After finish edit: The following is mostly a late night rant. I really enjoy eating and I would like to see us living in a world where you don’t need to be an investigator just to not be killing yourself when you sit down to have a meal. Most of the following is oversimplified and in some cases unintentionally wrong, take it with a grain of salt (salt is important for your body, but eat it responsibly) and be sure to double check anything that sounds like it makes sense. The parts that make the most sense are the parts folks should always be the most skeptical about, I feel this is true with any part of your life and certainly any part of mine .
Oh dear, I’m sitting back upstairs while I write this and that knowledge should warn you that this is about to be a bumpy typo ridden ride. With that out of the way I think I’ve devised a pretty good strategy for deciding whether or not a food is actually good for you. It is obviously not perfect and I’m sure beyond my semi-serious examples it will be full of more holes than a block of Swiss (one of my favorite cheeses, if you were curious).
If you want to know if a food is bad for you try and find out if it was at one time a food that only rich people could afford. If that food was a sign of wealth then it probably is a terribly bad idea when alternatives are available. I will explain why I have this theory in a few very short parts because it is late and I still can’t have Caffeine because of a health issue at this time (leaves my brain horribly unhappy, it misses its good time thinky drug).
Unfortunately this sort of post will be light on direct examples because the word “rich” is often used now to describe foods that are “full” in flavor. As such Google is utterly ill equipped and borderline useless to aid me. I do however have a few off hand.
White Rice and White Bread, both of these things were originally foods that were specifically for wealthy people and both for the exact same reason. These items stored incredibly well and went rotten much slower than their whole grain counterparts. The mechanics behind it have something to do with the part that bacteria and insects wanting to eat (eg. the good part) being shaved off and leaving behind the basic and largely nutrition void seedy bit. I’m oversimplifying and might be downright wrong in my explanation but that is the gist, I’m sure a better explanation is hiding over at Wikipedia.
The gist is that food that lasts longer does so because it is less appealing to things that eat food, micro and macro level organisms. This is a bad thing almost always, there are plenty of examples to the contrary but there are far more in support. This is the trope of all originally rich food, it was easy and required very little upkeep. Wealth brings with it a desire to eliminate conflict and effort, I can’t blame folks who do this because I too enjoy a nice conservation of energy.
This is why wealthy people historically have been overweight, not all of them just like I’m not overweight when my diet is nothing short of horrible. Genetically some people just don’t hold weight, but for those that aren’t ‘blessed’ the high calorie and low value food leaves them with a lot of fat stores. This compounded with the desire to reduce effort and conflict means that the fat will be going nowhere.
There is some supremely sublime twist to all of this in that rich people foods over time are manufactured more and more and become cheap enough for poor people to afford. Pour people then buy up these foods in large quantities to feel more like the rich people and the prices drop further. Eventually the “rich people food” is now so inexpensive that it is actually cheaper than the “poor people” food and becomes the new norm.
Except it never should have been the norm, this highly augmented tripe is unappealing to the natural world because it provides no value for survival. Again I’m oversimplifying but this is the basic mechanic throughout history.
Poetically you then have foods that originally started with poor people, such as Pasta or Pizza, that get picked up by the wealthier class and turned into expensive meals. I’m not sure if this is mostly ironic novelty or just the way of things, the grass being greener.
Obviously modern Pasta and Pizza suffer from the same valueless void that their white bread and white rice brethren. With food being a profit based industry instead of a service based one (wherein the food company makes money by actually keeping their surrounding population healthy and fed, which is how it should be) the emphasis becomes that of longevity. However to make food last longer you must also make it less nutritional.
Why? Simply because the less nutritional value a food contains the less things will eat it and the slower things will eat it. This is the path you take when your concern is for profit and not for life or health.
But that is a bit of a rant for another day. I just thought this might be a good avenue to look for folks who want to be healthier. Take foods that you love and look at their constituent parts, are those parts historically popular foods with past wealthy generations? If they are you are probably making a poor decision.
Now fried chicken I imagine was never a popular food for rich people, and this is not a good rule to follow by itself, but generally convenient foods were loved by the wealthy and the more convenient a food is (in many cases) the less good it is for you.
Save a minute and lose an hour, that is basically the balance of convenience foods. (I’ll leave you with a quote from Wikipedia since I’m sure some folks are surprised I took a jab at White Rice, of all things).
The milling and polishing processes both remove important nutrients. A diet based on unenriched white rice leaves people vulnerable to the neurological disease beriberi, due to a deficiency of thiamine (vitamin B1).
Finally if your food says “Enriched” anywhere on it it is probably crap. It’s supposed to be food, not uranium.