Health foods are loosely defined food category, usually involving foods labeled organic or natural. Organic foods are grown without the use of chemical fertilizers or insecticide. Natural foods are processed without chemical additives. Popular ones include wheat germ brewer’s yeast, bone meal, rose hips, nuts and seeds, yogurt, blackstrap molasses, and vegetable juices.
Interest in such edibles has grown rapidly in the United states since the 1960s, spurred by several factors: the desire for wholesome food: the anxiety caused by studies linking certain food additives with cancer and other diseases; and the growth of the environmental protection movement. By the late 1970s every major American city and many smaller ones supported health food stores and food cooperatives, and supermarkets featured special health food sections.
Enthusiasts have made many claims concerning their nutritional and medicinal value. The claim that certain chemical additives and insecticides are harmful to human health is widely accepted by the scientific and medical community. Health hazards have not yet been proved, however, for all chemicals used in food production, and the conviction among such food consumers that some of them have special health enhancing or curative properties has not yet been accepted by one medical establishment. Nor has it been proved that organically grown vegetables are nutritionally superior to those that are grown with the aid of chemical fertilizers. Foods sold as health foods are usually costly and, because there is no way of distinguishing organically grown foods by the appearance alone, ordinary fruits may sometimes be passed off as foods that have been grown without chemical aids.
Many are moving to a natural tone of eating habits. Vegetarianism is becoming increasingly popular so do ayurveda and naturopathic treatment methods that suggest health foods as supplementary medicines to cure diseases.
Nevertheless, the rise of the health food movement may indicate a growing awareness of the need for wholesome food, especially in view of the consensus among nutritionists that many Americans do not eat wisely or well.