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What does "healthy" mean to you?

It seems to me that the word has become so over used as to become meaningless. To me it is following a reduced carb low glycemic index lifestyle. How many of us can agree on what it really means?
What does that word mean to you?

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    1. re: Brian S

      You don't think a perfectly ripe mango tastes very good? Or a fresh salad? I could go on. I think you are confusing "diet" with "healthy" if you interpret the word to mean not tasting any good.

    2. In terms of food, "healthy" to me means whole(some) foods, with little additives, in moderation, eaten in a way to provide maximum nutritional benefit.

      1. To me it means eating foods that are not processed. In other words, avoiding sugar, flour, and preservative-laden foods. Breads made from sprouted whole grains instead of flour. Foods sweetened with maple syrup, honey, or fruit juice instead of refined sugars. Meat that is free of additives like hormones or preservatives.

        40 Replies
        1. re: Josh

          Sugar = sugar. It doesn't matter whether it comes from maple trees, bees, fruit, beets, corn or sugar cane. If it ends in "-ose" it affects your blood sugar and your calorie intake the same.

          1. re: MakingSense

            That's true, but unless you are diabetic, a small amount of "-ose" won't hurt you if you eat it combined with some protein to slow down the digestion.

            1. re: pescatarian

              But a lot of people think that switching to giant glasses of OJ instead of sodas is healthy. They are consuming just as much sugar and maybe more calories. Better they should just drop the soda.
              Observe the little kids with the omni-present juice boxes. Sugar all day long.

              1. re: MakingSense

                I agree with what you are saying. I'm not advocating giant glasses (or even small glasses) of OJ or soda. I said that "a small amount" won't hurt you combined with some protein. A straight glass of juice is not good for you if you are trying not to raise your blood sugar, watching your calories and/or trying to lose weight. Juice should definitely not be the drink of choice all day long. I try to drink 2 litres of water everyday. I used to love diet coke, but I find that if I have the odd one it tempts me to have too much. If I am drinking a lot of water, I am less likely to drink too much of anything else (I like my coffee in the morning though).
                That said, if you are eating complex carbs, good quality protein and you include a little drizzle of honey, it won't hurt you.

                1. re: pescatarian

                  diabetic cookbooks i've read recently actually say that contrary to popular opinions, a small amount of sugar is not the end oft he world and using a small amount tastes better than using a lot of fake sweeteners. Ive seen some light fruit desserts that looked really good and were low in sugar and calories

                  1. re: choctastic

                    I think there's probably some truth to that. Look at it this way, if someone is eating a "sugar free" pie that's made with white flour and lots of fat (which adds to calories, which becomes fat in the body, which contributes to insulin sensitivity) than it's not good for you. However, if you were eating something with a small amount of complex carbohydrates (low sugar fruit, whole grains), small amount of fat, protein and a small amt of sugar or honey thrown in and you only eat a small amount of it, you are much better off than the "sugar free" offering mentioned above.

                    In general, moderation is key.

                    1. re: pescatarian

                      exactly.

                      and for what it's worth, I personally think that any diet that contains a high percentage of vegetables is relatively healthy. even low carbers of my acquaintence have had a very hard time losing weight just subsisting on meat alone. in fact the only one that has lost a significant amount of weight did it by reducing portion size and eating veggies as well as a relatively small amount of meat. the atkins vitamins do make you feel better but as far as i've seen they don't appear to be a substitute for vitamins gotten the old fashioned way.

                      1. re: choctastic

                        absolutey, vitamin supplements have their place, but nothing beats the real deal for vitamins and nutrients and vegetables (a wide array from all the colours (red, orange, green, blue/purple)

                        1. re: choctastic

                          As a long term low-carber, I can't help myself, I have to say it - low-carbing should never be "meat alone." When I first went on Atkins (induction, the VERY strict first phase of what's largely considered the "worst" low-carb way of eating by those that haven't read the book) I was probably eating more veggies than before because you're forced to get creative. Low-carb is NOT low-veggie and I wish more people would read the books before calling what they're doing "Atkins."

                          OK, zealot-moment over. I promise.

                          1. re: shanagain

                            actually most of my friends were on doctor approved diets and i'm just saying that's what happened. i completely agree with you for what it's worth.

