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10 Foods That Are Healthier Than We Think

10 Foods That Are Healthier Than We Think

Go ahead, have another spoonful of peanut butter

iStockPhoto/ Thinkstock

A moderate portion of pasta is very low in fat, has a low glycemic index, and can help you stay fuller, longer.

Once upon a time, we could eat whatever we wanted. We’d wander around looking for fruits, vegetables, nuts, and the like, and sometimes we’d kill an animal and eat that, too. Then we started planting food and raising animals just so they could be turned into food, and it was good. We ate because we had to, and it was natural and from the Earth and all that good stuff, and nobody was fat because we were running around all day and nobody was able to eat enough food to really pack on the pounds.

10 Foods That Are Healthier Than We Think (Slideshow)

Fast-forward to the 20th century, and you have a completely different situation. Food is everywhere, as much as we want, and people have to force themselves to exercise after sitting at a desk all day. Suddenly, foods that had been eaten by seemingly healthy people for thousands of years were bad for you, and had to be avoided at all costs. They’re too high in fat and calories, salt, and sugar, we are told. And while too much of anything will be bad for you, there are a lot of foods out there that we still believe even a little bit of is terrible for us, even though that’s really not the case. We’ve rounded up 10 of them.

Now don’t get us wrong, there are still plenty of foods out there that are unhealthy. Nobody’s ever going to convince anyone that donuts, McNuggets, or Snickers bars are good for you. But many of the foods that we’ve been trained to believe are bad for us are perfectly acceptable, nutritious, and wholesome. It’s just an issue of moderation. So read on to learn about 10 food items that are healthier for you than you might think.

10 Unhealthy Foods You Think are Healthy

I love food. I do also love unhealthy food, unfortunately, and in an attempt to help myself and others with trying to eat healthier, I made this list to make people aware that what you might think of as healthy, might just be quite the opposite. But remember &ndash if eating a kind of food makes you feel good, then do so! Being happy and content is just as important for your health as nutrition is&hellip at least I like to think so!

Like some of us learned in Chemistry class, fat is supposed to be more healthy the more liquid it is, therefore it&rsquos commonly believed that all vegetable oils are healthy. And hey, they&rsquore from plants, too! So this sounds about right. It is actually a general rule that the fat is more healthy the more liquid it is, since the &ldquohealthy&rdquo double bonds in the unsaturated (or good, if you will) kind of fat will decrease the melting point. However, what most people forget, is that ordinary butter can be liquid too, if it&rsquos just heated a little. The &ldquooil&rdquo used for frying in fast food restaurants, is most commonly palm oil, an almost purely saturated (unhealthy) oil. It&rsquos semi-solid at room temperature, but is of course liquid when heated and used for frying, and it&rsquos certainly not healthy. If another more healthy oil had been chosen for frying, those tasty fries wouldn&rsquot have been bad for you. Not at all, as long as the potatoes are of good quality. &ldquoThen why don&rsquot the fast food restaurants use the healthy kind of oil then?&rdquo you might ask yourself. The unhealthy stuff is cheap, and the fast food companies tend to care more about their money than your health.

Although there are near infinite variations, and therefore several healthy variations of this food swell, the typical pasta you get when you buy your spaghetti, macaroni or noodles, at least in the Western World, is just plain white flour, mixed with water and eggs (although the small percentage of egg included don&rsquot contribute much to the nutritional value of pasta). No vitamins, no minerals, and barely any fiber. Nothing, except empty carbs, shaped as pasta. And just to make things worse, &ldquofast food pasta,&rdquo take-away Chinese food for instance, often contain loads of salt, mixed with unhealthy fat.

This is pasta, but shaped like bread. You probably already knew this, but there are still people left in the world that think that all kinds of bread are good for them. White bread is not, trust me!

