With all the information on the internet, it can seem like just about everything you eat is bad for you. Many foods and ingredients are getting an unfair reputation based solely on factors like how many carbs they have or their fat content. But when eaten in moderation, these “bad” foods are good because they contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that fight aging and prevent many health conditions. Here are 11 foods you think are bad but are good.
1. Beer and Wine
Beer and wine easily makes the list of foods you think are bad but are good. But – in moderation – they have health benefits that can’t be ignored. Both of these alcoholic beverages contain antioxidants that can prevent heart disease & heart attacks, type 2 diabetes and even some cancers. Also, they have been shown to keep your brain sharp and can help increase HDL cholesterol levels (that’s the GOOD cholesterol). Beer is also chock full of nutrients like magnesium, phosphorus, folic acid and B vitamins. Not to mention this study which links alcohol consumption to higher income levels!! So enjoy a glass of wine, soak up some antioxidants and watch your bank account grow.
2. White Rice
White rice has a high glycemic index, so it is commonly placed on no-no lists when building a diet plan. So what do you do when you’re out to lunch and brown rice isn’t on the menu? Don’t stress out because the high glycemic index of white rice really only affects you when eating ONLY white rice. When mixed with other ingredients – like olive oil – the glycemic index comes down to acceptable levels. But what about the nutrients lost when processing the rice? Again, not to worry, all white rice sold in the US is fortified so it ends up with more nutrients than brown rice.
Potatoes are a great carbohydrate source when prepared simply such as baking or boiling. A medium sized potato will give you about half your daily requirement of vitamin C. And potatoes provide quality nutrients like potassium, calcium and magnesium. Many of the best nutrients are hanging out in the skin or in the part of the potato just underneath the skin, so be sure to eat the whole potato. Also, don’t fear the high glycemic index of potatoes – simply add a little olive oil and it will counter-balance the high GI to an acceptable level.
Popcorn is another one of the foods you think are bad but are good. But if you skip the butter topping, you have a healthy whole grain snack with no extra ingredients or preservatives. Also, popcorn is a natural source of polyphenols which are a powerful antioxidant that reverse damage from free radicals. Most of the polyphenols in popcorn are found in the hull, and a serving of popcorn contains about 2 times the polyphenols in a serving of fruit (350 mg in popcorn vs 160 in fruit).
Avocados get a bad rap from their high fat content, but avocados help lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol. But avocado health benefits don’t stop with lowering LDL levels – they also contain antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. Both lutein and zeaxanthin have been linked to preventing age related macular degeneration (AMD) which is a leading cause of blindness after 50. So enjoy some guacamole and keep your vision sharp.
6. Egg Yolks
Before you automatically order an egg-white only omelette, consider the health benefits of egg yolks. Much like the avocado, egg yolks contain a generous amount of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which prevent age related macular degeneration. Egg yolks also contain choline, which is an anti-inflammatory that produces the mood-enhancing hormones serotonin, dopamine and norephinephrine. And a little goes a long way, so if you’re trying to follow a low fat diet, try an egg white omelette that has only 1 yolk instead of 2-3. This will still give you a healthy dose of lutein, zeaxanthin and choline without as much fat.
7. Dark Chocolate
When eaten in moderation, dark chocolate is practically a miracle food. It contains a flavonol called quercetin, which is a yellow crystalline pigment found it plants. Quercetin is believed to provide an energy boost and also help reduce some kinds of allergies. And the darker the chocolate, the better becuase the higher the percentage of chocolate, the higher the amount of flavonols. Also, dark chocolate literally makes you feel better by reducing levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, and dark chocolate has proven to provide workout benefits. And one more bonus – one study found that people who regularly included dark chocolate in their diets have a lower body mass index than those who don’t.
8. Whole Milk
Whole milk is usually one of the first things to eliminate when transitioning to a low-fat diet. But there is some evidence indicating that whole milk might actually be better (or at least no worse) than low-fat or non-fat milk. In a 2015 study, it was found that there was no difference in the frequency of heart disease or type 2 diabetes between whole milk drinkers and low-fat milk drinkers. Perhaps even more interesting, obesity rates in those who opted for full fat milk, butter and cream were lower than those on low fat dairy options.
9. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is another one of mother nature’s miracle foods that are often eliminated in strict diets due to its high levels of – bad – saturated fat. However, it contains many powerful antioxidants and helps boost HDL cholesterol levels. Coconut oil is also a multipurpose ingredient – you can use it as a cooking oil, a flavor additive to smoothies, and even spread it on toast. Just be careful cooking with it since it has a lower smoke point than other oils – virgin/non-refined coconut oil smokes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit compared to peanut oil which smokes around 450 degrees.
Ounce for ounce, shrimp is one of the highest cholesterol foods so it’s definitely one of the foods you think are bad but are good. This leads people to avoid shrimp when following a strict diet or when watching one’s cholesterol. However, the high levels of cholesterol in shrimp don’t directly contribute to raising cholesterol levels in your body. And shrimp has almost no saturated fat, has a great protein-to-calorie ratio, and delivers plenty of awesome Omega-3 fatty acids. Plus, tests have shown shrimp to contain less mercury than many other seafoods.
Coffee also makes the list of foods you think are bad but are good. Coffee is one of the world’s most popular beverages across the globe and it comes with many health benefits. Of course, it is a natural source of caffeine that jump starts mornings and gives an afternoon recharge of mental focus. But it also contains powerful flavanoids that help prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and has even been linked to fighting Alzheimers. Even better — the US government came out with dietary guidelines in 2016 that found no harmful side effects from drinking as many as 5 cups per day…so you can order a Venti size guilt free!
References for foods you think are bad but are good
- EatingWell.com – Bad Foods You Should Be Eating
- Livestrong – 18 Foods With a ‘Bad Rap’ That Are Actually Good for You
- Food Network – 14 Foods You Thought Were Unhealthy, But Aren’t
- Business Insider – 11 things people think are terrible for your diet that actually aren’t
- NBC News – 7 Seemingly Unhealthy Things That Are Actually Good For You
- Shape – Bad Foods that Aren’t So Bad For You