                            --oh and lest it seem like i'm picking on the low carbers, i know vegetarians who were healthy and those who were not. the difference? the healthy ones ate their veggies while the unhealthy ones ate (vegetarian) junk food.
                            - actually i take that back the ones that don't eat veggies don't necessarily eat unhealthily but they just don't eat veggies and that seems to make a difference.

                            i've read all the atkins books and i have to say that i can see why people think of it as a license to eat meat meat meat. the books i read only give fleeting lip service to the importance of eating vegetables. I think they do this in order to sell books because who wants to eat veggies if they can have a steak, right? on the atkins diet the books say to take nutritional supplements (diet revolution, chap 23,"Nutritional Supplemenets: don't even think of getting along without them!") and as far as i've seen, most people on this diet do need to take those supplements because they choose to eat meat and no veggies.

                            1. re: choctastic

                              I have to admit, one of the things that drew me to give Atkins a try was... bacon. To paraphrase a line from Dogma, a favorite movie, "No pleasure, no rapture, no exquisite sin greater than applewood smoked bacon." ;-)

                              And it is absolutely true that on Atkins, you can pretty much eat all of the meat you can handle (bacon, glorious bacon!). But in my experience, even non-chowish folks end up branching out into veggies in order to expand their options, if not their culinary horizons.

                              Go to any low-carb message board or recipe site and you'll find people using shredded broccoli stems ("broccoli slaw") as a base for alfredo sauce, or cauliflower gratins as a sort of mashed potato substitute, etc.

                              Let's face it, it's also pretty easy to eat your veggies when you're given carte blanche on butter, cheese and judicious splashes of heavy cream.

                              As for the nutritional supplements... frankly, I always suspected the addition of the chapter on nutritional supplements in the re-release of the Atkins book was in direct correlation to the debut of Atkins branded supplements. (Say what you will about the guy, he was no fool.) Of course it's hard to argue with - we all know we "should" be getting more of something or other. (Or at least are told as much on a daily basis by the Centrum folks.)

                              At any rate, I wasn't disagreeing with your assessment of your friends diets, just pointing out how frustrating it gets when people (not you) assume that we Atkins-type folks aren't allowed veggies and fruits, which for a while was a very popular, widespread misconception.

                              1. re: shanagain

                                The veggie/fruit allowances weren't entirely confusing for me..it was the high fat content that was allowed. All that cheese/butter/bacon/beef a week seems at odds with the best advice given to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

                                1. re: HillJ

                                  It does seem at odds, but truly isn't. Basically, Atkins allows the fat because the diet promotes benign dietary ketosis - note, NOT diabetic ketoacidosis - where your body converts both dietary and stored fat as energy. Of course not all lower carb diets promote ketosis, but Atkins specifically does, which explains the amount of fats allowed. The truly surprising thing to me was the drop in bad cholesterol and triglycerides, which basically act as "glue" for cholesterol.

                                  I guess what made it most surprising is that in about '92 I had borderline high cholesterol after 2 years of doing the whole "low fat" thing.

                                  I think some of us are just more sensitive to glucose, and have wondered if there's any truth to the "blood type diet" because my body just reacts positively to low-carb, and negatively to a traditional higher-carb diet.

                                  (BTW, I'm now feeling ridiculously guilty for all of the cakes I've been baking lately. LOL)

                                  1. re: shanagain

                                    We must come from the same factory, shanagain. My body seems to react positively to a high protein/low carb diet and doesn't seem to hear any advice from the latest "nutrition" news. It reacts the same way to fruit juice and soda, fructose and sucrose all seem to be glucose. Whole grains tend to be my preference but my system treats them the same as any other carbs. I have to consider them special treats.
                                    Ultimately, my body isn't a test laboratory for the latest dietary theory so I have to live and eat by what works for me not anyone else.

                                    1. re: MakingSense

                                      Maybe that's the best definition of healthy - knowing what your body needs and feeding it accordingly.

                                      1. re: shanagain

                                        that sentiment is exactly what I meant when I wrote my original post.
                                        food that I love, that loves me back.

                                        no doubt, personal health is diff for all of us.

