It’s quite fun when you have nothing better to do, and you’re actually doing a service to the community in pointing out how little substance there is backing up their opinions, regardless of how much they try to present themselves as some kind of authority on nutrition… usually on the basis of having read (or perhaps being the author of) some alarmist publication, that has already been discredited by real science.
There’s a great article about Food Fear Mongering over on the Fooducate website which I hope you’ll check out.
Anyway… all you have to do is keep asking “but why is that bad?” or some variation on that theme.
Grains have been the traditional demonised food type of the past few years, but of late I think fructose is starting to take over. Previously grains were the cause of all human illness and ailment, but now it is fructose, so be careful you don’t eat too much fruit or you’ll be fat and sick. What a load of old balls. Legumes are another one I’ve seen vilified a few times… and the generic “processed foods” group almost goes with out saying.
The fructose one is amusing because from my observation it seems like it started off being “sugar is killing us”, but then someone pointed out that all foods we eat (sort of) get broken down into glucose in the digestive process so that we can use them for energy. So now it’s just fructose which is bad and not glucose, apparently. So by that logic, a pear is going to make you fat and sick, but a bag of “snakes alive” is fine. It’s ludicrous.
For the record… fruit, confectionery, bread, whatever… it is all going to be utilised as energy, up until the point that you exceed your requirements. Fruit would be about the last thing I’d advise anyone to cut down on, but even the more indulgent, less nutritious choices are fine as long as they fit into a plan that meets but does not exceed your requirements. Some choices will be harder to fit into your plan, and some are more likely to mean that you meet (or exceed) your energy requirements but are still hungry or short on other requirements. That is worst case scenario though… “exceeded my requirements, and still hungry”. None of it translates to “avoid at all costs, it is bad in all circumstances at any amount”.
So… here’s how about 9 out of 10 conversations with a food fear monger are probably going to play out.
People need to stop eating grains, oh my god!
or… People need to limit the amount of fruit they eat, it’s not good for you!
and you say… oh? Why’s that then?
Because of the gluten, oh my god gluten is bad!
or… Because of fructose! It’s a sugar and sugar is bad!
and you say… why is that bad though?
Well… some people have a medical condition and they’ll get really sick from it.
and you say…. ok, that’s for some people with a medical condition. But for the majority of people assuming they’re not consuming an excessive amount of calories over all, why would it be bad?
Well… historically our ancestors didn’t eat any grains, we’ve only started eating them in recent times!
or… our ancestors wouldn’t have eaten lots of fruit, and these days there is fructose in all sorts of food and drink products!
and you say… well, that’s not even correct but even it if was; why is that bad?
Modern wheat is a different strain to the grains people harvested centuries ago.
or… In the past people would only have had access to locally grown, seasonal fruits… these days you can get them all year around, wherever you live.
Note that a second ago people didn’t eat grains / fruit in earlier historical periods, and now apparently they did after all but just not the same type or under the same circumstances.
Anyway, at this point you say… but why is that bad?
The modern strain has more gluten!
or… Modern fruits have more fructose!
And you say…. that’s not even correct, but even if it was; why is that bad?
At this point usually the grain people get exasperated and just tell you off for thinking “you know everything”, or perhaps you get the “well I cut it out a while back and I feel great, therefore everyone who hasn’t cut it out feels like crap and is sick” routine. That isn’t any sort of logical reasoning though.
The no-fruit people are likely to continue as follows:
You can get all the nutrients and fibre from vegetables instead, without the fructose.
And you might reply…. well, of course you could. But why would that be better, in the context of a balanced diet that is not in excess of calorific requirements?
Aaaaand this tends to be about where they run out of answers. I have a bit of a theory based on responses like the one in the screen shot below… that this is some kind of cultural issue with indulging in things that are enjoyable, when there is a less enjoyable alternative available. If you’ve ever read the rather excellent book “Outliers” you might see where I’m coming from with this theory. Highly recommended reading about how cultural and other factors influence our lives.
So to sum up. Particular food choices aren’t bad “just because they are bad”. What matters is how they fit into a sensible, balanced plan to meet your nutritional AND enjoyment requirements. Fruit is perhaps the best choice on both fronts.