5 so-called ‘naughty’ foods that are really good for you
Sometimes it can be hard to keep up with what’s happening in the world of nutrition. Foods are bad, then they’re good, then they’re back to being demonised again. Here are five foods that have long lingered in the ‘best avoided’ pile, but which are actually packed with health benefits.
Poor old potatoes, they do get given a hard time. There is no denying that they have a higher carbohydrate content than other vegetables, but the greatest issue with potatoes is generally the way they’re prepared, either in the form of greasy, salty chips or loaded up with high-calorie toppings such as sour cream, butter and cheese. But standing alone, “potatoes deliver a lot of nutrients such as a range of B vitamins, iron, vitamin C, calcium and potassium,” says Rachael Javes, nutritionist at Bodypass.
Potatoes also contain a variety of phytonutrients that have antioxidant activity, including carotenoids, flavonoids, and caffeic acid, as well as unique tuber storage proteins which help fight against free radicals.
Instead of frying, look at healthier methods of serving up potatoes, which themselves are fairly low in calories. Puree roasted garlic, cooked potatoes and olive oil together to make delicious garlic mashed potatoes, or used steamed or boiled potatoes in a nicoise-style salad, teaming them with tuna, green beans and olives.
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The thought of cooking with ghee is enough to make some people gasp in horror, but it’s far from the dietary devil that popular thinking has had us believe.
“Ghee has been used in Ayurvedic diets for hundreds of years and would have been used by Western societies up until fat was deemed evil,” says Rachael, adding that ghee is now making a major comeback due to its incredible health benefits.
“Ghee is rich in Butyric acid which helps to develop a strong immune system,” she says. “It has huge anti-inflammatory benefits and is a rich source of anti-oxidants.”
Ghee’s high smoke point of 250 degrees make it perfect for cooking at high heats, as it will not break down into free radicals like many other oils.
And while ghee is made from butter – and gives a deliciously buttery taste – it is made by having the milk solids and impurities removed, which means it’s fine for people who are lactose or casein intolerant.
Ghee is also high in the oil soluble vitamins A and E, as well as medium chain fatty acids which are absorbed directly to the liver and burnt as energy, which can then be used to burn other fats in the body – great news if you’re trying to lose weight.
Eating peanut butter out of a jar with a spoon used to be the ultimate example of a derailed diet – now it’s encouraged as the perfect snack!
“The biggest reason that peanut butter was a banned substance in most households was due to the large amount of sugar and fat it contained,” says Rachael. “Now that people are finally realising that fat is not the enemy, sugar is, peanut butter is back on the menu… in sugar free versions.”
Rachael explains that protein-rich peanut butter is a “great way of turning a snack into a higher protein version, such as celery sticks and peanut butter.”
Protein aside, peanuts are packed with nutrients, says Rachael, “rich in folate, niacin, vitamin E and manganese.”
Studies have also found that peanuts are beneficial in warding off disease, including lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease, reducing colon cancer in women, helping to protect against Alzheimer’s Disease, lowering the risk of getting gallstones and reducing your chances of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Often thought of as the ultimate dietary sin, chocolate is a nutritional powerhouse – as long as you choose wisely.
“There is chocolate and there is chocolate,” warns Rachael. “There’s your commercially sugar laden, milk solids type chocolate that holds very little nutritional benefit and there is real chocolate with high levels of antioxidants.”
Rachael recommends looking for chocolate with a cacao or cocoa content of at least 70%, as that’s the good stuff – cacao is packed with healthy chemicals such as flavonoids and theobromine.
“The darker the chocolate the better and this often correlates with lower sugar content. There are some great chocolates on offer these days such as Pana Chocolat.”
Studies have shown that the benefits of eating chocolate may include lower cholesterol levels, less cognitive decline and reduced risk of cardiovascular problems, but remember, moderation is still key.
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For many people, honey is still a bone of contention, “depending on which camp you sit in with regards to sugar”, says Rachael. “Whilst approximately 80% of honey is sugar, 40% fructose and 40% glucose, honey in its rawest, most unrefined form contains lots of beneficial nutrients. It is packed full of antioxidants, has antibacterial properties and can reduce inflammation.”
Rachael adds that this doesn’t mean you should be heaping it on your toast each morning but a small amount in cooking is certainly higher in nutrients than pure sugar.
Honey can boost the immune system by powering up the body’s antibodies, like the white blood cells, which fight infections and help the overall process of fighting viruses and bacteria attacking the body, so is recommended in a warm drink when fighting a cold. Local honey containing local pollen can help reduce the symptoms of hay fever.
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