I mean come on, you didn&rsquot think that goofy green powder you mix into water could be good for you, did you? Well, it isn&rsquot. When you eat soup, you eat/drink the water, milk, butter, or whatever else you had that powder mixed into, along with a mixture of tasty salt and preservatives. A lot of salt, in fact. Salt is sadly often overlooked as a risk-factor in food. Salt is actually a major contributor to heart disease. It has to be excreted from the body. The kidneys do this job, and without going too deep on the physiology, the blood pressure increases the more salt you consume, in order to excrete it. And high blood pressure is not good for you, which you probably already know.

Don&rsquot let the fact that it almost got accepted as a vegetable in the United States fool you. Despite containing the antioxidant lycopene (antioxidants greatly reduce the risks of mutations in your body, and the risk of developing diseases like cancer), ketchup contains loads of sugar (as high as 26% carbohydrates, according to Wikipedia), and also a lot of salt. Most of the ketchup we eat is processed and non-organic, so the lycopene levels are much lower than what it could be from the amount of tomatoes used.

I wasn&rsquot sure if I was going to include this item, as I&rsquom not sure if the definition of &ldquofood&rdquo includes drinks in the English language, as it doesn&rsquot in my native tongue, but what the heck, I decided to just go for it anyway. You probably knew that soda would never be healthy, diet or not, but did you know that it can be quite bad for you, swell? Scientists are still unsure about this. Some even say diet coke is worse than the sugar-stuffed versions. This is actually a quite controversial debate, as there hasn&rsquot been too many scientific studies done on the health effects of diet soda, but the few there has been, hasn&rsquot exactly proved good for the diet soda fanatics. Some studies have shown that diet soda may not be too bad for you by it self, but it still gave the test group a considerable weight gain. A theory was that diet soda actually stimulated the appetite, so that you &ldquoate back&rdquo more than the calories you saved by drinking a diet soda instead of a sugary version. Several animal studies have suggested that the artificial sweeteners used in diet soda can cause weight gain, just like ordinary sugars. Also, some of these sweeteners, like Aspartame, have been believed to increase the risk of certain kinds of cancer, although this has not been scientifically proven, as far as I know.

It&rsquos probably common knowledge that cheese isn&rsquot too good for you, but processed cheese is actually -really- bad for you! Here&rsquos a little story from my childhood, on the subject.

Since when I first ate a hamburger at the local Burger King, I wondered what kind of cheese they used on those delicious hamburgers they sold there. It was so&hellip good and cheesy, and yellow too! Many years passed, and I, as a burger fanatic, tried many types of cheese on my homemade hamburgers without really getting the wanted result. Then, one day when I traveled over the border to Sweden, I found the cheese I was looking for in the first grocery store I went into. &ldquoAmerican cheese&rdquo it was named, if I&rsquom not mistaken, and I bought a couple of these which I took home to Norway, to put them to the test. And yep, that was the yellow, cheesy cheese I had been looking for! Since we all know that Norway is a much better place to be than Sweden, despite the two countries being pretty much the same, EXCEPT for the Swedes selling this cheese, I felt had to do some investigation.

And indeed, my bad feelings turned to disbelief, as I found out that processed cheese (which doesn&rsquot actually meet the requirements for being called cheese), was so high in salt that it was actually not sold here. Some sources also showed that the average processed cheese you get on your fast food burgers contain so much salt that you can reach far past the recommended daily intake with just 2-3 slices of cheese. I&rsquom not sure how the Burger King here gets the cheese though, but that&rsquos probably another story&hellip

This actually came as a shock to me, being a lover of soy sauce. I was enjoying this tasty, fat-free sauce with a good conscience until I wrote this party popper of a list. Oh well. Unlike many other soy products, soy sauce does not contain certain antioxidants known as isoflavones, but the level of antioxidants in soy sauce is still so high that it&rsquos often viewed (or mistaken), as healthy. On the negative side, however, soy sauce contains very high amounts of salt. There has also been several studies showing that there are often chemicals known to increase the risks of certain types of cancer, found in soy sauce. Luckily, after much stricter regulations on these chemicals and the relatively fresh knowledge of the dangers associated with high salt-contents, there now excises several kinds of low-sodium soy sauces, free of dangerous chemicals. Sadly, as with most healthy variants of various foods, it is not as tasty as the real deal.

