7 'Bad Rap' Foods That Are Actually Healthy for You

Banned Food Claims Debunked

What we believe about nutrition changes daily. Research findings make front page headlines when it comes to foods not to eat. It can feel scary and instead of investigating the truth, we tend to eliminate a potentially healthy food from our diet.

Food Research Can Be Misleading

Steak
Cameron Whitman/Stocksy United

Oftentimes, research is conducted on animals like rats. This is a good thing because it stimulates further studies on humans. Physiologically, our body may not respond the same as a rat when it comes to food intake. This can make research claims unsubstantiated and require further study for more conclusive evidence.

Research isn’t a perfect science when it comes to nutrition or in general. Science can get it wrong and chronic studies are always ongoing with differing outcomes. What occurs with published findings of one study are reporters waiting with a tablet in hand to deal the dirt. This leaves us believing possible food myths taking years to debunk.

Many healthy foods have been given a bad rap based on one study whistleblowing. One negative research claim will overshadow five positive findings when it comes to the news. As readers, we naturally hear the bad and forget the rest. Or, the positive findings get left out of the article altogether.

The result to misleading nutrition information is making choices on what we read. This can be positive and negative depending on the evidence. According to the National Institutes of Health, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled studies are the gold standard for research. Not all research is conducted using this method.

We simply want to eat right for health. It will be important to eliminate confusion caused by bad food reporting, inaccurate research and outdated claims. Taking time to look into the evidence is recommended to dispel any fears about food.

There are a few foods that should never have been banned as unhealthy. Updated studies have discovered old claims were inaccurate and uncovered favorable health benefits. The following foods no longer hold a negative stigma and can be included in a healthy diet.

Potatoes

Baked potato
Potatoes are Nutrient Dense. J Shepherd / Getty Images

Potatoes made the bad rap food list years ago. Outdated research made claims to weight gain and type 2 diabetes. Other studies indicated they were fattening and shouldn’t be considered a vegetable. Anyone wanting to eat right avoided the spud after all the bad press.

The unhealthy food stigma still follows the white potato. Updated research has debunked old findings and positive health benefits are now reported. Older studies failed to include how potatoes were being processed and consumed.

The white potato prepared healthy is now considered an important part of our diet. They are nutrient dense and high in fiber. Potatoes also contain essential amino acids and are considered a source of quality plant protein.

Potatoes rank high on the glycemic index, which is why endurance athletes consume them before workouts. They are shown to be just as effective as pasta for preparing long distance runners for competitive events.

White Rice

Rice in a wooden bowl
White Rice is Easy on the Stomach. Kadir Barcin / Getty Images

White rice has been blacklisted as a bad carbohydrate. Past studies have indicated high glycemic values cause weight gain and risk of type 2 diabetes. The claims were enough many of us have chosen to eliminate white rice from our diets.

The majority of research didn’t take into consideration macronutrient needs of athletes and weightlifters. Extreme workouts severely deplete glycogen (sugar) stores in the body. White rice is a great recovery food to restore glycogen levels and enhance muscle growth.

Not only is white rice quick fuel for athletes, but it is also known for having no adverse gastrointestinal (GI) effects. White rice is considered a safe carbohydrate for this reason. Many people who suffer from gluten sensitivity also consume white rice over brown.

Brown rice is still recommended for those who don’t exercise regularly. However, white rice is indicated as a good source of carbohydrates for athletes.

Full-Fat Foods

Cheese, eggs and milk on wooden table
Full-Fat Foods Reduce Risk of Heart Disease. Westend61 / Getty Images

Full-fat foods have been shunned for years. The word fat itself sends people running the other direction. Outdated research has not helped with claims linked to increased heart disease, cancer, and obesity. Recent studies are now debunking old claims and indicating full-fat foods are beneficial to a healthy diet.

Dairy fat in yogurt, milk, and cheese are now being shown to potentially reduce the risk of heart disease. Full-fat dairy is also indicated to help people stick to a healthy eating plan and weight loss. Research has also found dairy fat intake to reduce fat around the midsection. According to additional studies, those who consumed full-fat dairy were able to maintain normal body mass index (BMI).

Real butter also made the bad fat food list. Outdated research labeled butter unhealthy with links to obesity and heart disease. Current studies are now indicating real butter as a rich source of fat soluble vitamins. Additional research findings show it helpful for calcium metabolism and reduced risk of cardiovascular heart disease (CHD).  According to other studies, grass-fed butter contains vitamin K2 shown to also reduce the risk of heart disease.

Eggs have been linked to increased cholesterol and heart disease. These claims have been discredited with updated research. Eggs are now shown to increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL), our good cholesterol. Egg yolks are rich in phospholipids and help maintain healthy cells in our body. Another study has shown consuming whole eggs increases our metabolism.

