For years, diet specialists, and many doctors, have told you that certain foods were forbidden for either losing weight, keeping cholesterol down, or some other health reason. Similarly, you’ve been told to use other foods labeled as “healthy” that in reality aren’t. Just in time for all your New Year’s resolutions to get healthier, and lose a few pounds in 2013, here’s what you should really know about which foods are healthy and which aren’t.
Unhealthy vs Healthy Foods Reconsidered
I’ve told my patients for many years that, when trying to lose weight, or just get healthier in general, you really don’t have to go on a bland, tasteless, joy and comfort-robbing diet regimen. With the following list, I think you’ll be surprised to find that some of your old yummy favorites can be part of your healthy-eating regimen.
1. Eggs. Recent research out of Europe has disconnected the link to eggs and heart disease. The yolks of eggs contain significant amounts of protein, zinc, choline, vitamins A and D. Choline recently has been associated with lower breast cancer risks in women. Cook with heart-healthy Omega-3 oils like olive or flaxseedoil for a high protein breakfast, or hard boil for an easy, nutritious, high protein, low calorie snack.
2. Red meat. The “beef” about red meat being unhealthy is a half-truth. It all depends on how your beef is grown. Beef from grain fed, hormone and antibiotic-given cows is not healthy, while beef from grass-fed, no hormones/antibiotics cowscan be very healthy. Beef contains high levels of absorbable B12 and iron which you need to stay healthy especially as you get older. 4-6 ounces 3 times a week is a healthy level. Cook with heart healthy Omega-3 fats and a little bromelain meat tenderizer to help you digest it better.
3. Sea salt. This has been touted as “healthy” because it’s marketed as an “all-natural” sea product. Well, surprise, all salt comes from the sea originally, even regular table salt. The health truth to remember is that whether it is sea salt or plain old table salt, salt is salt. The more you use the more at risk you are for hypertension. Use sparingly.
4. Bananas. Once forbidden to dieters or diabetics, bananas recently have been found to be healthier than previously thought. Bananas contain “resistant starch” which your body cannot absorb. Most of the sugar/carbs in bananas, therefore, is not absorbed. In addition, this resistant starch produces butyrate – a fatty acid that helps you burn fat. Bananas also contain high levels of potassium for energy. Pair them with a handful of mixed, unsalted nuts for a healthy snack. The protein and fat in the nuts slows down bananas sugar absorption even more. Choose a greener banana that has higher levels of the resistant starch in them.
5. Peanut butter. Like red meat, some peanut butters are healthier than others. Choose full-fat, organic, no-sugar added “natural” type blends of peanut butter as ‘reduced-fat’ types add a lot of sugar to compensate for lower fat. The fat grams/calories are only slightly reduced but the amount of sugar grams increases significantly. Even better, make your own! Use Omega-3 oils (walnut, flaxseed) to blend 1 cup of peanuts, or mixed nuts, in your blender.
6. Coconut oil. Once considered a bad food saturated fat for dieters, pure virgin coconut oil is actually a very healthy oil to cook your food with. It is a medium chain triglyceride that your body prefers to use for energy. This means it doesn’t get stored as fat and can actually help you burn more fat – especially belly fat. A 2009 study showed that adding 2 tablespoons a day to women’s diets reduced belly fat and upped good HDL cholesterol levels.
7. Protein Bars. While these are okay to eat for a snack, or even meal replacement, once in a while, the ingredients in some brands can make them much less healthier than advertised. For example, they can contain a lot of sugar from juices or honey and soy protein isolate which are not great for your health. Look for low sugar, “carb healthy” bars that use stevia or monk fruit to sweeten and whey, rice, or casein as the protein source.
8. Raw, natural sugar. Raw sugar is metabolized by your body the same as refined sugar. In addition, it doesn’t provide any additional health benefits other than a little iron from its natural brown molasses. The only real difference to white table sugar is the price – much higher. Like sea salt, I feel that raw sugar is a pricey and misleading consumer health food trap.
9. Alcohol. Research in the last several years has shown that a little bit of alcohol consumption daily/weekly, can benefit your health – depending on what type alcohol you drink. Dark, rich red wines add resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant that can actually keep you, and your heart and bones healthy and younger. Dark brown beers containing hops, a healthy herb, also have similar heart and bone-building benefits. Limit 2 drinks a day for men, 1-2 for women. After that, too much alcohol starts to decrease its health benefit.
10. Fat free/reduced foods. A number of processed foods labeled “fat free” or “reduced fat” foods really are less healthy for you than their full fat versions. The sugar/carbohydrate level can be very high in these foods to compensate for flavor loss when reducing fat. Look for foods that have 0 trans fats and low saturated fats naturally. Sugar grams should be less than 5 grams per serving, preferably even lower.
There you have 10 common foods that you now know the real health-truth about. Learning how to balance less-healthy foods with more-healthy foods will allow you to lose weight, maintain healthy cholesterol levels, sustain good bone and heart health, and not miss out on your favorite foods. To your good health!
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Natural Health News
5 Unhealthy Foods that are Healthier than you think, http://fitbie.msn.com/eat-right/tips/5-unhealthy-foods-are-healthier-you-think/tip/3
12 Unhealthy Health Foods, http://www.greenerchoices.org/products.cfm?product=0411unhealthfoods
Calories and Benefits of Raw Sugar,http://www.livestrong.com/article/329919-calories-and-benefits-of-raw-sugar/
Health Benefits of Beer, http://health.yahoo.net/experts/dayinhealth/10-surprising-health-benefits-beer