Nuts are generally healthy. Most sorts come packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and lots of goodies for your body to enjoy. Peanuts is not a horrible exception, but it might not be as good as other kinds of nuts. The majority of peanuts sold as snacks come packed with salt, and they are often roasted and come coated in unhealthy fats. But the nuts themselves are healthy, you say? Well, maybe. Of course they have the before mentioned benefits of containing a lot of vitamins and minerals, but they contain A LOT of the kind of unsaturated fatty acids known as omega-6 fatty acids. You might have heard about it before, along with the omega-3 acids.

It is a scientific fact that a food intake with a too distorted omega 6:omega 3 ratio (in favor of the omega 6 version), increases the risk for many common diseases, like diabetes and Alzheimer&rsquos. The ratio SHOULD be 1:1, but the American diet ranges between 1:20 and 1:50, in favor of the omega 6. Maybe I shouldn&rsquot go as far as to say peanuts are bad for you, but they should be consumed in a limited quantity, and they should be eaten as nature made them &ndash raw and without added salt.

Controversial perhaps, but this entry is number 1 for a good reason &ndash so many people believe fruit juice is so healthy that they substitute it for all whole fruit in their diet. Now it is true that fruit juice contains a lot of vitamins but it is at great cost most fruit juice is pumped up with extra sugar and aside from a few varieties has its pulp removed. The pulp in fruit provides essential fibre which can be considered a good counterbalance to all the natural sugar contained in the fruit. So my advice to you: ditch fruit drinks and eat whole raw fruit instead.

If you enjoyed this list you will almost certainly love Top 10 Things that Are Surprisingly Good for You.

Grow With Greek Yogurt

It’s packed with protein, the building block of your locks. Greek yogurt also has an ingredient that helps with blood flow to your scalp and hair growth. It’s called vitamin B5 (known as pantothenic acid) and may even help against hair thinning and loss. You may recognize pantothenic acid as an ingredient on your hair and skincare product labels.

According to recent research, chocolate contains more antioxidants, gram-for-gram, than most fruit juices - great news for chocoholics! On top of protecting the body from diseases and helping to prevent heart conditions, dark chocolate is a natural mood-booster.
EASY EATING TIP: Eat this healthy food in moderation - just one or two squares per day is enough to reap the benefits.

Like most berries, raspberries are filled with antioxidants, to help keep the body healthy and free of disease. Fresh or frozen, they also provide Vitamin C, calcium and iron.
EASY EATING TIP: Sprinkle them on yogurt or porridge in the morning to start your day in a sweet and delicious way.

Raspberries, in all their delicious glory (Dionisvera /

"Most of us might believe it’s our energy or transport choices that cause the most serious environmental damage. In fact, it’s our food system that creates the biggest impact.”

-Dr. Tony Juniper, CBE, Executive Director for Advocacy, WWF-UK

The population of our world is growing and may reach almost 10 billion people by 2050. In an effort to ensure there are enough resources for all of us, as well as future generations, we need to look for new ways to adapt to a changing planet. The good news is that many of us, both as individuals and communities, are deeply committed to making a positive impact.

Our efforts range from simple changes in daily habits, such as carrying reusable bags and water bottles, to high-tech initiatives designed to reduce large scale energy consumption. One significant area that is in need of a revolution is our global food system. What does that have to do with what’s on your plate? More than you may think!

How Our Food Choices Impact The Environment

In general, humans are creatures of habit and our food choices reflect that. As a case in point, just 3 foods - wheat, rice, and maize - comprise 60% of our plant-based intake. Why does it matter if we depend on a small assortment of staple foods? Because the way our food is grown has a significant influence on our environment and on our global food supply. In order to meet the demand for the narrow range of foods that people are eating farmers plant the same crops over and over - a practice called monoculture farming.

Similar to the way your body needs a range of different foods for optimal nutrition, land is healthiest when it grows a variety of foods. Monoculture farming can deplete nutrients from the soil, which threatens the growth of those foods we depend so heavily upon. Adding some of these delicious, nutritious foods to your plate is a small change that can have a big impact!

