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

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, we may 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 perfect when it comes to nutrition or in general. Science can get it wrong and studies are always ongoing with differing outcomes. And sometimes reporting on research is oversimplified, which distorts the findings.

Many healthy foods have been given a bad rap based on one study. One negative research claim can easily overshadow five positive ones.

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.

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
J Shepherd / Getty Images

Potatoes made the bad rap food list years ago. Outdated research tied potatoes to weight gain and type 2 diabetes. Other studies indicated they were fattening and shouldn’t be considered a vegetable.

Stigma still follows the white potato. But 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 is now considered an important part of our diet.

Potatoes are nutrient-dense and high in fiber. They also contain essential amino acids and are a source of high-quality plant protein.

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

White Rice

Rice

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 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 effects.

Many people who suffer from gluten sensitivity also consume white rice over brown.

Full-Fat Foods

Eggs

Verywell /?Alexandra Shytsman

Full-fat foods have been shunned for years, after research linked them 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 may reduce the risk of heart disease. Consuming full-fat dairy can also help people stick to a healthy weight-loss plan.

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, which may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Eggs were once linked to increased cholesterol and heart disease.Today, we know that eggs increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the "good" cholesterol. Egg yolks are rich in phospholipids and help maintain healthy cells in our body. Another study has shown consuming whole eggs increases metabolism.

Red meat has been labeled unhealthy and linked to heart disease and weight gain. 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

Chocolate

Verywell /?Alexandra Shytsman

Chocolate was associated with an increased risk of obesity. Old studies were based on milk chocolate and failed to investigate the potential health benefits of dark chocolate.

New research now encourages dark chocolate as part of a healthy diet. The antioxidants in dark chocolate may increase athletic performance. Additional findings show dark chocolate reducing the risk of stroke and heart disease.

Peanut Butter

Peanut butter

Verywell /?Alexandra Shytsman

Peanut butter was once blacklisted for contributing to weight gain. Updated studies have discovered that the 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

Glass Of Chocolate Milk On Table
Alex Ortega / EyeEm / Getty Images

Research once labeled chocolate milk as high in sugar and linked to weight gain.

Current studies call chocolate milk one of the best workout recovery drinks. Research has shown that it improves muscle growth and athletic performance and helps maintain cellular balance.

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
Anton Eine / EyeEm / Getty Images

Coffee has been associated with caffeine addiction, hypertension, anxiety, and increased blood sugar. But newer research has discovered positive health benefits of coffee. Coffee may reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and dementia. Coffee consumption may lower the risk of stroke, especially in women.

Coffee reduces inflammation in the bloodstream and can reduces the risk of certain cancers. It also may lower the incidence of gallstones.

According to research, coffee is one of the largest sources of antioxidants linked to disease prevention.

Coffee also happens to be one of the best pre-workout drinks. 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, helping athletes to train harder and for a longer period.

Additional studies indicate coffee consumption improves our mental focus. 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.

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