by Jennifer Thompson, MPH
We’ve since recognized that celiac disease can only be controlled – not cured – by avoiding the gluten protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that parents wait until babies reach 6 months of age before feeding them solid foods like bananas. But the notion that a single food can cause or cure health problems endures. This phenomenon may be encouraged by the internet; list-style articles like “25 Fattening Foods You Should Never Eat” and “7 Foods You Should Eat Every Day” are quick ways for the authors of online publications to generate content and page clicks. They also appeal to our very human desire for quick and easy solutions. Rather than make major changes to our diets and lifestyles, these articles and advertisements suggest that all we need to do to lose weight or lower our cholesterol is to never eat a specific food – or to eat it every day.
Reality, of course, is more complicated. Eating bananas for every meal is ultimately just as unhealthy as eating only cupcakes. In its “Healthy Eating Plate,” the Harvard School of Public Health recommends eating a wide range of nutrient-rich foods, and avoiding – but not eliminating – refined grains, saturated fats and processed meats. While it may be somewhat disappointing that no single food can cure everything that ails us, we can at least enjoy a variety of healthy foods, along with the occasional treat. And we should enjoy bananas. We just shouldn’t expect them to deliver us from all health evils.