Here’s something you’ve probably seen many times:
“Never eat anything you can’t pronounce… except quinoa, you should always eat quinoa”
Can you guess how I feel about this?
I hate it. I REALLY hate it.
To start with, I will always hate on anything that says “never” to eat something, because unless you’re heavily allergic to something, or something is highly poisonous/toxic, there’s pretty much nothing you should never eat. But that’s a whole other story. So why do I hate this quote which has been shared on social media more times than I can count?
1. It insults your intelligence.
It implies your audience is stupid, and rather than trying to educate them about ingredients, you’re simply telling them not to eat something with no justification. Because they’re too stupid to understand. That’s what you’re implying, and I think that’s not fair. I give you guys more credit than that.
2. It’s backwards and anti-progress.
Why should we base whether or not to eat something simply on something as trivial as whether we can pronounce it? Usually the above statement is joined by a longing for things to be like when our grandparents were young/alive, as if our diets and lives were so much better back then. Newsflash: they weren’t. You know why? SCIENCE. PROGRESS. TECHNOLOGY. INNOVATION. All these amazing things that allow us to do more, better, exciting things with our lives, including making food cheaper and more accessible. (Yes you could argue that’s also a contributor to the rise in obesity, but it’s also helping people not starve to death, which is obviously a good thing).
3. It’s fearmongering.
I’ve said many times: everything is chemicals, and even something as harmless and loved as vitamin C can be “scary” when you call it E300 instead. The statement encourages a fear or avoidance of all processed food, but processed food isn’t the root cause of all evil and all health problems in the world. Yes, eating whole fruits and vegetables is great, but buying a ready-made quiche from the supermarket isn’t going to kill you. Canned vegetables are considered processed; your delivery of low-fat burgers or sweet potato mash (from an unnamed popular online store) is processed; kale chips are processed. That doesn’t make them inherently bad for you. This attitude is elitist and pretentious – there are a great many people who can’t afford to or have the time to cook absolutely everything from scratch.
4. It’s just plain wrong.
I’ll bet you can pronounce ‘cyanide’; please don’t eat it. I’ll bet you can also pronounce ‘poisonous mushroom’, but again, please don’t eat one. On the other hand, try pronouncing ‘eicosapentaenoic acid’. Oooh scary. Actually, it’s a polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid also known as EPA, which is found in fish oil. Not so scary after all, and definitely not one to avoid.
Also if you’re a nutritionist, dietitian, nutrition student, biological sciences student, work in food innovation, or just incredibly well-versed in nutrition information, then you’d be able to pronounce a lot of chemical names very easily, and you’re probably laughing all the way through this anyway. Kudos to you.
Overall, this statement is yet another example of the elitist, middle-class, ‘holier than thou’ attitudes of the wellness industry, which likely isn’t helping the general population to eat healthier, only those who can afford to.
And you don’t have to eat quinoa if you don’t like it.