                    2. re: pescatarian

                      And if you are craving citrus, eat an orange! You'll get the benefit of the fiber. I love the La Croix sparkling waters, esp. the lemon and the orange. I frequently start my day with some. No sugar, etc. Just very finely carbonated water the bubbles are really tiny like in really good champange)and natural flavor. Delicious icy cold and so thirst quenching.

                    3. re: MakingSense

                      Also, I don't see anywhere in my comments that I advocated drinking giant glasses of OJ. However, it should be noted that unlike soda, fresh-squeezed OJ actually has nurients that are good for you, where sugar is simply empty calories.

                      Why don't you try responding to what was actually written, rather than what you think was written.

                      1. re: Josh

                        What you wrote was: "avoiding sugar, flour..." except for certain types of which you approve such as "whole grains" and "maple syrup, honey, or fruit juice."
                        High carbohydrate diets with heavy use of sweeteners, however wholesome their sources, can contibute to obesity if calorie content is not considered. Sugar is sugar with or without a dose of vitamins. All of them affect glycemic levels in ways that can lead to diabetes which has become epedemic.
                        I used the example of OJ because many schools have recently banned sodas in an effort to combat childhood obesity, replacing them with juices that can have an equal or greater number of calories than soda.
                        Yes, kids may get more vitamins, but the aim of combatting obesity, and the diabetes that can sometimes accompany it, has been sabotaged.

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          If concerned about glycemic levels, it's helpful to know and account for the difference between the Glycemic Index and the Glycemic Load. The Index only measures the glucose response per gram of carbohydrate, skewing the results. For example, it rates carrots in the same range as sucrose and honey. A person would have to eat a lot of carrots to cause that effect. There are a number of factors that contribute to a food's glycemic effect, hence the creation of the Glycemic Load, which takes the composition of the whole food into account, revealing, for instance, the contribution fiber and liquid has to the glycemic assessment. There are many sources of info online; you can see charts and read more by David Mendosa here: http://www.mendosa.com/gi.htm

                          1. re: BellaCalabrese

                            I recognize the difference. I wish we could all switch from sugary snacks to carrot sticks more often.
                            I was contesting Josh's assertion that it was healthy simply to make the switch from "bad" refined sugar to "good" sugar such as honey or maple syrup. Both of those would have the same effect on load, as well as calories intake.
                            My argument is that it's healthier to reduce the consumption of added sugar from whatever source.

                            1. re: MakingSense

                              I agree it is healthiest to reduce all sugar consumption, but there is a contradiction in what you're saying. Some sweeteners are in fact healthier than others. They range from 0.9 on the GL Index up into the 80s, and vary calorically. The choices you would make depend on your concerns, i.e., flavor; calorie count/weight loss; blood sugar spikes (which affects everybody's health, not just diabetics and those with cancer); nutrient benefits. Sugar has nutritionally empty calories, perhaps worse, according to "Sugar Blues," which says it depletes nutrients. Other sweeteners have some benefitsm and/or do less harm. Chosing those that don't spike the blood helps wean a person from cravings for sweets, including carbs, and other foods high on the GI Index. In other words, whatever the reason, if the objective is to reduce sugar consumption, it helps to choose sweetners wisely.

                              1. re: BellaCalabrese

                                I don't dispute what you say in the least. You are extaordinarily well informed, far more educated on this that the average. Therein lies the problem.
                                I was talking about a far less technical issue - that of marketing and how it has affected the average consumer's perception, leading to a switch from one type of product to another without a concommitent decrease in overall consumption of sugars.
                                By touting benefits in so-called "healthy" sugars, as well as whole grains, marketers have created demand for new or reformulated products. Although these products actually are often little different from the "non-healthy" versions, many consumers have come to believe they are. Shelf space has increased and sales volume has skyrocketed. Some kids seem to exist on juice boxes, granola bars and flavored yogurt.
                                Overall consumption of all types of sugars has increased as has obesity, especially among the young, and diabetes is a growing epidemic.
                                I understand that even artificial sweeteners may increase the craving for sugar. Sugar of any kind may be more of a dangerous drug for our society than just a sweet treat. Substituting one for another won't help unless we learn to reduce overall consumption rates.

