by Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD
Updated thinking on eggs, nuts and more
When you think about foods that sabotage your diet or wreck your health, what comes to mind?
There is a strong possibility that your list includes foods that could actually help you to lower stress, prevent heart disease and avoid certain cancers. The unfortunate thing is that once a food gets labeled “not good for your health,” it never seems to shake that description – even when new research contradicts previous claims.
It’s time to take another look. Here are 5 foods you should consider adding back into your diet:
Conventional thinking: Eggs will elevate your cholesterol and your chances of developing heart disease.
Updated thinking: Eggs are full of antioxidants, protein and nutrients that are vital to good health. For example, a 2011 study found that eating eggs regularly helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer due to their high antioxidant content.
Additional research has found that eggs may help to lower blood pressure. Furthermore, new research out of Yale University has found that eggs can be part of a heart-healthy diet without having negative effects on cholesterol, weight or endothelial function.
Like anything else, be sure to eat eggs – and egg yolks in particular – in moderation.
Conventional thinking: Nuts are highly fattening.
Updated thinking: In truth, any food consumed in too large a quantity will lead to weight gain. But when eaten in appropriate portions – be sure to check the serving size as a guideline – the protein and healthy fats contained in nuts may actually help you lose weight.
In addition to weight loss benefits, eating nuts has been linked in several studies to reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Walnuts, containing heart-healthy omega-3 fats, are a particularly good choice.
Conventional thinking: consuming soy increases one’s risk of disease.
Updated thinking: Soy remains controversial, but as with some of the other foods mentioned in this article, the type of soy you consume matters most.
Many concerns about soy are associated with highly processed soy products, but a variety of studies looking at isoflavones and protein in whole soy sources – e.g. miso, tofu and edamame – demonstrate the benefits associated with this member of the legume family.
The nutritional benefits of adding soy to your diet include reductions in breast cancer (for women on certain types of therapy), prostate cancer and colon cancer and an overall improvement in heart health.
Conventional thinking: Potatoes are a fattening food to be avoided.
Updated thinking: Certain potatoes may play a role in reducing the risk of stroke – but the type of potato matters.
A 2012 study found that purple potatoes helped reduce blood pressure in hypertensive, obese individuals without leading to weight gain.
In addition, potatoes are naturally high in fiber and contain almost no fat.
Sweet potatoes and purple potatoes are at the top of the list when it comes to density of nutrients, but what you put on your potato – or don’t put on it – will make or break an attempt at a healthy meal.
Skip the sour cream, bacon bits, butter and cheese. Choose to top your potato with herbs and fresh vegetables instead.
Conventional thinking: It’s everyone’s favorite sweet, so it must be bad for you.
Updated thinking: The old thinking does still apply to chocolate that contains a lot of added sugar.
However, dark chocolate – that with a cacao content of at least 70 percent – is loaded with flavonoids, the same beneficial compounds that are found in berries, red wine and tea.
An ounce of dark chocolate a day has been shown to reduce risks for heart disease, and an ounce and a half a day may help reduce stress.
(published April 22, 2014)
Kristin Kirkpatrick is a registered dietitian and wellness manager for the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. She is a regular contributor to the “Doctor Oz Show” and provides expert opinions for several major magazines as well as media and web outlets. Kristin’s articles also appear on Cleveland Clinic’s Health Hub, a consumer health and wellness blog. Kristin has been helping individuals reach their personal health goals for over 12 years and her specialties include weight management, nutritional genomics, dieting on a budget and community-worksite wellness.