Does it have to be natural for it to be good for you?

I've been thinking about how things that are "natural" must be good for us, right?

First of all, I do think that in general, the more natural version of something should be better for us. So whole foods would be better than processed foods. Fresh is better than frozen is better than canned. Fresh air, organic food, preservative-free products, exercise, BPA-free baby safe products, and so on are all good for us.

I'm not saying that we should only eat natural foods, just that it's better to eat them more often and there's a trade-off between convenience, price, and the nutrient qualities of food.

There's two catches.

First of all, companies will try to sell us things on the idea that they are natural, and therefore better for us. All-natural, organic doughnuts might be made with "natural" ingredients, but that wouldn't make them healthy.

The other catch is that we don't live "in the wild" or exactly as our ancestors did. We have concerns and situations that exist today that didn't thousands of years ago. So maybe the fact that we eat very different diets than we did before along with the fact that we live longer lives require us to compensate in "unnatural" ways.

Things that come to mind are
  • brushing and flossing teeth
  • seatbelts
  • vitamins
  • gym memberships

In the end, I think its important that we assess what benefits "unnatural" products or procedures convey.

I like the benefits-risks approach outlined by the mnuemonic BRAIN (I'm borrowing this from the medical procedure section of a childbirth class I attended).

Benefits - what are the benfits of this product/procedure?
Risks - are there any risks?
Alternatives - are there any alternatives?
Intuition - what does your inutition tell you?
Now? - does this have to happen or do you need to buy this right now?

So rather than embrace every new technological development and healthfood or do the opposite and shun products in a luddite way, I think it's best if we find a healthy and safe way forward while measuring the risks and benefits of both the natural and unnatural. Informed choices are key.

1 comment:

  1. MadCookie brought up a good point regarding making an informed decision about whether something is good for you versus having that choice made by another party or agency. The example was fluoride added to municipal drinking water, but this is applicable to a wide-range of issues.

    So yes, informed choices are key; but it's another issue (discussion, and blog post as well) when you don't get to make those choices yourself.


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