It’s hard to overcome a bad reputation — even for food! But some edibles once deemed to be health hazards have been vindicated by the ever-evolving science of nutrition.
“With new research emerging on these topics, our recommendations change,” says Kelly Pritchett, national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
It happened with eggs. One of America’s most popular breakfast foods was branded a villain to heart health in the 1970s due to high levels of cholesterol. Now, experts are changing their tune. They’re even singing praise for the egg — yoke and all.
“The 2015 Dietary Guidelines gives the thumbs-up on having one egg per day,” says registered dietician Joy Dubost. “Eggs are an all-natural source of high quality protein and a number of other essential nutrients, all for 70 calories per large egg.”
In a 2013 study, participants who ate an egg breakfast were better able to control their food intake than those who a carbohydrate-heavy cereal breakfast. And don’t go the egg white-only route. The yolk is packed with three grams of protein as well as vitamins D and B12, riboflavin, folate, phosphorous, selenium and choline.
Here are seven other good foods with bad reps:
Whole milk: A 2015 review of 25 studies published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that people who ate full-fat dairy products were no more likely to develop cardiovascular disease or Type 2 diabetes than those who stuck with the low-fat versions. Even more surprising, the full-fat crowd reported less weight gain and obesity. Experts recommend drinking only organic milk from grass-fed cows.
Coconut oil: A high saturated fat content tarnished the reputation of coconut oil, but research reveals that much of it is medium-chain triglycerides, which are healthy fats that boost both immunity and metabolism. A study published in the journal Lipids found that coconut oil reduced abdominal fat. It’s also one of the healthiest oils for cooking because it can withstand high heat without oxidizing better than vegetable oils.
Potatoes: The carb-heavy spud was kicked to the curb due to its high glycemic index, meaning it can spike blood sugar. But pairing potatoes with protein or healthy oils slows down digestion of them. Furthermore, potatoes are low-calorie, very filling and rich in several nutrients, including potassium, fiber and vitamin C. Eat the skin and you’ll also reap powerful antioxidants. Just don’t deep fat fry them or slather a baked tater with gobs of butter, sour cream and bacon bits.
Popcorn: All bets are off if you eat this movie theater munchie bathed in unhealthy oils — or cooked in a microwaveable bag lined with toxic chemicals. But air-popping organic popcorn will deliver a 100-calorie whole grain treat, per three-cup serving, that also delivers three grams of fiber and more healthy phytonutrients than most fruit.
Coffee: Once blamed for stunting growth and contributing to various maladies including heart disease and cancer, coffee is now being hailed as healthy for most folks. In fact, research published in the journal Circulation found that people who downed three to five cups a day were 15 percent less likely to die from any cause than non-coffee drinkers. Credit the anti-aging flavonoids for protecting cells from deterioration. Just don’t go dumping a lot of fattening sugars and creams into your java.
Avocados: It’s hard to believe that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration only got around to declaring this superfood to be “healthy” in May 2016. The problem previously was its high fat content, but most of it is the healthy monounsaturated kind. Avocados are not only rich in nutrients but their fats also help you to absorb fat-soluble nutrients from other foods. So go ahead and order the guacamole, but nix the chips!
Beer: The sudsy stuff is a source of B vitamins and minerals, including potassium, magnesium and bone-building silicon. It’s also loaded with antioxidants. “Beer is not just empty calories,” declares Dubost. “In addition to the nutrients, large population studies consistently show that moderate alcohol consumption, including beer, reduces mortality.”