If you’re like most folks you have a list of unhealthy foods in your head. You know the ones we mean. The “forbidden” foods you’d love to indulge in, but you avoid because you’re determined to eat healthy. These are the foods you pass right by in the grocery store with a sigh as you make your way to the healthy foods.
Well what if we were to tell you that many of those so-called unhealthy foods that you’ve been denying yourself aren’t actually unhealthy at all. That you’ve been led astray, because many of these “forbidden” not only aren’t bad for you, they deliver some impressive hidden health benefits!
The healthiest “unhealthy foods” you’ll find in the grocery store
Following are fourteen foods most folks have assigned to their unhealthy foods list that are actually health foods in disguise. It turns out you should actually be eating more of them.
Avocados are high in fat. Their high in calories. And their often served up in a dip alongside a big bowl of fried, greasy corn chips. No wonder most people think of avocado as an unhealthy food.
But here’s the truth – avocados are one of the best sources of healthy fats available. In fact, monounsaturated fat rich avocados actually help boost your metabolism, which means they can help you manage your weight. Plus they can naturally help lower your LDL, or so-called “bad” protein.
Keep in mind there are many other, just as delicious, ways to eat avocado than on a corn chip such as sliced into a salad, baked in the oven with an egg inside (yes, eggs are on the menu too, more on them later) or simply straight out of the skin with a dash of sea salt. And spreading it on a sandwich can take your lunch from bland to bravo.
Bananas are one of the few fruits that get lumped into the unhealthy foods category – but it’s an unfair reputation. Compared to some other fruits, they may be a bit higher in calories, but the benefits they offer make every extra one well worth it.
Perhaps most importantly, bananas are sweet but don’t cause sudden blood sugar spikes. So you can indulge without worrying about out-of-control glucose levels. Plus, they’re also high in nutrients your body needs. And while a small banana does have more calories than, say, a strawberry, compared too many other snacks, they’re not that high in calories, coming in at about 90.
And if you’ve put bananas on your forbidden list because you saw one of those stories that get forwarded around that said bananas are radioactive you can safely take them off of your forbidden foods list. Bananas contain potassium (you already knew that, right?) and since potassium decays it’s technically true that bananas are radioactive.
But the real truth is, while bananas could be called radioactive (as could spinach, salmon, avocados, mushrooms, yogurt, white beans and apricots) so are YOU since your body contains potassium too. You’d would literally have to eat truckloads of bananas all by yourself to even begin to compete with the amount of potassium you already naturally have in your system.
You may remember hearing how bad beef is for you just like it was yesterday – probably because someone lectured you about it yesterday. It’s the forbidden foods lie that just won’t die.
But don’t listen to all those folks who haven’t done their homework. Because the truth is beef really can be a healthy part of your diet. Here’s the trick – you need to make sure to choose organic, grass-fed beef.
We lose muscle as we age leaving us vulnerable to falls and fractures, but protein-rich beef can help us maintain our muscles. And beef is packed with over 80 nutrients that help support your brain, muscles and nervous system.
Not only is it full of protein, iron, vitamin B-12 (only found in animal products) and more, despite what you’ve been told organic, grass-fed beef has been linked to healthier cholesterol, blood pressure, and – get ready for this – a lower risk of cancer!
No, you can’t just grab a chunk of chuck off the meat counter, but why would you want to?
Everybody knows that a glass or two of wine every night can be good for your heart. But not as many folks realize that beer has health benefits, too!
Every pint of beer contains a laundry list of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that your body craves. So why not give them to it? You don’t have to only drink wine or give up alcohol. Draw yourself a cold one and enjoy. It’s for your health, after all.
5. Coconut oil:
It wasn’t too long ago that coconut oil was being dragged through the mud as one of the unhealthiest foods you could eat. Luckily, we’ve learned the truth since then.
It turns out coconut oil is just this side of miraculous. Are you ready for this?
Coconut oil has been shown to:
- improve cholesterol,
- increase brain function,
- kill bacteria and viruses that can make you sick,
- help you lose weight by burning fat more efficiently,
- reduce seizures.
And that’s not even the whole list of benefits this healthy oil has to offer!
To learn more about cooking oils—including coconut oil and the one oil you should NEVER eat—click here.
The problem with coffee isn’t coffee – it’s what people put in the coffee. By the time they walk out of Starbucks, most folks have a sugary, creamy cup of liquid candy that barely tastes like coffee let alone has the many benefits this delicious brew can offer.
You see coffee itself is quite healthy. In fact it’s a good source of antioxidants and could even help reduce your cancer risk, fight diabetes and boost your metabolism.
