In my mom’s house we have a picture frame of our dog displaying these words: Bad dog, good dog, bad dog. Our 7-year-old standard poodle has the intelligence of a human, and mischievously outsmarts us often. He eats socks, and occasionally his favorite – leather shoes. He doesn’t always do this and we love him regardless, but as the joke stands; sometimes he’s “good” and sometimes he’s “bad”. Reading this picture frame recently had me thinking a lot about food. This may be because I’ve been studying the subject of nutrition for the past 10 years.
Over the course of my training and prior, I’ve noticed that at different times in society major food groups have been under attack and labeled as “good” or “bad” foods. Carbohydrates, fats, protein, and produce are the basic components of our diet. And, many of us have heard these phrases: Carbs are bad for you, they turn into fat (Sure, in excess). Eating fats will make me gain weight (Are you sure? Which type of fat, and how much?). Meat is bad for you, it causes cancer (Please show me the evidence, and without correlation studies. Some types of meat may be better to consume more often than others).
So, can we categorize foods as good or bad? As I ask this question, many picture themselves drawing a line down the middle of the words good and bad, separating the foods displayed on this blog on one side or the other. And, getting excited as they know whole heartedly they are putting the foods into the “right” column. This may be what social media, and diet culture today is telling you, but in terms of food fundamentals, this notion is flawed. What if I told you that all foods serve a purpose, that all foods provide fuel and nourishment to your body? To put it simply, all foods fall under the “good” category.
For example, gummy bears and chocolate milk shown here to the average person may look like a bunch of sugar (gummies, chocolate syrup) and saturated fat (higher fat percentage of milk). However, under the hat of a sports dietitian I would tell you these two items would be the ideal candidates for a post-workout snack. Gummies, yes, provide sugar. They provide quick digestible carbohydrates that get into your body’s cells and quickly provide energy for your body, replenishing lost glycogen stores and sparing muscle protein loss. Chocolate milk provides an added source of quick digestible sugar in the form of chocolate syrup and lactose, but also provides protein. Protein activates muscle protein synthesis, builds muscle, and provides a source of amino acids to repair any damage to your muscle endured from your workout.
Even beyond the athlete, for someone with diabetes, eating 5 gummies may mean the difference between a stable blood glucose level and a trip to the hospital for hypoglycemic shock. These 5 gummies would raise a client’s blood glucose to a normal level instead of falling dangerously low. All food provides nutrients and can help our bodies live stronger healthier lives. The question is when, what type, and how much?
The answer to these questions are based on each individual’s dietary needs. Reaching out to a local dietitian in your area may be helpful in identifying how all nutrients can be used to benefit your body. All foods, whether they be carbs, fats or protein fall under the “good” category, and can be used to help us live vibrant healthful lives while also catering to our food preferences. I personally advocate a balanced style of eating, and listening to your body’s internal cues. Want to learn more about fueling? Contact me at fuelNCnutrition@gmail.com.