Some of the Future 50 Foods may be new to you, and that is exciting not only for your palate, but also for the planet. Eating less common varieties of grains, such as spelt, quinoa or buckwheat, or vegetables like red cabbage, kale and spinach, can influence our farmers to increase the variety of crops they grow, which can make the food system more resilient. Here are some tips for incorporating them into your meals:

  • Practice Plant Power Approximately 60% of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to the production of animal products. Try swapping in pulses, such as black turtle beans and lentils, in place of meat in stew or casserole recipes.
  • Go Grain There is an incredibly diverse range of grains beyond rice and wheat! Try one cup of buckwheat cooked with milk and fruit for a warm, filling high protein gluten free breakfast or use nutty-tasting amaranth for an ancient grain spin on your next risotto.
  • Vary Your Veggies Did you know we have discovered over 20,000 edible plants, but we only consume 150 to 200 on a regular basis? Let’s catch up! Trade your usual tomato for a sweeter and less acidic orange tomato or use vitamin-rich beet greens in your next sauté or salad.

9. Anything "Fat-Free" or "Low-Fat"

Lara Schwieger

According to a recent UK study, low-fat/fat-free foods can contain up to 10% more calories and 40% more sugar. Fat usually equates to flavor, so when fat is removed, the flavor is lost. Companies add additional flavors and sugar to make up for the fat loss. You can read more about why you shouldn’t eat low fat foods here.

10 'Healthy' Foods That Are Actually Bad For You

As more and more health foods take over the shelves of grocery stores, it has become increasingly challenging for health-conscious consumers to pick out foods that are actually as nutritious as their labels claim to be.

Many of these 'healthy' or 'guilt-free' options are essentially junk food in disguise — loaded with sugar, sodium, trans fats and other additives that diminish their nutritional value.

Here are ten seemingly healthy foods that are actually diet busters, according to experts:

    Microwave Popcorn: Typically, freshly made popcorn can be a great fiber-rich snack. "But the microwaveable versions have high levels of sodium and the chemical diacetyl, making it a food that shouldn’t be eaten often," says Beth Warren, founder of Beth Warren Nutrition and author of Secrets of a Kosher Girl.

So, how can you make sure what you're eating is actually healthy?

#1 Pay attention to the back of the label, not just the front. Don't get fooled by the health halo on sugar-free, gluten-free or fat-free food options while grocery shopping. "Nothing in life is free. If something says the word 'free' I always look at the ingredient list to see what is substituted in its place," says Warren. "Typically, if there is no sugar, then there may be more fat added to a product or vice versa," she adds. Also, some of these added ingredients tend to be artificial. For instance, "sugar-free foods are often filled with man-made sugar alcohols, which are hard on the gut and digestion," says Chumbley.

#2 Understand the ingredient list. "Be wary of ingredients you cannot pronounce or are unclear of why they should be inside a product," says Warren. "For example, peanut butter should logically be only peanuts and perhaps salt. It's unnecessary to have anything else in it such as added sugar, partially hydrogenated oils or any other ingredient you aren't familiar with," notes the nutritionist. To learn more, check out this great article on how to decode food labels.

#3 Stock up on whole foods. "I am a fan of eating foods and ingredients that are as close to their original state as possible," says Chumbley. "Of course, this doesn’t always apply, but a good motto to keep in mind is, 'the closer to the farm the better'', she adds. For instance, fresh fruits and vegetables, especially non-starchy veggies, are always a great option. And go crazy on eggs. They are an excellent source of protein. Plus, the egg yolk contains "the entire collection of energy-giving B vitamins" along with all four fat-soluble vitamins - A, D, E and K, tells Chumbley. She also recommends legume-based snacks like roasted chickpeas.

