White Foods: The Good vs. the Bad

Just because they're devoid of colour doesn't mean all white foods are bad for you

Credit: Wellness Matters

Some white foods, like garlic, contain important nutrients

White foods have been discounted by dietitians for their lack of nutrients, but not all white foods are unhealthy

For years, dietitians have encouraged us to eat a rainbow of richly coloured fruits and vegetables to ensure we get adequate amounts of disease-fighting nutrients. White, of course, is not a colour of the rainbow, and that’s made white foods a popular nutrition target.

The Bad White Foods

In this context, the offending white foods include refined carbohydrates like sugar, white flour and processed foods (made from white flour) like white bread, pasta, cookies, crackers and baked goods.

When a whole grain is refined, the process strips away almost all of its nutrients, leaving behind little more than white starch. While carbohydrates are important in a healthy diet, refined carbohydrates contain little, if any, fibre and are often accompanied by added salt or sugar. It’s easy to overeat these tasty but nutritionally empty foods, leading to weight gain and poor blood sugar control. 

The Good White Foods

While white refined grain foods aren’t good for you, not all white foods are bad. Milk, yogurt, low-fat cheese, onions, garlic, potatoes, cauliflower and oatmeal all deliver valuable nutrients. 

Since no single food, group of foods or colour category supplies all of the nutrients needed for optimal health, variety remains the key to healthy eating. Eat a diet that includes all the food groups but emphasizes fibre-rich, high-quality foods in all colour groups.

Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.