The Good Food Trial: who is winning?

The literature on what foods are good and bad has grown from a healthy weight to toxic levels of morbidity. It is time to take the protagonists to court and put them on trial using the available evidence.

New strategies such as disruption are important.

Let’s enter my dietary courtroom. There are a range of foods on the list. Some are clearly beneficial by unanimous decision in the available evidence. Others are clearly harmful – also by unanimous decision.  At the next level of uncertainty, the evidence is not irrefutable and requires a judgement call: majority decision, hung jury or judges call. A majority decision covers evidence that is strong but not conclusive. After that it is anyone’s call. 

Verdict Beneficial Harmful Little effect
Unanimous decision  

Fruits, non starchy vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, yogurt, dietary fiber, potassium, moderate alcohol use, Mediterranean style diet


High sodium, sugar-sweetened beverages, foods rich in refined grains, starches, added sugars



Total fat

Majority decision  

Seafood, whole grains, certain vegetable oils (eg, soybean, canola, extra virgin olive), n-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fats, plant-derived monounsaturated fats



Moderate salt, white potatoes, high glycemic index



Total carbohydrate, antioxidants, vitamins, calcium


Hung jury  

Cheese, low fat milk, certain vegetable oils (eg corn, sunflower, safflower, coffee, tea, cocoa, Vitamin D, magnesium


Saturated fats, dietary cholesterol, unprocessed red meats, eggs, butter


Poultry,100% fruit juice, total protein, specific amino acids, noncaloric sweeteners

Judges call  

Whole-fat milk, starchy vegetables other than potatoes, coconut oil


Whole-fat milk


Genetic modification, “natural” products


There are very few foods in this table and almost as many harmful as beneficial at all levels and the contents change frequently. Most restrictions to what we eat are capable of producing short term changes but these changes are temporary.  This is a verdict that will never be conclusive. That is why new strategies such as disruption are so important. Commitment to changing patterns is essential in the Western world where food is plentiful and there is great variety.

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