Here are a few other expert-approved strategies to eat healthy:

  • Get enough protein. "Make sure you’re getting enough protein to keep you full and energized throughout the day," says Chumbley. Eat a protein-rich breakfast or lunch. Since protein is incredibly filling, it curbs glucose spikes, making it less likely for you to experience sugar cravings later in the day.
  • Start a food journal. Keeping a food diary or journal is a great way to track exactly what you are putting in your body each day, says Warren. Jot down everything you've consumed in a day. Then go through the journal at the end of the week and identify areas that can be improved. Are you eating enough veggies in lunch and dinner? Do you eat too much red meat and not enough fish? Are you having a snack or two between meals? And if so, are they balanced? "After that, you can work on adjusting these small changes each week," she suggests. "You’ll notice that you are better able to seamlessly work them into your normal routine instead of making drastic changes that are less realistic and short-lived," she explains. Here's how to get started.
  • Detox after a food binge. It's perfectly normal to indulge in your favorite comfort foods every once in a while. The important part is to bounce back instead of giving up altogether. "Start out with a balanced breakfast. This idea may seem obvious but is often what most people skip because they feel guilty or bloated," says Warren. You might think it is a better option to not eat at all but this strategy will backfire. It will make you feel more hungry and more likely to munch later in the day, she adds. In addition, you can go for a "one or two-day reset involving a rotating mix of protein, vitamins and healthy fats," says Chumbley. For instance, eat two hard-boiled eggs in the morning followed by carrot and bell pepper sticks or a roasted chicken breast for lunch. And a couple of hours later, eat some sliced cucumbers with guacamole for a light evening snack, and so on, she suggests.

And lastly, remember that "it’s better to be consistently good, as opposed to occasionally perfect," adds the nutrition expert.

Looking for more healthy eating tips? Check out these easy-to-follow strategies.

Avocado Hummus

Waterbury Publications, Inc.

This recipe calls for one can of chickpeas, as well as half of an avocado and plenty of seasoning. With fresh parsley, cilantro, garlic, and lime juice, you'll get some of the same flavors you'll find in guacamole in a creamy hummus form.

Get our recipe for Avocado Hummus.

Sardinia's Mediterranean diet: 10 foods that may lengthen your life

In the book "The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World's Healthiest People," author Dan Buettner reveals what the people around the world who live the longest are more likely to eat.

One of the keys to longevity?

A plant-based diet, says Buettner and colleague Gianni Pes, a senior researcher at the University of Sassari, Italy. They share the foods that make up the regular diet of the people of Sardinia, Italy, one of the "Blue Zones" -- areas around the world where people are more likely to live to 100.

1. Goat's milk and sheep's milk

Both have higher nutri­tional value and are more easily digested than cow’s milk.

A recent study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that both sheep’s milk and goat’s milk lower bad cholesterol, are anti-inflammatory, and may protect against cardiovascular disease and colon cancer. The higher calcium and phosphorus content of goat’s milk may have helped peo­ple living in the Sardinian "Blue Zone" preserve their bone density and consequently lower their risk of fractures.

Goat’s milk is also rich in zinc and selenium, which are essential for optimal immune system activity and to promote healthy aging. The sharp pecorino cheese made from fermented sheep’s milk in Sardinia is particularly interesting. Because of its rich flavor, it can be used sparingly in pastas, soups, and grated over vegetables.

Since pecorino is made from the milk of grass-fed sheep, it has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

2. Flat bread (carta di musica)

The most common bread consumed by Sardinian shepherds is a dry, flat bread made of high-protein, low-gluten Triticum durum wheat (the main ingredient in Italian pasta).

High in fiber and complex carbohydrates, it does not cause a sugar spike in blood like processed or refined grains do and it’s easier on the pancreas, lowering the risk for type 2 diabetes.

Its name comes from the observation that it is flat and thin, like music paper. Another traditional flat bread is pane carasau. This thin, flat bread made of durum wheat flour, salt, yeast, and water was invented for shepherds, who pastured their sheep for months at a time. It can last up to a year.

Whole durum wheat has a low- to medium-glycemic score, and so it doesn’t spike blood sugar. It also contains only a fraction of the gluten that white bread does.

Ground into flour or added to soups, barley was found to be the food most highly associated with living to 100 among Sardinian men. Barley bread (orgiathu) was favored by shepherds because of its long shelf life and looked much like a regular loaf of bread but was made of ground barley. This bread has a much lower glycemic index than wheat bread, meaning it increases blood glucose more slowly than wheat bread does and thus puts less stress on the pancreas and kidneys.

