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Such examples of food confusion and misinformation abound. Words are the key to giving people the tools they need to figure out what to eat.

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Not long ago, I watched a woman set a carton of Land O’ Lakes Fat-Free Half-and-Half on the conveyor belt at a supermarket. Then again, why should she question it, given that we allow food companies, advertisers and food researchers to do our thinking for us?Excess body weight may affect cancer risk through a number of mechanisms, some of which might be specific to certain cancer types.Body mass index, or BMI, is a way to help you figure out if you are at a healthy weight for your height. In general, the higher the number, the more body fat a person has.But where did the evidence to support this well-known "fact" come from? According to Richard Smith, a former editor of the British Medical Journal, the level for safe drinking was "plucked out of the air".He was on a Royal College of Physicians team that helped produce the guidelines in 1987.“Can I ask you why you’re buying fat-free half-and-half? Half-and-half is defined by its fat content: about 10 percent, more than milk, less than cream. In the 1970s, no one questioned whether eggs really were the heart-attack risk nutritionists warned us about.

Then she set the carton back on the conveyor belt to be scanned along with the rest of her groceries. Here’s how to eat better, in 6 easy steps.] The woman apparently hadn’t even thought to ask herself that question but had instead accepted the common belief that fat, an essential part of our diet, should be avoided whenever possible.

Look back at other advice that unfortunately is no longer a part of the FDA's dietary guidelines. Orenstein/The Washington Post) “This country will never have a healthy food supply,” said Harry Balzer, an NPD Group analyst and a gleeful cynic when it comes to the American food shopper. Because the moment something becomes popular, someone will find a reason why it’s not healthy.” Here, Balzer used the most dangerous term of all: “healthy.” We are told by everyone, from doctors and nutritionists to food magazines and newspapers, to eat healthy food. Kind responded with a citizens’ petition asking the FDA to reevaluate its definition of the word. Builds strong muscles, has positive health connotations.

We take for granted that a kale salad is healthy and that a Big Mac with fries is not. “ ‘Healthy’ is a bankrupt word,” Roxanne Sukol, preventive medicine specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, medical director of its Wellness Enterprise and a nutrition autodidact (“They didn’t teach us anything about nutrition in medical school”), told me as we strolled the aisles of a grocery store. If I may rephrase the doctor’s words: Our food is not healthy; we will be healthy if we eat nutritious food. And those that we apply to food matter more than ever. That’s why “protein shakes” are a multibillion-dollar business.

Let's take as an example the health risks of drinking alcohol.

If you are a man, it has virtually become gospel that drinking more than 21 units of alcohol a week is damaging to your health.

I submit to you that our beloved kale salads are not “healthy.” And we are confusing ourselves by believing that they are. They may be delicious when prepared well, and the kale itself, while in the ground, may have been a healthy crop. Kraft cheese slices cannot be called cheese but must be labeled “cheese food” or a “cheese product.” Pringles cannot be called “chips” but rather “crisps.” Yet packaged foods can be labeled “natural” or “all-natural” — what exactly is the difference between the two, anyway? Pork cracklings do not have positive health connotations because we think of them as having a high fat content.