Diet trends and food habits are constantly changing, especially among those who are health conscious and careful with their food choices. Every time a new study reports a finding, people alter their diet and avoid foods that are found to be bad for health.
Often, findings from studies are contradicting and leave people in a state of confusion. Believing a certain report to be true, they may include certain foods in their diet and create a new trend. For instance, processed foods and fast foods ruled the roost some years ago. Today, many people are avoiding these foods as new research shows that they are actually bad for us.
Here are 10 such foods that may have earned a reputation as unhealthy but are actually good for our health.
1. Avoiding Fat
Eating fat doesn’t necessarily make you fat. Yet, many people consider that foods that contain fat must be avoided. Though scientists are still studying the benefits of saturated fat, other types of fats are actually good for you in moderation.1 We all require a certain amount of fat in our diets to stay healthy as they provide energy in the form of calories. Fats also help our bodies absorb important fat-soluble vitamins.
Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and plant-based monounsaturated fats found in almonds and avocado provide many health benefits. These fats help reduce inflammation, improve blood lipid levels, and promote a lower body weight. Some people consume processed foods labeled “reduced fat” that have replaced the fat with sugar or additives, which actually make these foods more unhealthy. Many people are still fat-phobic and avoid all dietary fats that actually causes them to gain weight.
2. Staying Away From Cholesterol In Foods
We often see people discarding the yolk and eating only egg whites. Although some doctors may have recommended eating only egg whites, egg yolks are high in dietary cholesterol, which is good for health. Egg yolks are also a rich source of vitamin E and carotenoids. It was thought that dietary cholesterol affected blood cholesterol levels, and that foods rich in cholesterol such as egg yolks should be avoided.
Research has shown that dietary cholesterol has little impact on blood cholesterol levels. Not all cholesterol is bad for the health. “Good” HDL cholesterol is thought to improve heart health. The recent federal nutrition guidelines from the USDA and Department of Health and Human Services lifted the restrictions on dietary cholesterol, as it’s not considered as a nutrient of concern for over-consumption.
3. Choosing Processed “Healthy” Foods
Today, many of the so-called “healthy” food products remove the fat and replace it with added sugars. Some people consider diet products like light salad dressing as healthier choices, but often they’re really not. Large quantities of added sugar in the diet can be more damaging to the health than excessive dietary fat. Studies show that people who consumed a lot of sugar were more than twice as likely to die from heart disease.2
If you opt for lighter food, read the ingredient list and food label to ensure that the fats have not been replaced with added sugars. Moreover, health foods like energy bars often contain additives and even pre-packaged vegetarian or vegan foods can mislead you. Just because some foods are vegan, it does not qualify as healthy as these foods can be quite high in calories. You should always read food labels and see how the product fits into a balanced diet.
4. Reducing Sodium Intake
People with high blood pressure are usually told to reduce sodium in their diet. But, a new study from Boston University found that a low-sodium diet didn’t actually lower blood pressure.3 So, salt may not be the culprit, after all. On the contrary, salt in moderate quantities is required for a healthy diet.
The study also noted that people with the lowest intake of sodium had a greater risk of heart disease than the people who consumed it in moderation. Hence, people must reduce eating processed foods, which contain excessive quantities of added sodium. Instead, eat whole foods that contain permissible levels of sodium to promote heart health.
5. Drinking Sports Drinks
People who actively participate in sports tend to drink sports drinks in considerably large quantities. Sports drinks contain sugars and carbs that are meant to replace carbohydrates lost during exercise. Actually, keeping the body well-hydrated with water is adequate and sports drinks are not necessary. Many studies have found that evidence for the benefits of sports drinks is insufficient.
Unless you’re an endurance athlete exercising intensely or for an extended period, you mostly will not need the electrolytes (sodium and potassium) from energy drinks. Drinking sports drinks in excess can result in a surge of calories, sugars, and even chemicals from artificial sweeteners.
6. Avoiding Dairy
With over 65 percent of the people in the world being lactose intolerant, drinking milk past infancy or even drinking animal milk is considered unnatural by many people. Humans are the only species to drink milk as adults or to drink milk produced from other animals. However, research has shown that humans have genetically evolved to adapt to drinking milk.
Milk products are important for our health as they are rich in beneficial nutrients such as whey protein, conjugated linoleic acid, and calcium. Low-fat dairy can actually help lower blood pressure. A recent study found that those who ate full-fat dairy (but not low fat) gained less weight, possibly because it keeps you fuller longer. It also may reduce diabetes and heart disease risk.
