Food Myths: Good Foods with A Bad Reputation
By Michele Lubin, MS RD CDN
The hard and fast rule of healthy eating is to avoid foods that are too tasty. After all, food companies add sodium, sugar and fat to make what we eat taste delicious, right?
Well, despite some food’s bad reputation for being unhealthy, there are nutritious foods that actually do taste good. Here are some for you to consider. If you are like so many of us, you may see some foods listed that you have never tried. Make this an adventure and always be aware of portion sizes.
Wheat, gluten and other grains seem to be the latest foods with a bad reputation, especially in this low-carb, gluten-free world we live in. Yet decades of studies have found that gluten-containing foods such as whole wheat, rye and barley — are vital to good health (unless you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity).
Whole wheat and other whole grains are a good source of fiber, vitamins and minerals. In fact, the fiber in whole grains actually decreases your risk of heart disease. However, when the grain is processed, it’s stripped of the fiber, vitamins and minerals, which can cause an increase in disease risk. Whole grains like whole wheat, oats, barley, brown rice, quinoa, kamut and millet should also be included in your daily diet… if you watch your portions. One cup of cooked grains adds up to about 200 calories. You may want to consider having some meals without grains, but when you do include grains, go for about ½ cup at a time.
Eggs are another food that has endured a bad reputation for far too long. Their high cholesterol content was thought to increase LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol and heart-disease risk. But, we now know that cholesterol in any food is a minor factor in contributing to high blood cholesterol in most people. Studies have not confirmed a correlation between eggs and increased heart-disease risk. It’s really the saturated fat in foods we should avoid. Eggs happen to be relatively low in saturated fat — about 1.6 grams in the yolk and also contain nutrients that may help lower the risk for heart disease, including protein, vitamins B12 and D, riboflavin, folate, lutein and zeaxanthin, two nutrients that are important for eye health. as well as choline, which is important for brain development.
The American Heart Association recommends reducing saturated fat to no more than 5-6 percent of total calories. For someone eating 2,000 calories a day that’s about 11 to 13 grams of saturated fat. These findings don’t give you the green light to go ahead and eat massive amounts of eggs every day. One egg per day plus egg whites would be a healthier option.
Many people believe they should stay away from fruit because it’s too high in sugar. Study after study over many decades has shown that eating fruit can reduce the risk of some cancers, heart disease, blood pressure and diabetes. Fruit is high in water and fiber, which help you feel full with fewer calories — one reason why their consumption is correlated with lower body weight. Fruit is naturally low in calories and super high in nutrients: Vitamins A and C as well as other vitamins and minerals, carotenoids and lycopene, powerful antioxidants. Enjoy the sweetness of one or two servings of fruit every day.
The word nuts may evoke fear in many dieters, considering how high in calories they are for a small portion. Yes, nuts are high in fat and calories, but they have plenty of redeeming qualities. Nuts provide a little of everything: protein, fiber and a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. Research demonstrates that those people who regularly consumed nuts and nut butter have a lower body weight than those who avoid it. Nuts may help weight control by serving as an appetite suppressant. And, nuts contain mostly unsaturated fats, making them a heart healthy choice. So, include nuts and nut butters in your diet, but in small quantities (1/4 cup nuts or two tablespoons of nut butters). If you’re worried about the calories, try a powdered peanut butter like PB2 which only has 45 calories per 2 tablespoons.