, CFSC Sports Dietitian, and Strength Coach, says that this can lead to people becoming restricted in what foods they eat and when they eat them.
It is even more concerning if someone has a history or food addiction. This can make it worse. Barreto says, “This type of restriction we know doesn’t work and by creating unhealthy relationships with food we are more likely weight cycle when those restrictions are no longer applicable.”
Instead, she suggests eating a balanced diet, which includes foods you love as well as those that promote good health. She also recommends learning to listen to your body intuitively and improving your relationship with food.
Foods that are ‘good’ or ‘bad’
Further, putting foods in categories like “good” and “bad” can contribute to diet culture. It also makes people feel more self-worth by making food choices. These terms can also be used interchangeably to describe someone’s eating habits as bad or good depending on what they ate. Miriam Fried, a NYC-based personal coach and founder of MF Strong, says that if you assign moral value to food, it only leads to more guilt and shame about certain food choices. She elaborates that guilt leads to restriction, which can lead to unhealthy eating habits and a negative relationship to food.
Even though foods have different nutritional and flavor profiles, they all provide energy to the body. While some foods have more nutritional value than others it doesn’t mean that you should limit yourself to those foods. “Can we accept that a piece or two of broccoli may have more nutrients than a cookie, without calling the cookie “bad?” Fried points out that food isn’t bad or good. It is simply what it is. Understanding that these foods are all possible to include in your diet will make it easier to stop judging them as bad or good.
The term “all natural” refers to food that has been minimally processed, and therefore is safer. This word does not indicate whether a food is safe to eat. As we have seen, there are good things and bad. This term is not even regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration.
The organization has not yet established a formal definition of all-natural or naturally. However, it is a general understanding that it means that no artificial or synthetic ingredients have been added to any food. This term doesn’t take into account the complexity of food production and processing. Importantly, the term “natural” does not mean “organic”, which is regulated by USDA. USDA organic labels require that food be produced without the use of pesticides, hormones, or fertilizers. natural foods do not.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health states that natural products may not be better or more safe for you. Natural products can have more side effects or risk than federally regulated medications in some instances, like medicine. Take this buzzword with a grain or just get rid of it.
“Chemical-free,” is a popular buzzword. It’s often associated with the old saying “If it’s not pronounceable, don’t eat that.” The average person will use it to describe food or other items. They are implying that all chemicals are toxic and dangerous. This misconception is easily disproven because basic science lessons will show you that chemicals are present in everything around you, even the foods you eat.
This doesn’t mean that toxic chemicals should not be avoided. You can avoid pesticides by sticking to organically certified produce. However, it is impossible to eliminate all chemicals from any food. For example, blueberries are high in chemicals such as anthocyanins and chlorogenic acid. They also contain pterostilbene, flavonids, and pterostilbene.
These chemicals can look scary without context. Marketing plays a major role in fear-mongering about our food. It’s important to have reliable resources to dispel these myths.