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The Helpful vs Harmful Test

One of my ways of dealing with stepping down from the pressure of following a perfect Paleo eating regime, is to apply the 'Helpful vs Harmful to Health' test.

There are obviously foods that fall quite unequivocally into one category. Eg Vegetables, fruit, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds (unless individually intolerant of course) are Helpful to Health; Pringles and Krispy Kreme's candy-coated goodies, without a doubt, Harmful to Health.

But there are plenty of daily food choices that fall in the grey area in between. For instance they may be helpful in one respect yet harmful in others, say coffee – helpful in its antioxidants, harmful in its inflammatory and cortisol response. Even the Paleo dieters' BFF (Best Food Friend), the nut, is not without its harmful effects – they are high in phytates, a food toxin which binds to minerals like iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium etc and prevents their absorption in the intestine. In fact, that is largely the reason grains are excluded from Paleo menus.

Different foods fall in varying points on the sliding scale that spans the two extremes. Sometimes we need to weigh up where it falls on the scale and make a decision based on how we personally view the net impact on our health. 

Sometimes the psychological or satiating impact of one choice simply makes it a better choice than the next substitute and that's okay. For instance, there are days I am super cranky and crave something sweet. Perhaps my hormones are slightly out of whack that day or I'm tired and my body needs that bit extra carbohydrate. I might eat six pieces of fruit in one sitting or even half a huge bag of dried fruit (is it too shameful to admit I've done this, and suffice to say the digestive disorders ensuing were enough to deter me from doing it again for a looooong time). Clearly this gorging on sugar is not what our ancestral buddies would have ever had the opportunity to do. But given the susbstitute option for me this instance is half a tub of ice cream, go figure.

The fruit/ dried fruit in such massive quantities is harmful in the insulin-raising response and subsequent blood sugar crash, but they are at least partly redeemed by the nutrients , fibre and calming carbohydrates of a whole food. Contrast that with the processed ice cream with all the same if not worse insulin response but with none of the health helpful advantages.

So next time you face a dietary dilemma, ask yourself, "Is this food helpful or harmful to my health?" And most importantly, be kind to yourself.


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