‘Clean,’ ‘Processed,’ and Other Meaningless Nutrition Buzzwords You Should Ignore

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Everyone desires to eat wholesome, however “wholesome” doesn’t have a particular which means. Neither do plenty of different food-related buzzwords which are used on packaging or by influencers. These phrases and phrases are supposed to make you’re feeling good (or unhealthy) about your decisions, whereas supplying you with little to no helpful info.


“Clean” tops the record. It simply means “issues I need to imagine are good,” and it does this by drawing an us-versus-them line. These meals are clear, implying that these meals are…soiled? Unless we’re speaking about an omelet that obtained dropped on the ground, that is an absolutely meaningless distinction.

“Inflammatory” or “anti-inflammatory”

Inflammation is an intricately coordinated course of that our physique makes use of to battle illness, restore broken tissues, and extra. It’s not at all times a foul factor. But since irritation is concerned in heart problems, there’s a speculation that stopping irritation normally might cut back your danger of sure well being circumstances.

It’s an attention-grabbing speculation, and even has some assist behind it, however there may be little evidence linking particular diets to irritation, and in flip to well being outcomes. Lots of our concepts about what constitutes an “inflammatory” meals are based mostly on lab research or on population-level analysis that we can’t actually slim down the consequences of particular person meals.

“Real sugar”

Cane sugar is fashionable now it’s not high-fructose corn syrup, however there may be little or no distinction, nutritionally, between cane sugar (or beet sugar) and the oft-demonized HFCS. Both are roughly half glucose and half fructose; HFCS is just “excessive fructose” within the sense that it’s greater in fructose than common corn syrup, which is generally glucose.

And should you’re going to come back at me with the truth that HFCS may be 55% fructose as an alternative of fifty% fructose, I’m going to ask how a lot sugar you’re consuming that you just suppose a refined shift within the make-up of 5 p.c of your sugar consumption goes to make any form of real-world distinction.

“Multigrain” and “grams of complete grain”

Nothing improper with multigrain bread (I find it irresistible), or stuff that’s labeled as seven-grain or nine-grain or no matter. But multigrain doesn’t imply complete grain. If you’re attempting to get extra fiber and extra complete grains into your weight loss plan, you need to search for meals which are totally complete grains—not the refined flours of a number of totally different grains blended collectively.

These labels are betting on you seeing the phrase “grain” with out actually excited about what it means. Same take care of labels that say they include so many “grams of complete grain.” We ought to all be getting round 30 grams of fiber every day, and complete grains are an excellent supply of that, however 30 grams of complete wheat flour (for instance) solely comprises about 3 grams of fiber.

“Net carbs”

“Net carbs” is a roundabout approach of claiming that a few of the carbs in a meals don’t rely. The concept comes from an excellent place, I feel: an apple with 10 grams of sugar and three grams of fiber shouldn’t be thought-about equal to a handful of Skittles that comprises sugar and virtually nothing else.

But you don’t want a calculator to inform you the apple brings extra to the desk, nutritionally talking, than the sweet. Reducing meals to their macros is unnecessarily narrow-minded, and has resulted in corporations like Atkins creating and advertising shakes and bars which are low in web carbs, when you possibly can merely eat no matter normal food meets your whole calorie wants.

“Gut well being”

It’s true the microbes dwelling in our intestines are important to our well being, and that we typically endure sick results when their little ecosystem down there will get disrupted.

But that is an space of lively analysis, and scientists nonetheless haven’t been capable of nail down the main points of what makes one particular person’s intestine “wholesome” and one other’s “unhealthy.” And we undoubtedly don’t know sufficient to say that you just simply have to eat this or that and your intestine microbes will likely be pleased.


Like “clear,” this can be a time period thrown round largely to demonize cheaper or extra widely-available meals, and to make what’s on the speaker’s plate look extra virtuous by comparability.

Even the most scientific attempts to outline what precisely qualifies as a “processed” meals are likely to run into philosophical in addition to dietary issues. The NOVA classification considers onerous liquor to be extra processed than wine, however does that actually make wine higher for you? It additionally considers canned greens to be processed and frozen greens not, amongst different doubtful distinctions.


The concept of high-volume consuming is that some meals are extra filling than others. So eat a salad or a soup, volumetrics proponents will recommend, as a result of lettuce and broth will each make you’re feeling full with out delivering many energy.

This could also be true, however additionally they aren’t delivering a lot in the way in which of proteins, nutritional vitamins, or the opposite vitamins our our bodies want. And whilst you might be able to idiot your abdomen for a couple of minutes, your physique is simply too good to be tricked in the long run. An hour after that plain salad, you’ll be hungry once more—and this time possibly you need to give your self some protein, fats, and better density carbs.


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