Some foods have a bad reputation, and for good reason. Sugary soda and salty chips, for example, don't have anything going for them nutritionally. Other foods, however, are all caught up in stigma, and they don't even deserve it.
Chances are, you're shunning many healthy options from your dinner table when you really don't need to be. Here are a few examples of some foods that, although they aren't totally perfect, are packed with much more nutrition than most people realize.
When it comes to carbs, it's all about quality. Bread is shunned by many because it's one of the leading members of the carbohydrate category. To be fair, many types of bread are nutritionally unimpressive. Any white bread and varieties made with added sugar (honey wheat, we're looking at you) are not the best to nestle around your ham and cheese.
That said, there are lots of breads that are both delicious and nutritious, like sprouted whole grain, sourdough, oat bread, flax bread and 100 percent whole wheat, among others. By choosing whole grains over refined grains, you can effectively lower your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. For extra oomph, high-quality breads are also typically enriched with a bunch of great vitamins and minerals, including, ultra-important iron, niacin, thiamine and riboflavin.
Along the same lines, pasta is considered a big, bad carb, but it's not worthy of the rap. In fact, carbohydrates are an essential part of a healthy daily diet, and actually provide energy to help your brain, heart, nervous system and kidneys function at peak potential. Without carbs, you might find that you're sluggish and your brain is foggy; not a good way to be.
Much like bread, the quality of the carb really matters. Simple carbohydrates, like those found in white pasta, send your blood sugar into a free fall, and wreak havoc on the rest of the body you consume too often. Instead, select whole-grain pasta, which is rich in fiber. Complex carbohydrates help you feel full, regulates your digestion and helps you maintain a healthy cholesterol.
OK, so you can't just willy-nilly drizzle melted cheese on top of everything and expect to stay slim, but there is a time and a place for this beloved dairy product. In fact, it contains protein, which helps you feel full (and therefore less likely to eat a ton of other junk), as well as lots of bone-strengthening calcium and various vitamins and minerals. Depending on the type, cheese also has fat and sodium in varying amounts, so if you don't go totally overboard on it, you should be just fine.
4. Red Meat
Red meat (beef, pork, veal and lamb) is often the first thing to get cut from a person's diet when they're trying to get heart healthy. And while dietitians advise us to limit our intake of red meat to 6 ounces (170 grams) no more than twice a week because of its saturated fat content, we don't have to totally eliminate it.
In fact, red meat is a great source of B vitamins, iron, zinc and protein, which are all elements that your body really needs to thrive. When you do consume red meat, make sure to choose the leanest cuts and cooking methods possible (stir-fry or grill) to minimize health risks and maximize benefits.
Yet another member of the cursed carb category, potatoes often get avoided like the plague. But potatoes with dark flesh (purple, especially) are extra healthy, and are shown to boost antioxidant levels. Purple-fleshed potatoes may have anti-inflammatory capabilities, as well. Eating these can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.
If you're not feeling quite so colorful, potato-wise, other types like russett and red are healthy, as well. A lot of that just depends on how you cook them and what toppings you add. When prepared right, these terrific tubers are great sources of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B-6, manganese and potassium, although there is some variation between types.
Sure, too much coffee can have you bouncing off the walls and send your heart racing, but moderate consumption (two to five cups per day) actually has positive health potential. In fact, a cup (or more) of Joe on the regular can reduce your risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, depression and certain cancers. Just leave out all of the calorie-laden creamers.
While eggs do contain a significant amount of cholesterol, they also have a lot of other stuff going for them. First, egg cholesterol is not associated with high cholesterol levels in most healthy people. Saturated and trans-fat-containing foods are much more problematic than little old eggs. As long as you cook and enjoy them in a healthy way — without a lot of butter and bacon on the side, for example — you can probably enjoy up to seven whole eggs per week without causing any extra heart disease risk. In fact, eating eggs can prevent stroke and macular degeneration.
This one comes with some limitations, but it's still nice to know that chocolate is actually good for you! To enjoy the health benefits of chocolate, eat only a couple of squares of the dark variety at a time, and make sure it is made with a minimum of 70 percent cocoa/cacao solids. Dark chocolate is known for its excellent antioxidant content. It also contains flavonoids that can help your heart. Dark chocolate is also loaded with iron, zinc and magnesium, and has little to none of the bad stuff associated with milk chocolate (cocoa butter, sugar and milk).
Now that your menu options have opened back up, pick a few of these foods and enjoy them in moderation. Because, really, it's the human tendency to totally overdo it that makes many whole foods unhealthy.