Food fallacies are never-ending, but there is some surprisingly great news! Not all foods that get a bum rap deserve their bad reputation. Take a peek at each of these 10 foods, but also be sure to read up on what exactly makes them healthy and what varieties to look for when purchasing. Yet, it’s not quite as easy as loading up on butter and bacon every day now (sorry). If your nutrition intake is veggie-heavy (think nearly half your plate at each meal), lower in grain-based carbs, and rich in quality proteins, then these foods can be beneficial for both variety and flavor. Enjoy!
Poor (and tasty) butter, so wrongly accused for decades and still fighting the battle. Let’s set the record straight (if you haven’t heard the memo already). Butter. Is. Not. Bad. A primary reason butter initially got the bad rap, of course, was its saturated fat and cholesterol content. I’m sure we all heard at some point the warning, “Saturated fat builds up in your arteries and clogs them.”
Over the years, however, increasing research has highlighted the lack of scientific evidence supporting the “lipid hypothesis,” which suggested that the more saturated fat and cholesterol a person eats, the greater the risk of heart disease. The result? Even a major mainstream publication officially apologized to butter on its cover image. This healthy fat source is very nutrient dense with fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, and E as well as CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), which can actually help promote both immune function and heart health.
“Oh, I don’t eat eggs anymore and definitely not the yolks. Don’t you know they’re really high in cholesterol!” How about this? Did you know that most of the cholesterol in your body is made by your body and doesn’t come from your diet? Think about that…. If cholesterol is so bad, why would our bodies produce something harmful for us? There has to be a purpose and some benefit for this process.
Cholesterol actually is essential for producing hormones and creating bile. It also serves as an essential nutrient for the nervous system and acts as a precursor to one of the most important vitamins; vitamin D. In fact, in 2015 the USDA reported that “cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.” Do the double take there….
Aside from cholesterol content, eggs are one of the richest sources of a nutrient called choline. This fantastic little nutrient helps keep cholesterol from the egg moving through the bloodstream. Other great qualities about this food source? It contains about 6 grams of protein, ample omega-3 fats, all vitamins (except vitamin C), and most minerals. Talk about a powerhouse food! When shopping for eggs, look for eggs from free-roaming and flax-fed chickens, as these types will contain higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids compared to those raised on commercial feed without the ability to free-roam.
What was that?? Bacon has benefits?! Absolutely! Quality bacon actually contains healthy monounsaturated fat plus saturated fat to aid in hormone production, conjugated linoleic acid to promote fat loss, protein to help build and repair muscle and lean tissue, and vitamins and minerals for all their extensive purposes! BUT—before you go crazy and load up your cart, know the health benefits are dependent on a few key factors. Be sure to purchase bacon that is organic, pasture-raised, uncured and nitrite-free. These all indicate how the animal was raised, which largely determines the nutritional profile. How does bacon for breakfast sound in place of standard cereal?
These days, dairy is often a subject of controversy. To have or not to have? Full-fat or skim? Chocolate or plain? Raw milk or pasteurized?
For those who can tolerate dairy and choose to include it in their diets, full-fat is always best. Milk is a great source for some very beneficial nutrients, such as vitamins D, A, and E, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, alpha lipoic acid, and CLA-when the milk comes from grass-fed/pasture-raised animals. In comparison to fat-free dairy sources, full-fat dairy is more satisfying and nutrient-dense. The natural fat also allows you to better absorb dairy’s fat-soluble vitamins.
This plant-based saturated fat deserves some major spotlight and not as a forbidden fruit! Conventional cooking oils, such as canola oil, vegetable oil, and soybean oil, are unstable when heated and oxidize during cooking and heating processes. This oxidation damages our cells, making them more susceptible to disease. Not only are these oils higher in omega-6 fats, the overabundance of which increases inflammation in our bodies, but they become even unhealthier when used for cooking!
Safer and healthier alternatives are saturated and monounsaturated fat-rich oils, such as coconut oil. (Butter, ghee, or leftover grease from animal foods are other choices.) Coconut oil, for its part, is much more stable at higher temperatures and does not break down. This amazing, antioxidant-rich food provides natural anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial properties! You can also use it as a skin moisturizer for the family. Give it a try!
