8 Supposedly Unhealthy Foods That Are Actually Good for You

By Laurel Randolph on 24 February 2015 0 comments

Are you a coffee lover, but you abstain for health reasons? Or do you love snacking on popcorn, but rarely indulge because it's a "junk food?" Then good 'ole science has your back. The following eight foods have gotten a bad rap over the years, but in fact can play a big part in a healthy diet. (See also: 11 Health Foods Not Worth the Money)

1. Coffee

We've long been told that drinking coffee will lead to a long list of ills: stunted growth, heart disease, and even cancer. It turns out that no correlation has been found between these conditions and drinking coffee, and that people who drink coffee regularly tend to be healthier overall.

Coffee has been shown to do exactly what you think it does: decrease risk of depression and improve cognitive function. Studies have also shown that coffee may even have long-term health benefits, such as protection against diabetes, liver disease, and Parkinson's disease. The key is to stop at two cups a day — over-consumption can lead to risks, especially for individuals with a specific genetic mutation. And go easy on the cream and sugar.

2. Potatoes

Before you speed off to the drive-thru, no, we're not talking about french fries. Potatoes are often vilified because of the way we tend to eat them: fried or loaded with butter and cheese. But on their own, these starchy vegetables are actually a low-calorie, high-fiber food. Potatoes are loaded with vitamin B6, which helps build and support cells, and other vitamins and minerals like potassium. New studies show that potatoes may also help regulate blood sugar. Try preparing a delicious side dish of skin-on, cubed potatoes roasted with olive oil and garlic.

3. Eggs

Worried about your cholesterol? No eggs! That's what we've been told for years, and the cholesterol content in egg yolks has scared away many people who are concerned about their health. Luckily, we've learned over the past 30 years that saturated fat intake has more to do with raising cholesterol levels in the blood than consuming cholesterol from food. Eggs are incredibly high in protein and have just 75 calories each, along with a whole host of nutrients. Balance is key for a healthy diet — if you have a couple of eggs for breakfast, limit your saturated fat intake for the rest of the day. You should still consult your doctor before adding eggs to your diet if you have high cholesterol.

4. Peanut Butter

At last, you can feed your kid (and yourself) that peanut butter sandwich without worry. Not many people think of this popular nut butter as a health food, but in moderation it can contribute to a healthy diet. Peanut butter is high in protein and fiber, so even though it's high in calories, it will keep you full for longer and in turn stop you from eating more. It is also rich in vitamin E and magnesium, and studies show that eating nuts or nut butter may help prevent diabetes. Be sure to select a brand that is low in sodium and sugar and has natural ingredients.

5. Alcohol

Alcohol can be healthy, but self-control is key. An all-night binge session doesn't count as healthy by a long shot, but a glass of wine every night does a body good. A large number of studies have shown that moderate drinking (one drink per day for women, two per day for men) can considerably decrease your risk for cardiovascular diseases. Alcohol can also reduce risk for gallstones and Type 2 diabetes. It's important to remember that if drinking exceeds healthful levels, alcohol swiftly becomes bad for your health. Excessive drinking has the opposite effect, increasing your risk for heart problems and potentially causing major liver trauma.

6. Canned Beans

Canned food items have been criticized in recent years due to concerns over leakage of the plastic additive BPA. Some also believe that canned products are not as nutritious as their fresh, dried, and frozen counterparts. Recent studies have shown that we don't have to pick convenience over health — BPA has shown to be harmless in normal amounts, and canned beans are nutritionally comparable to dried beans, with only slightly fewer nutrients. The key is to buy cans with "no salt added" or rinse salted beans well to remove much of the added sodium. Store leftover beans in a container and not in the can.

7. Popcorn

When thinking about junk food, popcorn is a snack that often comes to mind. High-calorie movie theatre versions laden with fake butter, oil, and salt are to blame. Many microwave brands are also loaded with chemicals and harmful fat. Homemade popcorn, on the other hand, is a whole grain, high in fiber, and low in calories. One cup of air-popped popcorn has just 31 calories and zero grams of fat, and contains essential B vitamins and minerals. Try popping some at home for a healthy snack.

8. Whole Milk and Yogurt

Because full-fat dairy is high in saturated fat, we've long been told to avoid it. Many people reach for the low-fat and fat-free varieties of milk and yogurt when they visit the dairy aisle. More saturated fat means more body fat, and less means less, right? According to some studies about the impact of full-fat dairy on weight, this may not be true. Subjects that consumed whole milk and dairy were more likely to have a trim waistline than those that didn't. Scientists aren't sure why this is the case, citing feeling satiated or a change in metabolism as possible causes. There is one thing we do know: full-fat organic dairy contains beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, making it a healthy choice when eaten in the right amounts.

Have you been avoiding any of these allegedly harmful foods?

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