                                1. re: MakingSense

                                  I couldn’t agree with you more that all sugar consumption is dangerous and must be reduced, but I differ with you in the value of substituting healthier alternatives. Sugar addiction is so powerful that not letting people know their options is like asking smokers to quit without mentioning the patch or cessation programs. "Just say 'no'" campaigns only work in limited numbers. I know I had a hell of a time fighting the sugar blues before learning my options.

                                  As you point out, even health fiends and chowhounds can be confused about sugar. That’s what concerned me about your post, “If it ends in "-ose" it affects your blood sugar and your calorie intake the same.” All “-oses” may feel like they have the same effect on you, but they are not the same. High fructose corn syrup differs significantly from table sugar, honey, Splenda, agave nectar, and other alternatives that can help people reduce sugar intake and make healthier sweetening choices.

                                  1. re: BellaCalabrese

                                    HFCS is glucose - the end product of all the other sugars after your body metabolizes them, huh? The stuff is bad news. It's just a quicker way of getting your fix.
                                    Substituting healthy alternatives is fine unless people believe that simply substituting is enough. Consumption of all types of sugars - including the so-called "healthy alternatives" has continued to rise. This has led me to the opinion that people are not using them to wean themselves but have been persuaded that they can continue to consume sugar as long as it is a "healthy" type.
                                    You and I may have reduced sugar consumption but the statistics are showing that consumers in general are making different choices.

                                    1. re: MakingSense

                                      High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS,) like all carbohydrates, breaks down mostly into into glucose. But technically, we can't say it "is" glucose. First corn starch is processed to get glucose and then again to wind up a glucose-fructose mix, with the later being 40-90%. HFCS and fructose are particularly insidious because they wreak havoc with appetite control. They inhibit the release of leptin, the hormone that tells your body it's full, and they don't stop the release of the hormone ghrelin, which sends out requests for food.

                                      The increase in sugar consumption, especially HFCS, is truly alarming, which is why the World Health Organization is waging a campaign to get people to reduce sugar intake to no more than 10% of calories. You're right that too many people use health claims (that are often mythical) as an excuse to indulge sugar cravings, but at least there is growing awareness of the problem and availability of healthier alternatives for those of us who seek to use them rationally. And, just this month, The Center for Science in the Public Interest won two major court victories forcing Kraft and Cadbury Schweppess to stop using the term "natural" to describe their HFCS-sweetened products, Capri Sun and 7-Up.

                                      I'm grateful for the progress; I remember when major cities were lucky to have one "health food" store, and organic produce was rare and dear. Now that dates me!

                          2. re: MakingSense

                            BUT

                            If someone drinks juice rather than pop, their body is satisfied for nutrients (at least some..) and cravings for food/calories should diminish. Ever eaten calorie laden, nutrient-poor food all day and wondered why you were still hungry later or the next day? Lack of nutrients - a protective mechanism for your body. THAT is what contributes to obesity - food cravings which are actually NUTRIENT cravings from your body.

                      2. re: pescatarian

                        According to my friend who is diabetic and uses an insulin pump, it is no longer about sugar, but carbs. She eats sugar just like the rest of us, but counts her carbs whether it's a sweet treat or a piece of bread.

                        1. re: wyf4lyf

                          Carbs = Sugar, Sugar = Carbs, therefore she is watching both her sugar and carbs and all of us should be careful with white refined sugar, flour, because it spikes our blood sugar a lot more than complex carbs combined, especially when combined with protein when consumed. However, I would imagine she would need to be more vigilant due to being diabetic.

                      3. re: MakingSense

                        Yes! but we already agree on that. Getting my mother to understand that in feeding her diabetic husband was like pulling teeth. Pouring that great big glass of oj each AM 'cause it was so good for him, NOT!

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          That is certainly true, however foods that are pre-packaged and produced with refined sugar tend to have more sugar in them than healthier alternatives. It's not simply about not using refined sugar, but also about reducing sugar intake.