7. Restricting Shellfish Intake
Many people who eat seafood may avoid shellfish such as mussels, clams, shrimp, lobster, and crab as these are considered as bottom feeders and that they are not very healthy. Also, since shellfish contain dietary cholesterol, some people choose to skip them. But, shellfish must be included as a part of the diet because of its health benefits, unless you’re allergic to shellfish.
Though approximately 1% of the population is estimated to suffer from seafood allergy, an estimated 20% of them will grow out of their allergy over time. Shellfish are rich in protein, omega-3s, and selenium, an antioxidant. Research has shown that shellfish promotes brain health and can also help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.4
8. Drinking Milk From Other Sources
Another mistake people make is choosing foods that seem superior in terms of health than their counterpart. We are talking about milk! Though milk from other sources such as soy, almond, rice, and coconut are popular, they do not contain the same amount of nutrients as cow’s milk. Most people may think of nuts as a rich source of protein and they are right about it. But, the milk extracted from the nuts is not a great source of protein.
Almond milk contains only two grams of protein per serving compared to eight grams in cow’s milk. The milk mostly contains water and the nutrients may be lost during the process of extraction. Some people have even switched to plant-based milk for infants, which can result in many nutritional deficiencies as shown by some studies.5
In early 2017, a bill called the Dairy Pride Act was introduced to prevent almond and other plant-based milk from being marketed as “milk” so that consumers understand that they’re nutritionally different.6 People opting for these alternative sources of milk must also ensure that these are free of added sugars or sweeteners.
9. Eating Only Raw Food
Some health-conscious people restrict their diet to only raw food such as vegetables and fruits. No doubt most fruits and vegetables can be eaten raw and some people may even argue that cooking can destroy the nutrients present in veggies. The fact is that cooking enables the body to digest the food more easily and prevents food-borne illness, as cooking kills any bacteria.
One specific study has found that a long-term raw food diet is associated with being underweight and other negative health consequences.7 Another study has found that the capability to cook food was the reason humans’ brains evolved more than other primates as cooking the food allows our bodies to better absorb the nutrients necessary for brain growth.
10. Switching To Alternative Natural Sweeteners
Today, many processed foods come with added sugars or artificial sweeteners, which causes nutritional problems and can have an adverse impact on health. So, some people have switched to alternative “natural” sweeteners like agave. But, they are no better than added sugars in terms of negative health impact.
Many people are misled into believing that alternative sweeteners are healthier than sugar just because they are labeled as “natural”. In reality, honey, agave, and maple syrup contain calories. Agave contains more calories per teaspoon than sugar. Studies show that the levels of fructose in agave, honey, and other “natural” sweeteners are equally bad for your health.8
|↑1||Guldstrand, Marie C., and Caroline L. Simberg. “High-fat diets: healthy or unhealthy?.” Clinical Science 113, no. 10 (2007): 397-399.|
|↑2||Know Your Limit for Added Sugars. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2016.|
|↑3||Low-sodium diet might not lower blood pressure. Science Daily. 2017.|
|↑4||Connor, William E., and Sonja L. Connor. “The importance of fish and docosahexaenoic acid in Alzheimer disease.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 85, no. 4 (2007): 929-930.|
|↑5||Le Louer, B., J. Lemale, K. Garcette, C. Orzechowski, A. Chalvon, J. P. Girardet, and P. Tounian. “Severe nutritional deficiencies in young infants with inappropriate plant milk consumption.” Archives de pediatrie: organe officiel de la Societe francaise de pediatrie 21, no. 5 (2014): 483-488.|
|↑6||S.130 – DAIRY PRIDE Act. Congress.Gov. 2017.|
|↑7||Koebnick, Corinna, Carola Strassner, Ingrid Hoffmann, and Claus Leitzmann. “Consequences of a long-term raw food diet on body weight and menstruation: results of a questionnaire survey.” Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism 43, no. 2 (1999): 69-79.|
|↑8||Liu, Haibo, Danshan Huang, David L. McArthur, Laszlo G. Boros, Nicholas Nissen, and Anthony P. Heaney. “Fructose induces transketolase flux to promote pancreatic cancer growth.” Cancer research 70, no. 15 (2010): 6368-6376.|