Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Healthy Foods Make You Unpleasant

FROM A PEER-REVIEWED journal comes an article Wholesome Foods and Wholesome Morals? Organic Foods Reduce Prosocial Behavior and Harshen Moral Judgments, by Kendall J. Eskine. The article abstract is:
Recent research has revealed that specific tastes can influence moral processing, with sweet tastes inducing prosocial behavior and disgusting tastes harshening moral judgments. Do similar effects apply to different food types (comfort foods, organic foods, etc.)? Although organic foods are often marketed with moral terms (e.g., Honest Tea, Purity Life, and Smart Balance), no research to date has investigated the extent to which exposure to organic foods influences moral judgments or behavior. After viewing a few organic foods, comfort foods, or control foods, participants who were exposed to organic foods volunteered significantly less time to help a needy stranger, and they judged moral transgressions significantly harsher than those who viewed nonorganic foods. These results suggest that exposure to organic foods may lead people to affirm their moral identities, which attenuates their desire to be altruistic.
(Further commentary on the article can be found here.)

In other words, big fans of organic foods can be judgmental and self-righteous Pharisees, which isn’t telling us anything new. Of course, such behavior is often found in Christians, and that is likely a big reason why many people reject Christianity.

Once I wrote an article about the anxiety that can come from only eating health foods: Orthorexia nervosa is a type of scrupulosity that comes from the desire to eat only good food. Psychologists sometimes define scrupulosity as something having to do with only religious matters, but rather it has to do with any kind of moral behavior, and certainly healthy eating is ultimately a moral concern. Scrupulosity is basically the state of mind that believes morally neutral things to be sinful, or turns venial sins into mortal sins, and is the vice opposite to laxity. Scrupulosity about anything, even healthy eating, sucks all the joy out of life, and is a strong deterrent to evangelism.

The religious impulse is a part of human nature. However, true religion has been largely lost in our culture, and so this impulse is transferred to lesser things, such as eating.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. ChurchPartner,

    I don’t disagree, it can be pleasant. The point is that healthy eating can be an idol; it can also be a source of anxiety, leading to scrupulosity, which was the point of the linked article. Good food can be a part of a flourishing life, but modern trends turn eating more into a religious observance.