Recently, I got into an argument about my infamous peanut butter habit. I’m known to go out of my way to have the nutty spread at least twice a day. My friend was convinced that peanut butter wasn’t actually healthy and questioned my inner health fanatic for sanctioning the stuff. That got me thinking: why does my favorite health food get such a bad rap? Are there other foods out there that endure this dreadful fate too? So, I present to you a list of the fallen, a tribute to the 7 foods that suffer undeserved injustice in the name of health.
1. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter peanut butter peanut butter. Not only is it fun to say, but it also helps with satiety and weight control. That’s right, you heard me. The healthy fats, protein and fiber in this super-spread will satisfy your indulgence tooth—yup, it’s a thing. A teensy caveat: don’t let “reduced-fat” brands fool you! The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are GOOD for you, as they reduce the levels of LDL cholesterol in your blood stream and lower your risk of heart disease. Also, avoid spreads with added sugars and oils. High fructose corn syrup and partially/fully hydrogenated oils are major red flags, as they can have addictive, harmful effects. Some brands I recommend are Smucker’s Natural, 365 Organic and Nature’s Promise. On a separate but noteworthy note, the classic PB&J just got more fun with these 6 ways to eat peanut butter and jelly without bread.
2. Egg yolks
Many people are scared off by the high cholesterol levels, but research has shown that saturated fat, not cholesterol, is the prime culprit behind deteriorating heart health. Furthermore, according to registered dietician Kelly Plowe, these golden orbs of nutrition contain 3 grams of protein, vitamin D, phosphorous, riboflavin, choline and selenium, along with numerous other vitamins and minerals. Still, this isn’t to say you should be wolfing down yolk after yolk at meals. Plowe recommends a 3:1 ratio of whites to yolks—three egg whites per one egg yolk. Get your daily yolk with this wicked baked egg in an avocado.
The stuff that goes into chips and fries is healthy? When they’re not deep-fried, these tubers serve many health benefits. They contain potassium and fiber, must-haves for balanced electrolyte and blood sugar levels in the body. The resistant starch in potatoes serves a noble purpose as well: it helps keep you full! Not all potatoes are created equal, however. Whenever possible, go for the sweet option—the sweet potato, that is. With its arsenal of beta-carotene and higher fiber content, the sweet potato is the way to go. And yes, you can have your fries fix too. Oven baked sweet potato fries are sure to hit the spot.
These fruits (yes, avocados are fruits) can form their own alphabet with the essential vitamins they contain: A, B, C, D, E, K, you name it, they’ve probably got it. Infused with healthy unsaturated fats as well, avocados provide many of the benefits of peanut butter aka the spread of all that is good. Interestingly enough, a study from Ohio State University suggests that avocados coupled with salsa or salad serve to increase phytonutrient absorption. Convinced? Check out these 11 ways to incorporate avocados into every meal.
Okay, fine. Coffee isn’t actually a food. But it, too, deserves to be redeemed. One of the top sources of flavonoids in the American diet, coffee can improve cardiovascular health and shield cells from the adverse effects of aging. For you athletes out there, some caffeine can even help you to run faster and play harder. Just be careful not to overdo it: caffeine can also be habit-forming, and public health experts say the safe range is 3-4 cups of coffee per day.
6. White rice
Often called out for its higher glycemic index than its brown counterpart, white rice may not be so bad. While it’s true that white rice goes through more processing, white rice sold in the U.S. is fortified with the lost nutrients. Research has shown that people who eat rice are less likely to have weight issues. The benefits go international—some of the healthiest nations, including Japan, enjoy this yummy staple.
Popcorn is 100% whole grain and packed with antioxidants, making for a great snack. What’s more, with air-popped varieties, you can have three cups of crunchy goodness for just 100 calories! Forgo the butter, add a dash of salt and you’ve got yourself a perfect movie-time munch.
Now time for the obligatory health-claimer. No matter how inherently healthy a food is, dousing it in oil or butter or sugar will severely diminish its nutritional benefits. Just as we can’t call pizza a vegetable because of the tomato sauce, so too we can’t deem fried rice or caramel kettle corn good for our health. Prepare your food well, and it will treat you well.