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When you ask the Internet for “magic foods for weight loss,” it gladly obliges. Even if you disregard any advice from Dr. Oz, the quick fixes are all over the place: ginger, parsley, peppermint, pineapple, yogurt, and soup (so much obsession with soup!). But what in the world makes a food “magical?”
To be fair, I would indeed lose weight if I ate only parsley for two days. But I’ve been on these restrictive diets before, the ones based on only eating certain “safe” and “magic” foods. What I learned was that they work . . . until they don’t. Eventually, I would get tired of eating “magical foods,” and I would stop. And if I happened to stop in front of a $10.95 all-you-can-eat Indian lunch buffet, so be it—a sign’s a sign.
When it comes to health and losing weight, it’s easy to fall into quick-fix traps. We see ripped celebrities or friends on Instagram and get so excited that we WANT A SIX-PACK NOW! Or we realize, in a panic, that the wedding we planned on unveiling our First Lady arms at is next week. But, as someone wise once said: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. And this is certainly the case with food: when it comes to health and nutrition and diets, we’re thinking of food all wrong.
Media outlets, fitness magazines, and celebrities often tout the benefits of specific foods or specific ingredients. Like, apparently, parsley. But this doesn’t really make sense, because what’s in food is more important than the food itself. When food is broken down, it’s the calories and carbohydrates and proteins and fats and nutrients—the Stats, as we call them here—that the body uses, not the actual food item itself. (Here’s a great explanation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of why components of food are important.)
There is no such thing as Good Foods and Bad Foods. There are countless foods, limitless combinations of foods, and infinite means of manufacturing, processing, and preparing foods. But because we don’t have an accessible, intuitive language to talk about what’s in them, it’s easier for mainstream sources to shout from the rooftops the benefits of a certain food, rather than what’s in it. Alas, a headline touting, “8 Magic Foods for Rapid Weight-Loss” gets the blood faster than one suggesting that we, “Consider the Macronutrients in Your Meals for Steady, Healthy Weight-Loss!” And because money makes the world turn round, a banana producer isn’t going to advertise and lobby for the fiber in their fruit (Get your fiber here! Packaged helpfully in a banana!”). They’re, of course, going to lobby for the banana itself.
So, dear reader with a smart noggin’, please be careful about any health source that claims one food is magic and another is evil without substantiating their claims with nutrient breakdowns. We’d bet that such a source is likely not worth following.