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Are There Good and Bad Foods?

This article is written by our guest author Jeni Peters from Future Fit Training.

Whilst watching my brownies cooking in the oven, I am drawn to thinking about what foods are regarded as “good” or “bad” for us to be consuming. Should I be restricting myself from consuming something that could be regarded as high in sugar and fat and not providing a lot of nutritional value, or should I be enjoying my pudding after having a meal that was nutritionally balanced and what I would regard as healthy? Additionally, what should I be telling my clients about eating healthily?  

Is there such a thing as good and bad foods and what is a healthy diet?

What are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods?

Consider your body to be like a motor vehicle. It needs constant fuel to run efficiently, and you must use the correct fuel and oil for the engine to work optimally; putting petrol in a diesel car would be disastrous! Your body works in the same way. Constantly filling it with highly processed foods, which provide very little nutritional value, isn’t going to allow it to work at its optimal level. Alternatively, only ever eating a diet of limited foods such as fruit and vegetables (although regarded as healthy for the body) is not going to be beneficial either, depriving the body of other nutrients that a varied diet may provide.

Good and bad foods can be related to the effects and benefits that they have on the body when consumed. Good foods can be regarded as those that allow every cell and organ to function at its optimal level, promoting long-term health and longevity of life. ‘Rainbow foods’ that are associated with plant-based diets, have been known to include high levels of phytochemicals. Known for their antioxidative properties, phytochemicals can reduce inflammation and aid the function of the immune system, as well as protect cells and DNA from damage that may lead to cancer. They have also been known to slow the growth rate of some cancer cells (1). Bad foods, such as ultra-processed foods, provide little to no nutritional value to the body and can increase the risk of disease. The rise in ultra-processed foods since the term was identified in 2009 has seen an increase in the rate of obesity, high blood pressure, type II diabetes, and dementia. Cancer prevalence has increased by 10% with an increase in the consumption of ultra-processed food, leading to a 6% increase in mortality rate. Breast cancer has seen an increase of 16%, with ovarian cancer increasing by 30% (2).

For more information on how the diet can contribute to an individual’s health, visit the Future Fit website for Nutrition courses on weight management, vegetarian, vegan and plant-based diets, and working with special population groups.

Negative connotations to eating good and bad

Various athletes have been seen to eat foods regarded as ‘bad’ and go on to achieve great things. During the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Usain Bolt was reported to have eaten an average of 100 chicken nuggets a day before going on to win three world records, and subsequently three Olympic gold medals. Similarly, other huge sports names such as Sir Mo Farah, footballer Wayne Rooney and Basketball player LeBron James have all been noted to consume breakfast cereals that are high in refined sugar and therefore, place high on the glycaemic index.

But is eating fast food and refined sugar unhealthy, especially if the consumption can lead to high-performance levels being achieved, and especially if it is not consumed all of the time within the diet? The Future Fit course on Nutrition for Sport and Exercise can help to reduce the confusion around nutritional needs for sporting performance and aid knowledge when working with sports people.

There have been many different opinions on what and how to eat being bandied around the nutritional world over the years. One term that has been used is ‘clean eating’. This can be associated with consuming only foods viewed as good within the diet, 100% of the time. There are negative connotations associated with this way of thinking and eating. Am I a bad person who knows nothing about how to eat healthy if I eat fast food sometimes and only make better food choices when I perhaps want weight loss? An issue with this thinking process and adopting a clean eating mentality is that it can lead to a distorted way of thinking about food and body dysmorphia, contributing to eating disorders.

How to eat healthy

Eating healthy is not just about the foods that you do and don’t eat but ensuring that you encompass the whole package. Our environment, lifestyle, and mental and emotional state all contribute to the food choices that we make. These all need to be accounted for. The Eatwell Guide can provide a good start to ensuring a good variety of foods are consumed throughout the day and in the correct proportions. Taking foods from each group within the guide can allow an individual to obtain the right variety of nutrients daily.


Food is energy and fuel for the body to be able to function. ‘Everything in moderation’ should be the mantra adopted when relating to diet. There is not one food source that is better than another, and as long as the diet is varied daily, we should not be scolding ourselves for eating freshly cooked brownies! When all factors relating to an individual are taken into consideration and their diet can reflect what is required to function optimally, the body can receive exactly what it needs to get from A to B: just like a motor vehicle.


1: Roswell Park (2019)

2: Imperial College London (2023)

This blog post was authored by Future Fit Training – a leading training provider, offering courses in nutrition, personal training and much more.

Header photo by Dan Gold

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