Saturday, April 9, 2011

Health Foods vs. Healthy Foods

Because of an entry on a food blog I subscribe to, I decided to try something new tonight. The blog in question, Poor Girl Eats Well, offered a recipe for a version of tuna salad I'd never ever considered. I LOVED the idea because I LOVE dried cranberries. Yes, I said dried cranberries. Look at the photo on her blog. Tell me that doesn't look seriously delicious!! Her recipe, however, calls for almonds. I'm not overly enthusiastic about almonds. But, I knew we had some Cranberry Health Mix in the pantry that my daughter had bought for a recipe she'd never made. I also knew it didn't have any almonds or coconut in it, both of which would have kept me from trying this. It did have cranberries, raisins, peanuts, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. It was a go for me! I mixed the little bit that was left on hand with a can of tuna, fresh ground salt, fresh ground pepper and a dash of Mrs. Dash original and mayonnaise (no measurement - everyone has their desired amount). The only thing I didn't have on hand were greens to put on the sandwich - no lettuce or fresh spinach. I did have some whole wheat bread, though, and that sandwich was one of the most satisfying sandwiches I've eaten in a long time. Not only that, but it stretched the tuna to where I have more than enough left for another sandwich. And, other than the mayonnaise, it wasn't that bad for me to eat.

Tuna salad with red pepper, corn and capers. Not one I'd try. -Wikipedia Commons

That's when I realized I'd hit on the perfect "H" topic for my Saturday blog. I had used "health mix" in my tuna salad, but what's the difference between "health food" and "healthy food". I propose that while they are similar in some ways, that one overlaps the other; that while most health foods may be healthy, but not all healthy foods are health foods.

According to Wikipedia, "health food" is used to describe foods that are considered beneficial to one's health. It doesn't matter what diet you consume, vegetarian, vegan, carnivorous, macrobiotic or raw, there are foods that would be sold primarily in health food stores or sections of other stores. Often, you'll find organic foods among them.

In many cases, people who devote their diet lives to "health" food do so because they believe certain medicinal claims that have been made about certain foods or types of food. These claims may or may not be true. We all know that there are things that science considers more myth than fact. Occasionally, these myths turn out to have validity; chicken soup, for example, has been found to contain nutrients that boost the immune system and can inhibit neutrophils, the very things that cause the buildup of mucous during colds and flus. Yet, in and of itself, chicken soup is not a "health" food. It is DEFINITELY a healthy food, though. (source -

What would make chicken soup a "health" food? Everything about the soup would have to have been produced organically and chemical-free. No preservatives, no artificial colors or flavors, and, generally speaking, whole, organic and natural. At that point, the soup would qualify as both healthy AND health food.

What is Health Food?

However, not everything natural is healthy. You can buy organic beef that is high in fat. It may be free of antibiotics and other chemicals, but it's still high fat, high cholesterol. You can buy natural raw sugar, but that doesn't mean you can eat it to your heart's content. As a diabetic, I still need to monitor my sugar/carb intake whether or not it's raw or processed. And, too much sugar invites obesity (another problem I so happily deal with). So, the simple declaration of organic or natural doesn't mean it's automatically healthy.

The Men's Health Big Book of Food & Nutrition

I love when someone says, "But it's natural - that means it's good for you!" Honey - arsenic is natural, too. It's an element of the earth. So is mercury. Would you feed either one to your children?

Now healthy - that's a different story. Healthy is more of a process of eating and food preparation than a specific food category. You can have a healthy diet with foods not considered health foods. But, moderation is the key (although I'm not a visible example of moderation, I do have to admit.)

#1538 - Food - Eating Healthy Foods

A healthy food would be one that is properly cooked, not over-consumed (whether through gluttonous eating or through faddish eating). Healthy eating would include a proper balance of fruits, vegetables, fats, carbs and proteins. If that takes place on a low-carb or low-fat diet, so be it. A NO fat or NO carb diet would probably not be a good idea except under a doctor's watchful eye or perhaps for a couple of days to shake your body up a bit while it readjusts its thinking (yes, your body's thinking.)

Encyclopedia of Diet Fads

A Macrobiotic diet is a type of vegetarian diet (it can include some fish) that focuses on natural, organic whole grains that also involves embracing certain spiritual aspects of Zen. Provided you are able to keep your proteins balanced (while meat is a complete protein, grains and legumes need to be combined to produce complete proteins), this can be a healthy diet. However, devoted followers are subject to more and more restrictions until they are only consuming brown rice and water. That's pretty extreme and definitely not healthy, despite brown rice being considered a health food. (source - WebMD)

Ingredients for a macrobiotic diet. -Wikimedia Commons.

All in all, the best diet to be on is balanced. Make sure what you're eating isn't too heavy in fats, sugars, overly processed grains, that you have the proper amount of fruits and vegetables even if you have to drink V8 to get them, keep your calcium up and your calories down and maintain a good relationship with your doctor. Now, if I'd just read my own blog!!

I totally forgot about CATURDAY!!

Do you see what I see?

The proper perspective according to Tiki.

Safely tucked away Chloe.


  1. I make mostly healthy dietary choices. I do have a soft spot for both ice cream and cheeseburgers, though. ;O)

  2. Oh, and my H and G posts are up... you can find them here:

    My “H” blog is up! Come read it here:

    My “G” post is right here:

  3. When money is tight we so often think of the same old cheap things to eat, but really there are some more adventurous and tasty ways to shop frugally and to make good meals. I like the idea of the dried cranberries on the tuna salad, sounds like an interesting blend.

    A sandwich bar in London used to sell Tuna with Egg Mayonnaise sandwiches, and those were really good. Tuna salad is tasty, so is egg mayonnaise. Putting the 2 together is heaven.

  4. Love the post, so informative!! I have a gigantic bag of dried cranberries in the cupboard...I'm going to give this a try!! Found you from the A-Z Challenge, I’m now following you on GFC and I hope you have a chance to check out my blog!

    PS...we have two kitties, Emma is 12 and Kashmir is 6.

  5. Yes, I love dried cranberries too but never considered putting them in tuna salad. Sounds good. And super cute cat pix!

    I’m A-Z Blogging on Langley Writes about Writing and Langley’s Rich and Random Life

  6. Very interesting! I might be able to get my boys to try it! :)

  7. I think you make some great points about the distinction between healthy and health foods. P.S. I love tuna salad on top of greens, with almonds. I may consider adding cranberries. hmmm...

  8. Really wonderful information produced by you. Some of the factors which are focused by you are really great. Thanks for define the difference between both.

  9. I think we need to always carry the medicine cabinet, but a duty is a duty, something that never happens until it happens and not bad to have this hand:

  10. Money is tight, we often feel old cheap things to eat, but there is also some more adventurous and delicious way to shop frugally and do the meals. I like tuna salad dried cranberries idea sounds like an interesting fusion.