Lately, these tasty spuds have gained somewhat of a bad reputation due to their higher starch (sugar) content. While starchy foods do contain more sugar in comparison to say cruciferous veggies, they’re also packed with benefits as well. The standard white potato’s counterpart, the sweet potato, has been glorified in recent years as a “superfood” rich in vitamins and antioxidants. While this is true, it shouldn’t put the standard potato to shame. Regular potatoes have more resistant starch than sweet potatoes—a type of starch that our bodies are unable to digest, and is broken down by the gut bacteria in our large intestine.
When it comes to enjoying white potatoes, keep in mind how they’re prepared and what else they’re served with. Ideally, potatoes are best when baked, boiled or roasted rather than fried. Finally, pair a potato with grass-fed steak or wild-caught fish, and load up on the veggies as well for an awesome meal.
Nuts for nuts?! Nuts in their most natural form (raw or plainly roasted) are a great source for omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and protein. The combo of salty and crunchy for many people is irresistible. As a result, a serving (about one ounce or a small handful) can quickly come and go, and before we know it we’ve somehow eaten the whole container.
With “healthy” foods, we often think that more is better or that serving sizes doesn’t matter. When it comes to nuts, being aware of total intake is critical. Therefore, feel free to include nuts such as almonds, pistachios, cashews, pecans, etc. in your day to help make a meal more healthy and filling. Just don’t go overboard on quantity.
Red flags are unfortunately the first thing that may come to mind with red meat. While there are reasons to be mindful of our red meat consumption, some reasons we’ve already discussed (i.e. saturated fat and cholesterol), are more hype than truth. The real concern with red meat should be the quality. There is certainly a significant nutritional difference between grass-fed, free-range beef and a hot dog or conventional deli meat. The latter is a processed meat with preservatives, fillers, and artificial ingredients and typically from animals that were raised in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). In other words, they’re animals in an environment not fit for free-range movement and fed an unnatural diet in addition to being given growth hormones and antibiotics.
This may not seem like it would impact you, the consumer, but in reality those practices directly correlate with the quality of the meat. To help ensure you’re choosing the most nutrient-dense meat, choose the best quality you can afford-grass-fed beef (a cow’s natural diet promotes a higher concentration of omega-3 healthy fat) and free-range beef that is hormone-, antibiotic,- and preservative-free. These varieties offer a great source of omega-3 fats, protein, vitamin A, B12, D, creatine and carnosine.
Fruit naturally contains sugar, so it is important to be mindful of your intake. That said, fruit certainly isn’t a forbidden food. A great rule of thumb is 1 serving of fruit for every 3 servings of veggies. Also, especially for those with weight loss goals, it’s good to cap intake at no more than 2 servings per day. Both fruits and vegetables contain important vitamins and minerals, and it’s critical to consume both. Just put a heavier emphasis on veggies.
When choosing fruit, remember berries are best (e.g. raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, etc.), and opt for organic if possible. These particular fruits are awesome sources of both antioxidants and fiber, and they can easily add variety to shakes, snacks, salads or serve as a great dessert alternative!
Of all these 10 choices, salt might be the biggest surprise and it also comes with a slight caveat. “Salt” is made when two minerals are combined—sodium and chloride. Sodium is actually an electrolyte necessary for the body to help regulate blood pressure and heart muscle contraction. Pretty important, I’d say!
Salt’s bad rap comes when it’s in conjunction with processed foods (e.g. chips, pizza, French fries, hot dogs, etc.). The more it’s part of a nutrient-dense, whole-foods diet, as the healthy way of eating plan recommends, the less likely you have to worry about overall salt consumption. For example, if your dinner plate looks like a baked chicken breast with asparagus and a side of sweet potato, you may definitely be able to add a little salt to the veggies for added flavor (and butter or ghee to the potato)!
Adapted from: Becca Hurt, MS, RD
Tip of the Day
Citrus fruits contain lots of Vitamin C which helps with growth and repair of the body’s tissues. Add winter citrus fruits, like lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits to recipes or enjoy on their own.