Alright – I should clarify that no foods are innately “good” or “bad” – it’s just all food or energy that we take in to fuel our bodies. BUT there are some foods that have developed bad reputations that are undeserved. You may or may not agree with me (would love to hear it in the comments!) but in my dietitian experience, these are some commonly vilified foods that in fact offer a lot of nutritional value. Here are my top 5 Foods that Don’t Deserve their Bad Reputations.
I regularly contribute to a very cool health and wellness site called Foodtrients where I write about evidence-based nutrition topics and wanted to be sure to share this one with you on my feelings about some of my FAVORITE foods! Listen…if we can’t eat bananas then I just can’t go on. I was craving something cold and sweet last night – and that could have meant ice cream. But instead I nabbed a frozen banana and blended it up with cocoa powder, almond milk and some ice. About 1/8 of the calories, no added sweetener and more fiber and antioxidants. So perfect.
5 Foods that Don’t Deserve their Bad Reputations
Research has undeniably changed on dietary fat and cholesterol in recently years, finding that the cholesterol that we consume in foods does not have the adverse effects once thought. Egg yolks are rich in vitamins and minerals including choline, selenium, biotin, B12, B2, B5, iodine, phosphorus, vitamins D and A . They are also a great source of healthy fats and protein, perfect for a snack or meal. Choline is a micronutrient that aids nerve signaling and supports the nervous and muscular systems. It supports the liver and the healthy transport of triglycerides. Choline doesn’t exist in many foods, but eggs are considered an excellent source! They are a great vehicle for veggies so be sure to add spinach, broccoli, mushrooms and kale into your egg dishes for flavor, fiber and even more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The type of egg you choose can matter – both for your own health as well as the health of the birds. Check out this detailed sheet from the USDA – look for organic or certified humane labels which are both third-party certified.
Unfortunately, some people including some medical professionals continue to cite old research when it comes to soy and tofu. Women remain fearful of plant ‘estrogens’ also called ‘phytoestrogens’ causing breast cancer. Men sometimes believe that eating these foods can cause feminizing effects or the dreaded “man boob”. Old research from years past based on animal studies (read mice and rats who metabolize phytoestrogens differently than humans) aside, newer studies have proven that the naturally occurring phytoestrogens in soy (and in hundreds of other plants we eat) fit into human estrogen receptors but are unable to stimulate them like human or animal estrogens are able to. That’s right: plant estrogens support human health by taking up real estate in the body. Soy products being negative for men is also simply a myth – in fact, these types of foods support men’s health. Soy and tofu are excellent sources of protein, healthy fats, and minerals like molybdenum, copper, manganese, phosphorus and iron and should be included in the diet or both women and men. Aim for organic, unprocessed soy products like tofu, tempeh, edamame beans or miso. I’ve got a plethora of tofu recipes on my site – check out some of my top faves like Tofu Zoodle Stir-Fry with Peanut Sauce , Tofu Cranberry Protein Bowl, and Tofu Fresh Rolls with Spicy Noodles.
Folks avoid corn for a variety of reasons including the starch/sugar content, the fact it is a highly genetically modified crop, or because they think it contains no nutritional value. Corn comes in many colors and varieties and is full of antioxidant carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin which support healthy aging of the eyes. Corn is also high in fiber and vitamins like pantothenic acid, phosphorus, vitamins B3 and B6. Considered a whole grain, corn can be incorporated into the diet in a healthy way. Shoot for organic corn because some conventional varieties tested by the Environmental Working Group have come up with pesticide residues. Try colorful local corn when it is in season to maximize antioxidant content. Include whole, unprocessed corn instead of corn-based food products like chips and other snack foods.
Fourth of my 5 Foods that Don’t Deserve their Bad Reputations, many people avoid bananas because they have “too much sugar.” This tropical fruit is one of nature’s best portable snack food and contains high levels of fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin C, potassium, and manganese. Bananas commonly contain 14-15 grams of naturally occurring sugar but also offer 3 grams of fiber, including pectins, and the high water content common in fruits and vegetables. Because of these unique properties, bananas help regulate healthy digestion and serve as a prebiotic source for optimal gut health. There is no need to avoid bananas in the diet, but one a day is generally appropriate. Enjoy bananas on their own as a snack or incorporated frozen into a smoothie or fruit-based dessert. You can peel bananas, wrap them in plastic and freeze them to use for later, especially as they get too ripe to eat.
5. Potatoes/Sweet Potatoes
Like other starchy veggies, people sometimes avoid potatoes because of their high carbohydrate content. But passing them by means missing out on a delicious and nutritious natural food. Potatoes are high in vitamins B6 and C, and minerals like potassium, copper, and phosphorus. They are also high in fiber – one medium baked potato contains 100 calories and 4 grams of fiber. The starch in potatoes is rapidly absorbed and easily digested; that is true. The glycemic index of a white potato is high at 111, but the glycemic load is actually 33, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Sweet potatoes contain high levels of beta-carotene and they have a lower glycemic index at 70 with a glycemic load of 22. The glycemic index indicates how fast the carbohydrate in a food will convert to blood sugar based on the food alone and load indicates absorption based on serving size or the amount that a person would actually eat; the higher the number, the higher the blood sugar. Potatoes are rarely eaten alone and are more often included in a meal with fat and protein sources which will help slow the rapid digestion that could occur if you ate one on it’s own. Potatoes can be served with a lot of added fat or oil (think sour cream on a baked potato, cheesy scalloped potatoes or French fries). They can also be served in a more natural way with fresh herbs and spices for flavor which compliments their healthy nature. Be sure to incorporate potatoes into your diet as one of many options of natural, healthy starchy vegetables.
What do you think? Do you agree? What other foods have an unfair reputation?
Ginger Hultin,MS, RD, CSO
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