7 Discredited Foods That Are Actually Good for You

You may have heard that you should avoid certain foods due to their significant health risk.

However, this type of advice sometimes stems from outdated research or studies that are too small to be significant.

In fact, some foods that people avoid because they often consider them unhealthy can offer major health benefits.

In this article we’ll take a look at 7 discredited foods that are actually healthy and good for you!

1. Unprocessed meat

There’s some evidence that both processed and unprocessed red meat may increase the risk of heart disease, colorectal cancer, and other diseases. (1, 2)

However, unprocessed meat is an excellent source of high-quality protein. It has been an important part of the human diet and may be what allowed humans to develop larger, more complex brains at a time when high quality plant-based foods were not available. (3, 4)

Animal protein, including meat, can also help improve muscle function. A study in older women who ate lean beef found increased muscle mass and strength.

It also observed reductions in some inflammatory markers, although some studies have linked red meat intake to higher levels of inflammation. (5, 6, 7, 8,)

Meat is also one of the best sources of heme iron. This type of iron very absorbable to the human body. (9)

Overall, grass-fed meat seems to be the healthiest option. It contains more CLA than grain-fed meat, as well as more omega-3 fatty acids. (10, 11)

When eaten, meat can provide essential nutrients not found in other food sources. However, take care not to overcook it, as charred and overcooked meat may lose some of its health benefits.

2. Whole eggs

The nutrient composition in eggs may make them one of the healthiest foods you can eat.

For years, experts advised people not to eat whole eggs because the yolk was high in cholesterol. At the time, some believed eating egg yolks could raise blood cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease.

However, it now seems that when you eat high cholesterol foods like eggs, your liver produces less cholesterol to compensate. In most cases, blood cholesterol levels remain fairly stable. (12, 13, 14)

In fact, whole eggs may help protect your heart health by changing the size and shape of LDL (bad) cholesterol. Meanwhile, HDL (good) cholesterol levels and insulin sensitivity increase. (15, 16)

In a 12-week study in people with metabolic syndrome, the group that consumed whole eggs experienced greater improvements in heart health markers than the egg white group. They also had greater reductions in insulin levels and insulin resistance. (17)

Eggs also contain easily digested, high quality protein. Additionally, they can help you stay full and satisfied for hours so that you consume fewer calories later in the day. (18, 19, 20)

Egg yolks are also high in lutein and zeaxanthin. These carotenoid group antioxidants are shown to help protect against common age-related eye diseases, such as cataracts and macular degeneration. (21, 22)

3. Shellfish

Shellfish include shrimp, mussels, clams, crab, and oysters. They’re rich in nutrients, but some people worry about their high cholesterol content.

Although shellfish are fairly high in cholesterol, eating them isn’t likely to raise your blood cholesterol, as your liver will produce less cholesterol to compensate.

In addition to being filling, these high protein, low calorie foods are rich in selenium, a mineral vital to brain function. (23, 24)

Shellfish are also excellent sources of iodine, an important mineral for thyroid function and overall good health. (25, 26)

4. Coconut oil

In the past, food manufacturers commonly used coconut oil in packaged foods and food preparation.

However, there was concern that the saturated fat in coconut oil might cause heart disease. As a result, manufacturers started replacing coconut oil with other vegetable oils, including partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.

However, better research has suggested the type of saturated fat found in coconut oil is actually beneficial to the heart.

For example, there’s evidence that it may increase levels of HDL (good) cholesterol more than those of LDL (bad) cholesterol, leading to a healthier ratio of these values. (27, 28)

Also, coconut oil may promote weight loss when consumed in moderate amounts.

Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). The liver takes up MCTs directly for use as energy. Research suggests the body is less likely to store MCTs as fat, compared with longer-chain fats. (29)

MCTs can also help reduce hunger and promote fullness. This can make you less likely to overeat. They may also increase your body’s metabolic rate more than other fats, according to some studies. (30, 31, 32)

In one study in 80 healthy young men, taking 15 to 30 grams of MCTs (about 2–3 tablespoons of coconut oil) daily appeared to increase the number of calories they burned by an average of 120 per day. (33)

Additionally, some small studies suggest that adding coconut oil to your diet helps you lose weight, particularly belly fat. (34, 35, 36)

5. Full fat dairy

Cheese, butter, and cream are high in saturated fat and cholesterol.

However, studies indicate that fermented, high fat dairy foods like cheese don’t negatively affect cholesterol and other heart health markers — even in people with high cholesterol levels or increased heart disease risk. (37, 38, 39)

Many people consume only low fat and fat-free dairy products. However, these products lack some of the health-promoting qualities of full fat varieties.

For instance, only full fat dairy contains vitamin K2, which helps protect heart and bone health by keeping calcium in your bones and out of your arteries. (40, 41)

Full fat dairy products also contain conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). One review of several studies found that CLA supplements may help promote fat loss. (42)

However, because of their high calorie marker, people should consume full fat dairy products in moderation.

6. Canned and frozen vegetables

People often consider canned and frozen vegetables to be less nutritious than fresh vegetables. However, unless you pick and eat vegetables directly from your garden, this may not be true.

Research shows that canning and freezing vegetables while they’re fresh retains most of their nutrients. In contrast, fresh foods can lose nutritional value on the way to the grocery store. Preserving also results in less waste and less expensive products. (43)

One study analyzed the vitamin C content in peas and broccoli that had been frozen for 12 months. It was similar to that of vegetables purchased at the grocery store and higher than that of vegetables stored at home for several days. (44)

Blanching, or quickly boiling, kills bacteria and helps keep the colors and flavors of vegetables intact. However, blanching vegetables before freezing or canning can result in a loss of vitamins C and B and their antioxidant capacity. (45)

However, very little further loss occurs after the vegetables are frozen or canned. (46, 47)

On the other hand, vitamins A and E, minerals, and fiber are retained during the blanching process because they’re more stable in water. Therefore, levels of these nutrients in fresh, frozen, and canned vegetables are similar. (48)

7. Coffee

Coffee contains caffeine, a potent stimulant. In high doses, caffeine can have adverse effects.

However, unless you have a sensitivity to caffeine, consuming it or coffee in moderation may provide a number of positive health benefits.

Studies indicate that the caffeine in coffee can improve mood, as well as mental and physical performance. Additionally, it may boost your metabolism. (49, 50, 51, 56)

Coffee also contains antioxidants called polyphenols, which may reduce disease risk.

People use caffeine to relieve headaches and enhance performance in endurance sports. It may also help with depression, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease. (57)

In one study, men who consumed coffee bean polyphenols before a meal had significant improvements in artery function, compared with a control group. (58, 59)

In an observational study including over 1,700 men, those who drank more than 2.5 cups of coffee per day had lower levels of several inflammatory markers than those who didn’t drink coffee. (60)

Furthermore, people who drink either regular or decaffeinated coffee may have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Scientists who analyzed 28 studies found an 8 to 33 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes among people who drank coffee every day. (61, 62)

Finally, coffee may also have a protective effect on liver health. It may slow the progression of chronic hepatitis C and reduce liver cancer risk. (63, 64, 65)

Bottom line

When it comes to determining which foods are healthy, it’s sometimes hard to distinguish between fact and fiction.

While there are legitimate reasons to limit certain foods, some healthy and highly nutritious foods have been unfairly discredited.