We have all felt the unpleasant pang when hearing that one of our favorite foods is suddenly listed as bad or even classified as junk food. However, some of these foods are occasionally mislabeled due to misleading or even surprisingly old information and studies. Reacquaint yourself with some of these 18 delicious staples and comfort foods that may have been banished from your diet. Some may even help you out at the gym and with your waistline. Feel free to share your favourite “bad” foods in the comments section.
While high in sugar and calories; a recent study found 54 beneficial compounds including 20 antioxidants within 20 litres of maple syrup. This includes a staggering 13 that have never been found in previous studies of the syrup including phenolic acids, found in dried fruits and flavonoids known for their antioxidant, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties and stilbene, a plant derivative of the same chemical class as resveratrol found in red wine. These properties are only to be found in natural maple syrups, not imitation or artificially flavoured varieties.
Commonly known for being high in sugar, bananas are also high in nutrients such as potassium, vitamin B6, manganese and soluble fibre in addition to many others. Speaking of dietary fibre, bananas could be your best friend at the gym as they also contain resistant starch which is linked to elevations in after meal fat burning. It also makes an excellent choice for a workout snack as potassium is an essential nutrient for proper nerve and muscle functioning as well as aiding in endurance.
Much debated, does it prevent cancer or can it cause it? While soy is rich in antioxidants, specifically phyto-estrogens, which can affect hormone levels, some feel that that points to a cause for reproductive cancers, particularly breast cancer. It seems that just the opposite is likely to be true, and that soy may actually be protective against cancers and even prostate cancer.
Tuna whether it’s tinned or fresh is an excellent source of many nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids, up to 300 milligrams per serving as well as potassium and protein. There are some valid concerns about high levels of mercury content and PCB contamination as well as sustainability issues, however there is a way around this. Atlantic and Bluefin varieties appear to be the real hazard here, whereas Albacore, Pacific Hook, Line-caught and particularly Pole-caught Skipjack tuna has very low to undetectable levels of Mercury as well lacking the sustainability issues of the more common varieties.
Cutting out carbohydrates has been seen as the key to weight loss and general health, but this may only be half right. Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of primary energy and it seems that extreme low and no carbohydrate diets may damage arteries and your metabolism in the long run. Keep in mind though that the human body cannot produce glucose and without that our brain functions suffer. Stick to complex carbohydrates commonly found in fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains and avoid or limit simple carbohydrates like those found in processed foods such as snacks and white breads.
Commonly perceived as high in fat, sodium and offering little in terms of nutrition a 28g serving contains no carbohydrates, 17g of protein and 9g of fat. Compare that to the 1g of protein and 10g of fat in the same size serving of crisps. Also keep in mind that they have only about 30% of the sodium of crisps and the fat in scratchings is 43% unsaturated and a good deal of that is oleic fatty acids, the same acids found in olive oil that can lower LDL cholesterol and possibly raise HDL cholesterol. As a substitution for crisps and other starchy snacks, in moderation you can love these again without the guilt.
The only healthy choice used to be margarine but now there’s more of a debate raging. Dairy based butter is high in cholesterol compared to margarine and butter substitutes some recent looks at hydrogenated oils and trans fats in margarine has changed things. It seems the more spreadable the margarine the less trans fats and the better it is for you, however the more solid the more trans fats. Basically real butter in moderation or less solid and no sticks for margarines is ideal. The jury’s still out on Ghee, the Indian clarified butter. While high in cholesterol some argue that Ghee contains more medium-chain and short-chain fats than butter which are metabolized differently by the body and don’t carry the connection to heart problems that traditional butter does.
Another recent dairy debate has been whole vs. skim and non-fat milks. Whole milk is a valuable source of nutrients such as the obvious calcium and also potassium and while there are indeed less calories from fat in skim and non, skim milk can cause blood sugar levels to spike and this can trigger insulin related to fat storage to be produced in higher quantities in the body. Not exactly a recommendation for weight loss especially when you consider that skim milk used to be used by the pork industry in the fattening of pigs for market.
