5 'Bad' Foods That Are Actually Good for You
We’re busting the myths about tempting foods that aren’t as naughty as you think.
By: Maressa Brown
Doing your best to eat right can be an uphill battle, especially when mixed messages abound! One minute, low-fat is the only way to go, and the next, it’s a lie. The “it” diet may have you steering clear of carbs, and then, we hear they’re a must. It’s easy to get to the point where you just want to throw your hands up. But take heart: Certain “bad” foods really have been found to be better for you than others. Here, 5 foods with a naughty reputation that you can incorporate into your diet sans guilt.
1. Red meat: Whether it’s in the form of a burger, hot dog, or a fancy filet mignon, we tend to think of beef as majorly bad news, thanks to its stores of saturated fat and dietary cholesterol. The reality, though, is that incorporating some lean, grass-fed, unprocessed red meat can offer you a source of protein and iron, a mineral that many women of childbearing age lack. Plus, research from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a diet with lean beef can decrease levels of LDL cholesterol (commonly referred to as “bad cholesterol”) compared with diets of lean white meat. That’s a good thing considering that high levels of LDL cholesterol can contribute to cardiovascular disease. A 3-oz. cooked portion of lean meat also offers up Vitamin B12, B3 (Niacin), B6, iron, zinc, selenium and a slew of other vitamins and minerals! That said, it’s best to consume red meat in moderation and opt for lean cuts of beef (like top sirloin, tenderloin or filet mignon, top loin or strip steak, and 93 percent or leaner ground beef). “Lean” meat, as defined by the USDA, has less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 3.5 oz.
2. Eggs: For a while there, the versatile egg’s reputation had a few cracks, particularly because, as a major source of dietary cholesterol, egg yolks posed a threat to those concerned about their heart health. Hence the era during which ordering egg whites or egg substitutes was the trend! But medical experts are more convinced these days that saturated fats and trans fats are the bigger contributors of high blood cholesterol. Dietary cholesterol – not so much. The other reason to get your scramble on: Eggs keep you feeling full! A study published in theJournal of the American College of Nutrition found that people who ate an egg and toast breakfast felt more satisfied and even ate less at lunchtime than they did when they ate a bagel with the same amount of calories.
3. Chocolate: Chocolate is candy, right, filled with sugar and fat to boot -- so how on earth could it be good for us? And that whole song and dance about dark chocolate has to be too good to be true, right? Well, not necessarily. Dark chocolate, preferably the kind that is at least 60 percent cacao, contains antioxidants called flavanols, which have a blood-thinning effect that offers benefits to your cardiovascular health. Furthermore, research from the Journal of Proteome Research found that a bit of dark chocolate a day reduced stress hormone levels in people with anxiety. It also appeared to positively influence metabolism and microbial activity in the gut. Just remember: Experts advise keeping your portion size to about 1 ounce a day.
4. Peanut butter: When we think of peanut butter, we think of jelly, right? And although the classic combo is a yummy staple food for our kids, it’s easy to blow peanut butter off as a calorie and fat bomb no-no. But the fact of the matter is that the nut butter is a protein-packed snack that goes a long way to keep you satiated. It boasts a good amount of folate, the B vitamin important for development of new cells. And get this: Eating 1 ounce of nuts or peanut butter (about 2 tablespoons) at least 5 days a week can lower the risk of developing diabetes by almost 30 percent, according to a study published in theJournal of the American Medical Association. Score!
5. Coconut oil: No matter how trendy its gotten in recent years, the tropical oil got quite a bit of flak a few years back for being filled with unhealthy, saturated fat. The truth, however, is that coconut oil is jam-packed with a combo of short and medium chain fatty acids – primarily lauric and myristic – which offer health benefits like killing harmful pathogens like bacteria, viruses and fungi and possibly even reduce appetite, which may positively affect body weight over the long term. Gotta love that!
Another good practice? Always be sure to consult your medical professional about the dietary habits that are healthiest for you.
What “bad” food have you started eating again after realizing how good it is for you?
Maressa Brown is a senior staff writer for The Stir. She loves writing about and reading up on health/fitness, relationships, and pop culture – preferably on a beach somewhere.