"healthy" or "healthful"

When I was teaching at a local international college, we had a vice principal who was so critical of our grammar and punctuation just because he graduated from abroad. Consequently, this was one of the reasons he became our enemy #1. ๐Ÿ˜€ Anyways, one day, he pointed out that we should not use the word “healthy” but “healthful” to describe diet. We argued and said that “healthy” has been acceptable – every one uses it. He retaliated and said how could diet be healthy? He added that only humans or animals can be healthy, so we should say “healthful diet“. Was our vice principal correct?

I referred to the Cambridge dictionary and discovered that he was partially not… ๐Ÿ™‚

The word “healthy” has various meanings. One of them means “good for your health“. Therefore, it is correct to say:

  • You must eat a healthy diet = a diet which is good for your health

The word “healthful” means helping to produce good health. Therefore, it is correct to say:

  • You must eat a healthful diet. = a diet that helps you produce good health

Both are adjectives, and both are correct. The ONLY difference is that “healthy” is used in British English, while “healthful” is used in American English. No wonder people give up on learning English ๐Ÿ˜›

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Posted on July 23, 2009, in Word Power and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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