                          1. re: Josh

                            This is true of openly-junk foods. The really deceptive foods are those that are marketed as "healthier alternatives" yet have high levels of fats, sugars and calories such as granola bars, "power bars," trail mixes, some granolas, some flavored yogurts, whole grain cookies and crackers, organic snack foods such as potato chips, smoothies, gatorade, etc. Some of these products have more calories than the less healthy alternatives or people add them to an already adequate diet as an elixer.
                            Marketing has led many consumers to believe that "healthier" equates to a "get out of jail free" card on personal responsibility for monitoring their own moderation.

                          2. re: MakingSense

                            You mean REFINED sugar is refined sugar. That is sugar without anything else in it. Sucrose is made up of fructose and glucose molecules.
                            Natural cane sugar, like honey, maple syrup, fruit sugar, all have other minerals, perhaps vitamins and other flavoring elements in it.
                            I stopped using WHITE REFINED SUGAR 20 years ago. Now I use a NATURAL SWEETNER without SUGAR in it. It is many more times sweeter then sugar and NO calories, which means only a few specks are all that is needed in your coffe or tea, if you desire sweetening. It is a plant from the Amazon region called Stevia, as an extract is a white powder. It is the preferred sweetner, since there are NO chemicals detrimental to the body in it, as you find in artificial sweetners, which happen to be addicting and cause aftertastes..

                            1. re: nutrition

                              Refined white cane sugar is pure sucrose without vitamins, mineral or flavoring elements. Fructose (fruit sugar), like honey and maple syrup, is a different type of sugar.

                              Stevia has been banned as a food additive in the US by the FDA since 1991. It may be sold as a dietary supplement. This is controversial but it is the fact, It may be your preferred sweetener but you cannot call it "the" preferred sweetener, and many do find an aftertaste as with other derived sweeteners.

                              1. re: MakingSense

                                Strange, it is on the store shelves, everywhere! Of course, the sugar industry doesn't like it. It is healthy and NON addicting like sugar and chemically produced artificial sweetners with side effects.

                                1. re: nutrition

                                  Your use of stevia as a sweetener is your own choice. I only object to your use of misrepresentations and imprecison of language to portray other sweetners and other people's choices as less worthy than your own.
                                  Informed consumers should fact-check but may, indeed most, do not.
                                  Even a simple check of a basic source like Wiki can give a great deal of information to those who want to inform themselves about all the alternatives for sweetening their lives.
                                  No one needs to get testy about what other people choose. Facts will do.

                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                    Testy?
                                    It appears you are reading a great deal more into this, then there is.

                                    You can also do a research on the use of chemical additives and artificial sweetners as to their detrimental effects on the body. Many people use far too much just like refined sugars. And few will look up or research beyond the articles put out by the marketing departments in newspapers and popular magazines.
                                    Your are free to use anyone, that you wish!

                                2. re: MakingSense

                                  I like stevia theoretically, but have problems with the aftertaste, so I only use it when it can be overpowered. I use Splenda a lot, but that too has an aftertaste. If I want something with a more transparent sweetness, I go to Agave Nectar, which has a very light flavor and doesn't spike blood sugar. It's only major shortcoming is caloric: 60 cal./Tbsp., but I find that a little goes a long way.

                              2. re: MakingSense

                                That is not true at all. I am friends with several doctors, all of whom have told me without a doubt that the body digests sugar from fruit very differently than in other forms, such as table sugar.

                                1. re: NicoleFriedman

                                  Do you realize that most doctors never took even one nutrition class in medical school?

                            2. I doubt we could get everyone on Chowhound to agree on what color the sky is..

                              To me a healthy diet(which I dont always follow) is:

                              a balanced diet: meat, fish, veggies, grains, dairy, etc.

                              1. My vision of healthy eating stems from my mother and my childhood. I wasn't allowed to eat candy very often, or have snacks before dinner, but I could eat fruit whenever I wanted in whatever quantity.

                                When my mother cooked meals, they always featured lots of fresh, stir-fried leafy green vegetables. And her meals were not very fatty and didn't have any heavy sauces, so the flavors of the fresh produce, meat, or fish always stood out.

                                My mother unconciously followed the Food Pyramid recommendations. So to me, healthy means including lots of fresh fruits and veggies in your diet with whole grains and lean protein. But also, only eating what you naturally feel like and not forcing yourself to be "healthy". And since I never grew up eating dessert, I don't really have a sweet tooth!