So, go ahead and enjoy your morning coffee and another in the afternoon too. Just be sure to skip all the unhealthy additives. If you don’t like your coffee straight up try a little stevia, along with a splash of almond or cashew milk, or even whole milk. (That’s right – we said whole milk… but more on that in a bit.)
(To learn how coffee could help slash your colon cancer risk up to 50 percent click here.)
Raise your hand if you ever gave up on eggs thinking they were one of those unhealthy foods that you needed to avoid if you were going to stick to a healthy diet.
Many of us have, and if you didn’t you probably had to endure well-meaning friends or family lecturing us on how they would raise our cholesterol and were bad for your heart health.
Well if you haven’t yet put eggs back on the menu it’s high time you did. Eggs are brimming with nutrients from vitamin B12 to selenium. They’re low in calories, and may even help you lose weight. And although they’re technically high in cholesterol research reveals there’s no evidence eggs will significantly raise your blood cholesterol levels.
(To learn more about the science behind eggs and cholesterol—and why it’s okay to eat eggs again—click here.)
Eggs even help with eyesight, and because of the way they interact with the hormones in your body, actually make you happier.
8. Hot chocolate:
If you’re a chocoholic but have been denying yourself hot chocolate because it’s “unhealthy” you’re going to LOVE this one. Hot chocolate’s bad rep isn’t deserved.
Sure, the store-bought, highly processed, sugar-packed powdered junk is far from healthy. But why would you want to drink that swill anyway? Homemade tastes so much better, and it’s even got some health benefits.
Make your hot chocolate from scratch, using pure cocoa powder or melted dark chocolate, stevia, and coconut milk, almond milk or whole milk. You’ll be getting healthy protein from the milk, disease- fighting antioxidants from the dark chocolate, and the taste you love.
According to the British Medical Journal the flavonols in dark chocolate could even help lower your blood pressure. Plus dark chocolate is packed with a surprising number of nutrients including calcium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium and…
- 11 grams of fiber.
- 67% of the RDA for Iron.
- 58% of the RDA for Magnesium.
- 89% of the RDA for Copper.
- 98% of the RDA for Manganese.
So feel free to go ahead and indulge in your (dark) hot chocolate cravings from time to time.
We bet you never expected to see pasta on a list of healthy foods, did you? Because unless you’re an endurance athlete of some sort, pasta’s high carb content has likely had it on your unhealthy foods list for a long time. And, truthfully, it deserved to be there.
You see, most pastas are made of enriched flours which are refined carbs. Your body treats refined carbs essentially the same way it would if you had eaten sugar. In other words, your blood sugar spikes, your liver attempts to metabolize the blood sugar and the excess gets stored as unhealthy fat.
But there’s a trick that will allow you to put pasta back on your permissible list. Skip by the standard pastas and grab a whole grains version instead. Whole grain pasta is rich in B vitamins and contains a number of minerals your body needs including selenium, copper, manganese and magnesium.
Whole grains are high in fiber, which means you digest them more slowly providing your body with a steady source of energy. Plus their naturally lower in carbohydrates than standard pasta.
We encourage you to practice a lower-carb lifestyle, so you’re certainly not going to want to eat pasta every night of the week. But an occasional reasonable size serving of whole grain pasta with lots of veggies can be a healthy part of your diet.
10. Peanut butter:
If you gave up peanut butter when you became an adult because you feared the fat you’re missing out on a delicious and nutritious treat.
Well, the truth is the peanut butter you likely ate as a kid probably does deserve to be on your unhealthy foods list. But that’s because most folks reach for a jar of whatever the most popular name brand is and that can be a big mistake.
You see, most mainstream brands of peanut butter are highly processed and loaded up with added sugars… which are the true villain, NOT the fat. Peanut butter is packed with protein and rich in healthy monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fats. It’s also a good source of fiber and contains some important vitamins and minerals including 200 milligrams of potassium.
It’s time to embrace your inner child and put peanut butter back on the menu. Just make sure it’s all natural peanut butter, made with nothing but peanuts and perhaps a sprinkle of sea salt. Go ahead…you know you missed it.
This one always stirs up a bit of controversy, but the truth is potatoes aren’t the cut and dry villain they’ve been made out to be. And while it’s true that no matter whether they’re white, red, sweet or purple potatoes are a carbohydrate, it’s also true that in moderation they can actually deliver some hidden benefits.
Yes, potatoes are a carbohydrate, but they’re what we like to call “fat burning carbs” (starch resistant, if you want to get technical) which means instead of contributing to your waistline, they can help reduce it! And they’re loaded with vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber.
In one study purple potatoes—which are tougher to find but worth the hunt—were shown to help lower blood pressure in people who were overweight and had hypertension. And as an anthocyanin-rich food purple potatoes may help suppress the growth of cancer cells and tumors.
