Leave Well Enough Alone

When it comes to food, sometimes it’s best to leave well enough alone. I have a friend who tries every new superfood nutrient powder that comes along. Mostly, they buy it and it sits on the counter, but they believe this will make them healthy while eating fast food fried chicken plus some lettuce every other month.

There’s no shortage of these products. I’m confident I could find one that’s gluten-free, low histamine, and pleasant tasting. I’m also confident that it would cost more than the few cents per serving I’ll spend producing Swiss chard, arugula, lettuce, and bok choy in my garden. So why would I be tempted to opt for a powdery substitute?

fresh tomatoes

I’m not saying there’s absolutely no benefit to these products or that they shouldn’t be added to an already healthy, balanced diet. If you are creating a shelf-stable survival kit, they may be a good option. If an elderly relative has trouble chewing, they may be a good option. If you are traveling and uncertain about access to fresh fruits and vegetables, greens powder may be a good option. But for anyone who has access and can tolerate the ingredients in fresh form, a powder is not a superior substitute.

Flour that has been processed until it has virtually no nutrients left, then enriched is not better than flour that is less refined. Orange juice from concentrate that sits for months and then has flavor packets added so it will taste fresh is not healthier than eating an orange or squeezing one for juice.

Academics and food scientists have attempted to create functional ice cream that provides more health benefits than regular ice cream without the drawbacks. Along the way, some interesting things have been discovered. Dairy fat wasn’t shown to be associated with the risk of type 2 diabetes when compared with calories from carbohydrate. But replacing 5% of the dairy fat calories with other animal fat or carbohydrates from refined grains was associated with a 14% and 4% increased risk respectively of type 2 diabetes. Substituting whole grains for 5% of the calories on the other hand resulted in a 7% lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Even in this experimentation, whole foods proved healthier.

Ice cream may even reduce the risk of heart disease for diabetics. A few years ago, a Harvard doctoral student who had studied the relationship of dairy foods to chronic disease for his thesis presented evidence that eating ½ cup of ice cream per day was associated with a lower risk for heart problems. I’d like to believe this finding! I feel like ice cream has healing properties.

Even so, I’m sure homemade or local creamery ice cream without added fillers is better than commercially produced grocery store ice cream. I’m lucky to live less than a mile from a local creamery so a healing bowl of ice cream is never far away. Neither is the temptation to eat way more than half a cup.

When I was growing up, there would have been no reason for this post. The emphasis on processed and convenience food was small. Most of my family’s food came from the farm. I learned to love the smells, textures, and taste of fresh vegetables from the garden.

And my mother wasn’t keen on extra work in the kitchen. As a result, she kept things simple. That example inadvertently helped shape my preferences for healthier foods.

That doesn’t mean I’m a proponent of a raw food diet, but I do support including raw vegetables and fruits in meals every day. Why? They retain all of their nutrients. But also, I don’t think bananas, apples, peaches, grapes, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, oranges, arugula, lettuce, tomatoes, or baby bok choy are enhanced by cooking.

I don’t want to miss out on the peppery bitterness of arugula, the sweet juiciness of a fresh blackberry bursting open in my mouth, or the tender crunch a baby bok choy stem adds to my salad. I would miss all of this pleasure if they were ground into a powder.

When healthier and more pleasurable intersect, it’s best to leave well enough alone!