Coconut & Coconut Milk
There has been a lot of discussion about the fat content in coconut meat and milk raising cholesterol, and once again it’s the product of confusion between types of fats. Coconut contains medium chain fatty acidsand responsible consumption of foods containing these triglycerides can lead to a greater rate of weight and fat loss than even using olive oil can provide. Be mindful of tins though, some may contain BPAs which are of some health concern, particularly as they like to leach into fatty contents like coconut milk.
Specifically dark chocolate, sorry milk and white chocolate fans, was found in a study to be beneficial to cardiovascular health, reducing the risk of heart disease and blood pressure. It turns out that it’s theflavonoids that dark chocolate has in abundance, the same compounds found in green tea and red wines. Consuming enough dark chocolate to reach 100 mg of flavonoids helps relax your blood vessels and arteries which improves blood flow to the heart and throughout your system. Yes, all chocolate, even dark is rich in fats but they are stearic and oleic acids, the kinds that help reduce LDL cholesterol.
What we associate most with beer today are high calories in regular or lack of taste in light beer and the dreaded beer belly. A great deal of the reputation beers have is really the product of the bad company it keeps, fried foods and salty snacks can be the real cause of the weight gain we associate with the beverage. An Italian study found that regular moderate consumption of beer shares almost the same cardiovascular benefits as wine consumption. As with any alcohol, moderation is the key, but it sounds like the old slogan was right and a nice pint may just be “good for you.”
Another snack that is seen as high in fats, sodium and overly processed, but when it’s done right it can be a valuable high energy, high in protein and a satiating snack. Yes, some packaged jerky brands are high in sodium, nitrates and chemicals but there are many natural alternatives out there and they’re as simple to find as reading and comparing labels.
A great deal of the unhealthy aspects of red meats, the high cholesterol and fat content, just like in our systems, is a product of what they’re fed. If you’re careful about choosing more natural grass fed red meats you can share in the benefits of omega-3 and linoleic fatty acids as well as nutrients such as carnitine, carnosine and b12 that are not found in plant based sources.
Several properties of peanuts assist with weight loss, they are a satisfying food, in other words less is more when it comes to feeling full. Plus 10 to 20% of the fats’ contained in peanuts are not even absorbed by the body and peanuts are resistant to digestion which means peanuts expend more energy in digestion than most foods. Some studies have even shown an increase in resting energy expenditure of up to 11% as well as aiding in the prevention of coronary heart disease.
For those without health restrictions there is no evidence that gluten, the protein found in wheat and other grain products, holds any dangers for the average consumer and the real source of weight loss due to gluten free diets is the cutting out of processed gluten sources like desserts and junk foods. When you remove glutens from your diet you lose a vital source of dietary fiber and nutrients such as folate, calcium and B12 among many others. Stick with whole grains and you can enjoy the health benefits from them such as a reduced risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
Frozen & Tinned Produce
Most of us need to add more fruits and vegetable to our diet, but with busy schedules fresh isn’t always an option, luckily frozen and even tinned can be just as healthy and nutritious. Frozen is fairly easy, however tinned can be trickier, some varieties suffer in the process such as some Vitamin C loss but so does fresh produce just from sitting in the fridge. There’s also less spoilage with frozen or tinned and they are harvested at the peak of freshness for the most nutrients. Ensure that you’re picking unsalted and no sugar added brands in BPA free tins when possible.
Yogurt or light sour cream is healthier for you but full fat sour cream isn’t as bad as you may think. 90% of its calories are derived from fat, at least half of which is saturated. This is a bit of a paradox however, the fat content may be high but the total amount surprisingly isn’t. One serving is about 2 tablespoons which comes in at 52 calories; this comes to half the fat that’s in a single serving of mayonnaise and less saturated fats than is found in a glass of 2% milk.
Chicken skin itself isn’t the problem, the fats attached to it are however; the skin traps these fats and helps them cook with the meat making for a less lean meal. Without the skin though you may be missing something, chicken skin contains 14 times more omega-6 than the meat from grain fed beef or 10 times that of grain fed pork. Grilled or baked in moderation should be fine.