Antioxidant rich sweet potatoes, which are packed with disease-fighting beta carotene, may help lower your risk of heart disease and cancer. Plus, despite their sweet taste sweet potatoes are relatively low on the glycemic scale which means they release blood sugar more slowly into your bloodstream making them a good vitamin-rich option for some diabetics.
Even white potatoes, as long as you’re not eating them fried in unhealthy vegetable oils, pack some nutritional benefits. White potatoes contain fiber, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin B-6. They’re also rich in choline a nutrient that can help with muscle movement, sleep, learning, memory, fat metabolism and inflammation.
So go ahead and enjoy some potatoes from time to time. Just be smart with your serving sizes, and be sure to always eat the skin to get the best nutritional bang for your buck.
Shrimp are high in cholesterol and often served deep fried, so it’s no wonder they’ve ended up on most folk’s unhealthy foods list. But it turns out shrimp, and other shellfish, are just misunderstood. Because hidden underneath that unhealthy beer batter is a really healthy seafood option if you’ll just grill, broil, or steam it.
Shrimp are low calorie, low fat, trans fat free and packed with protein. In fact, just four ounces of shrimp delivers 23.7 grams of protein for a measly 112 calories!
That same four ounces of shrimp also packs in 100 percent of your daily requirement of selenium, over 75 percent of your daily requirement of vitamin B12, and over 50 percent of your daily requirements of phosphorus.
They’re a good source of the anti-inflammatory, anti-aging and disease-fighting antioxidant astaxanthin. Plus they’re a good source of vitamin D.
But, you’re still wondering about the elephant in the room… their cholesterol content… right? Well we’ve got good news there too. Cholesterol isn’t the bad guy it’s made out to be. In fact, there’s really no need to be overly concerned about the cholesterol you eat. Your body needs cholesterol to function.
(To learn more of the real truth about cholesterol click here.)
But if you’re still concerned about cholesterol, there’s more good news. Shrimp aren’t just low in fat, around half of the fat they do contain is the heart-healthy omega-3 variety.
Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that diets that include shellfish can lower potentially harmful forms of cholesterol including triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and VLDL cholesterol. And a later study found that a diet that included shrimp raised HDL (good) cholesterol 12 percent and brought the overall ratio of good to total cholesterol down in folks with cholesterol problems.
The bottom line? The idea that shrimp are bad for your health is all washed up.
13. Sourdough bread:
We know, bread is on everyone’s bad list these days. And white breads which are typically made with enriched flours are definitely on our unhealthy foods list too. But whole grain sourdough is the exception.
You see, the fermentation that gives sourdough its name may help control blood sugar spikes, even better than whole wheat. And the tangy flavor of sourdough comes from a surprising healthy source, the beneficial bacteria Lactobacillus which can help improve digestion and support your immune system.
Sourdough contains a number of B vitamins as well as some other important nutrients including folate, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin E, selenium and iron.
The longer soaking and rising times for sourdough reduces potentially harmful phyates and breaks down gluten into more easily digestible amino acids, making this bread a far healthier choice than most. And unlike whole-wheat flour which is milled in much the same way white flour is, the whole grain used in sourdough doesn’t ever have the healthy germ and bran removed.
So if you’re craving bread make it sourdough in moderation. It won’t undo all your healthy choices, and offers some health benefits to boot.
14. Whole milk:
Yup, if you’re a milk drinker we’re giving you permission to drink the full fat whole milk again. In fact, we’re encouraging you to never buy skim milk or low fat milk again.
We know, you’ve been told that whole fat milk is unhealthy. You’ve been led to believe that when you choose a low fat variety you’re getting all the dairy benefits such as calcium and vitamin D, but without the high calorie fat that will lead to heart disease and obesity.
But here’s the truth, you’ve been lied too. The fact is drinking low-fat milk makes you more likely to be overweight. Sure whole fat has more calories, but it’s lower on the glycemic index than skim milk which has had all the good fat stripped out of it leaving you with sugary swill.
The truth is saturated fat isn’t the bad guy you’ve been told it is. And in fact the fats in whole milk are helpful to your body. Plus, you need the fats in whole milk in order to absorb the nutrients in the milk. Otherwise, you don’t get all the benefits of drinking milk in the first place.
If you want a glass of water, have a glass of water. But if you want a glass of milk, have a glass of whole milk.
(To learn more about the low fat milk lie click here.)
The bottom line is, if you’ve mistakenly put these fourteen foods on your forbidden list it’s time to take them off. Because you’re not just denying yourself some of the foods you love most, you’re also missing out on their hidden health benefits.