Red meat has been labeled unhealthy. Outdated research indicated red meat may increase heart disease and weight gain. We have been avoiding steak and beef based on inaccurate information. According to updated studies, beef can be part of a healthy diet. Old data included all meat during the research and failed to single out lean beef. New research findings show lean red meat having favorable effects toward heart disease and considered part of healthy diet.

Chocolate

Still life with dark chocolate and wooden heart
Dark Chocolate Can Improve Athletic Perfomance. Luka / Getty Images

Chocolate made the bad rap food list. Outdated research indicated chocolate as unhealthy and with an increased risk of obesity. Sadly, many of us have avoided chocolate for years based on unsubstantiated claims. Old studies were based on milk chocolate and failed to investigate the potential health benefits of dark chocolate.

Updated research has really saved the day. New studies are now encouraging dark chocolate as part of a healthy diet. According to research, the antioxidants in dark chocolate can increase athletic performance. Additional findings show dark chocolate reducing the risk of stroke and heart disease.

Peanut Butter

Peanut Butter on Toast
Peanut Butter Helps with Weight Loss. Lauri Patterson / Getty Images

Peanut butter has been blacklisted for being fattening. Outdated research indicated peanut butter contributed to weight gain. Peanut butter no longer had a place in our pantries based on inaccurate information.

Updated studies have discovered healthy fats in peanut butter actually reduce the risk of heart disease. According to research, peanut butter contributes to weight loss and is full of essential vitamins and minerals. Peanut butter also contains quality plant protein essential for muscle growth.

Chocolate Milk

chocolate milk on table
Chocolate Milk is a Superior Workout Recovery Drink. Marilyn Conway / Getty Images

Chocolate milk was banned as unhealthy. Outdated research indicated chocolate milk was high in sugar and linked to weight gain. Just like chocolate, the milk version took a negative food hit. We stopped buying it for ourselves and kids based on incomplete research.

Current studies have debunked old claims and now indicate chocolate milk as one of the best workout recovery drinks. Chronic research has shown chocolate milk to improve muscle growth, athletic performance, and maintain cellular balance.

Chocolate milk is shown to have superior ingredients. According to research, chocolate milk has the recommended carbohydrate to protein ratio to restore glycogen levels. It’s also shown to keep the body hydrated and in electrolyte balance.   

Coffee

Close-Up Of Black Coffee On Table
Coffee Reduces Inflammation in the Body. Anton Eine / EyeEm / Getty Images

Coffee has been labeled unhealthy. Past research has indicated negative findings of caffeine addiction, hypertension, anxiety, and links to increased blood sugar. Without further investigation many of us chose to eliminate coffee from our diets.

Chronic coffee research has discovered positive health benefits with coffee intake. According to studies published in the National Institutes of Health, coffee may reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and dementia. Further research has indicated coffee consumption lowers the risk of stroke, especially in women.

Coffee is shown to reduce inflammation in the bloodstream. According to research, coffee is on the largest sources of antioxidants linked to disease prevention. Studies have indicated coffee reduces the risk of certain cancers and is shown to lower the incidence of gallstones.

Coffee just so happens to be one of the best natural pre-workout drinks, according to research. The stimulant effect from caffeine is shown to increase metabolism. A heightened metabolic rate helps with increased fat oxidation (burning). Other research links coffee to enhanced athletic performance. Athletes were shown to train harder and for a longer period.

Additional studies indicate coffee consumption improves our mental focus. According to research, coffee not only provides energy but also improves mental performance. It has also been shown to slow age-related mental decline.

Coffee can help with muscle soreness. Research has indicated drinking coffee prior to exercise can help reduce lactic acid buildup. Reduced muscle pain from coffee is shown to improve our workouts. Studies have shown coffee to increase our energy output with less muscle fatigue.

Sources

Advances in Nutrition, White Potatoes, Human Health, and Dietary Guidance, Janet C. King et al., 5/13

Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, Dark chocolate supplementation reduces the oxygen cost of moderate intensity cycling, Rishikesh Kankesh Patel et al., 12/15/15

Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, Effects of chocolate milk consumption on markers of muscle recovery following soccer training: a randomized cross-over study, Stephanie F Gilson et al., 5/18/10

National Institutes of Health, Health Benefits of Nut Consumption, Emilio Ros, 6/24/10

Nutrition Research, Abstract, Dairy food intake is positively associated with cardiovascular health: findings from Observation of Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Luxembourg study, Crichton GE et al., 4/12/14

pubmed.gov, Caffeine and coffee: their influence on metabolic rate and substrate utilization in normal weight and obese individuals, Acheson KJ, 5/80

USA Rice, Health and Nutrition, Information, Sport Nutrition for the Competitive Athlete

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