Firstly I will say that I see foods from a scientific biological veiwpoint. We are evolved as gereralist animals capable of eating many different foods and so are not perfectly adapted to any one of them. All foods are trade-offs between different factors. Some of more, some of less benefit. It is the overall cost and benefit that is more important.
Seeing foods as good or evil can lead to cognitive discordance and confusion. For example, research or experiance that finds benefits to non-paleo foods or that finds downsides to very paleo foods must be explained away and causes uncertainty. But if all foods have some positives and negatives this is easier to understand.
However I can also see benefits to this way of thinking if it helps you avoid foods that are bad for you.
What do you think? Are foods good and evil? Do you find it useful or not to think about food this way? Do you believe there is any perfect food? I am interested in how other people here see this question.
asked byMatt_1 (19235)
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on May 02, 2010
at 12:39 PM
It's not possible for something amoral, like a food, to be good or evil, which are moral judgments. This leads to all sorts of problems like viewing eating meat as "murder," fascist food policies, or eating disorders. If someone makes moral judgments about food I can tell they don't have the best interests of humans in mind.
It can only be good or bad in relation to a moral being- a human. We can say that sugar isn't good for humans and humans who promote in are morally suspect, but how can a class of edible crystalline substances actually be evil? They can't.
Since I was a raw vegan before, I have lots of experience with people who believe some foods are good and others evil, often from a ridiculously unscientific point of view. They are not healthy people.
Paleo is about you feeling good. It's not a good idea to eat foods that make you feel bad in the end. The foods aren't evil, it's just a silly thing to do and I'm glad paleo helped me to stop harming myself. If research showed that wheat bran was teh best food ever, it wouldn't matter because I know it makes me feel like crap.
on May 03, 2010
at 11:12 AM
Rather than think of foods as "good" or "evil," I tend to categorize them more as "food" and "non-food" items. Not only does this help me make better choices, it helps me feel less "deprived" when I make those choices. In fact, I no longer feel "deprived" at all when I see, for example, a chocolate cake...it's not food, so it doesn't tempt me. I also know that there are alternatives that will be healthier and more satisfying to me if and when I decide to have them (i.e., make them myself out of nourishing foods).
(As an aside: The "deprivation" concept is a bit puzzling to me as well. Where did the idea come from that a person "deserves" to have a certain food, even if everyone else is eating it?)
This mental categorization in food and non-food categories does, however, take some practice. I have had a lot of practice at it, and no longer find myself making a choice. There are some things which I just Do. Not. Eat. I also find it amusing when people, in a very concerned voice, want to know if (insert name of food here) is something I "can't" have. That's right, I "can't" have chocolate cake in the same way and for the same reason as I can't chow down on brake linings.
on May 02, 2010
at 12:41 PM
"There is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so."
"...quemadmodum gladius neminem occidit, occidentis telum est." (A sword never kills anybody; it's a tool in the killer's hand.)
To judge good or "better" requires full context: Good/better for whom, and for what purpose?
on May 02, 2010
at 02:00 PM
Seeing foods as good or evil can lead to cognitive discordance and confusion. For example, research or experiance that finds benefits to non-paleo foods or that finds downsides to very paleo foods must be explained away and causes uncertainty
I think the best way to overcome this is to analyse foods or other factors (like exercise) in terms of the complex precise of physiological effects that they would tend to elicit. That's why I'm a nutritionite, apparently. I think that any stress laid on "whole foods" tends to increase the tendency to over-generalise to good/bad foods. Thinking in terms of each individual constituent, necessitates recognising that each food as having both positive and negative elements, depending on context. Recognising that the devil is in the details isn't incompatible with recognising that you can only form a judgement in the context of all the details.
Obviously I've never consciously thought of my choices in these terms though. In practise, I tend to simply judge foods relative to alternative arrangements of foods I could have. Some foods do count as 'evil' if even the best thing to commend eating them I can think of, is automatically outweighed by something worse in the food. Until the point where I actually reach starvation, for example, I'm never going to be in a context where I'd view consuming some energy drink as potentially positive (if it's only going to make me hungrier, more inflamed and deplete nutrients in my body more than eating nothing at all would!).