It’s hard these days to figure out which foods are best for us. It seems like as soon as we discover a healthy food, someone tells us it’s bad. Here are foods that have gotten a "bad rap" for years that you should reconsider adding back into your diet.
Many people concerned about heart disease have avoided eggs for years because of their high cholesterol content. It turns out that dietary cholesterol is not as bad as we once thought. Saturated fat and trans fat have a much larger effect on our blood cholesterol. Even though eggs are high in cholesterol, they are low in saturated fat. They are a great source of protein and contain all essential amino acids. They are also relatively low in calories a large egg only has 75 calories.
Potatoes have been blamed for increasing blood glucose levels because of their high glycemic index. Studies have linked potato consumption with weight gain, but these studies looked at all potatoes in our diet (including French fries and potato chips). Many other cultures have consumed white potatoes for years with no rise in obesity, suggesting that it is our actual meal pattern and preparation not just the potatoes that are causing us to gain weight. White potatoes with the skin are actually a great source of fiber, vitamin C, and potassium, and can be a great addition to any meal.
It’s true that corn doesn’t have as many nutrients as other vegetables, and has a higher carbohydrate content. But, corn is very high in fiber (4 grams in just one cup or ear of corn) and a great source of lutein and zeaxanthin, which are antioxidants that keep our eyes healthy.
Consumption of whole grains has been linked to a decreased risk for diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. It’s the refined grains (such as white bread) that aren’t as good for you. Look for 100 percent whole wheat or whole grain bread. It’s a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals that have been linked to heart health.
Nuts have been avoided by dieters for years because of their high fat and calorie content. Though they are high in fat, they are full of the heart-healthy, unsaturated fat that our body needs. They are full of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin to protect our vision.
Peanut butter is also high in fat and calories, but it’s also a good source of protein and folate. Eating the heart-healthy fats that are found in peanut butter can help to lower your total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. Try to stick with the natural peanut butter and other nut butters, since they don’t have added sugar.
Who doesn’t love chocolate? While eating too much of it can lead to weight gain, the flavonoids (antioxidants) in dark chocolate can have a protective effect on your heart.
Coffee lovers will love this: You don’t need to give up your daily boost Research has found that the compounds in coffee have health benefits, including decreasing your risk of diabetes, liver cancer, and dementia. Most studies looked at moderate coffee consumption, which is two cups of coffee each day.
Moderate alcohol consumption (one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men) can decrease the risk of heart disease and increase our HDL (good) cholesterol. Wine also contains polyphenols, which reduce inflammation, oxidation, and blood clotting.
The bottom line
You might be surprised that some of the foods you thought weren’t good for you actually have some health benefits! Virtually all foods can be part of a healthy, balanced diet. A variety of foods from all food groups is the best way to make sure your body is getting all of the nutrients it needs, especially when you include as many fresh, unprocessed foods as possible.
Carmen Roberts, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., is a registered dietitian, receiving her undergraduate degree in dietetics from James Madison University and her master’s degree in health education and administration from Towson University. She is a certified specialist in adult weight management and teaches cooking classes. Carmen enjoys educating her clients about how nutrition affects the body and its role in overall health and wellness. She also loves volunteering, including as a Girl Scout troop leader.