We don’t know if it does that because of barley’s high protein, magnesium, and fiber content (much higher than oatmeal) or because it was pushing other less healthy foods (such as white wheat flour) out of the diet. Ironically, barley was considered a poor man’s food until recently, when it has made a comeback in Sardinian haute cuisine.

4. Sourdough bread (moddizzosu)

Much like sourdough bread in the United States, Sardinian sourdough breads are made from whole wheat and use live lactobacilli (rather than yeast) to rise the dough. This process also converts sugars and gluten into lactic acid, lowering the bread’s glycemic index and imparting a pleasant, faintly sour taste.

Pes has demonstrated that this type of bread is able to lower the glycemic load, reducing after-meal glucose and insulin blood levels by 25 percent. This helps protect the pancreas and may help prevent obesity and diabetes.

Fennel’s licorice taste flavors several Sardinian dishes. It’s used as a vegetable (the bulb), as an herb (its willowy fronds), and as a spice (its seeds). Rich in fiber and soluble vitamins such as A, B, and C. It’s also a good diuretic therefore, it helps to maintain the blood pressure low.

6. Fava beans and chickpeas

Eaten in soups and stews, fava beans and chickpeas play an important part in the Sardinian diet, delivering protein and fiber. They are one of the foods most highly associated with reaching age 100.

Sardinian tomato sauce tops breads and pizzas and is the base for several pasta dishes. Tomatoes are a rich source of vitamin C and potassium. Cooking tomatoes breaks down their cell walls, making lycopene and other antioxidants more available.

The Sardinian custom of coupling olive oil with tomatoes (either driz­zling it over raw tomatoes or using it to make sauces) further increases the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and antioxidants.

Almonds, associated with Mediterranean cooking, appear regularly in Sardinian cooking, eaten alone, chopped into main dishes, or ground into a paste for desserts. One study showed that almonds included in a low-calorie diet helped people lose more weight and belly fat while they experienced an increase in protective high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and a drop in systolic blood pressure (the bottom number).

9. Milk thistle

Sardinians drink a tea of milk thistle, a native wild plant, to, as locals believe, “cleanse the liver.”

Emerging research suggests that the milk thistle’s main active ingredient, silymarin, is an antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory benefits. It can be found in American health food stories as an ingredient in some herbal teas.

10. Cannonau wine

Sardinia’s distinctive garnet red Cannonau wine is made from the sun-stressed Grenache grape.

Sardinians drink three to four small (3-ounce) glasses of wine a day on average, spread out between breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a late afternoon social hour in the village.

One might argue that the all-day small doses of this antioxidant-rich beverage could explain fewer heart attacks. Dry red wines in general offer the same health advantage.

The Affordability of Junk Food

Cost is a massive component of the draw to junk food. It tends to be extremely cheap. In fact, it costs three times as much to have a healthful diet as it does to eat junk food and fast-food products. When junk food is so accessible, affordable and convenient, it becomes easy to forgo nutritious food. To top it off, it's tasty. The high sodium and sugar content may not be good for you, but they make these foods appealing to the taste buds.

The reasons people consume junk food and fast-food products are not unreasonable. Why wouldn't you want to eat a tasty, cheap snack, after all? It's important to realize that these foods can be occasional snacks and treats. You should just make an effort to watch your portion sizes and make sure that junk foods and fast foods aren't a major or regular part of your diet.

Better for you veggies

When choosing vegetables to eat, sticking to the non-starchy variety will usually give you the most bang for your buck. "As a general rule of thumb, most veggies that grow below ground are considered starchy," Metzer told me. "Focus on vegetables that are low in carbohydrate and higher in fiber, as these vegetables will impact your blood sugar the least, while still providing you with important vitamins and minerals."

Dr. Petre also suggests getting a little adventurous. "Introduce a new vegetable that is in season every week," she said. "Experiment with new recipes and find new family favorites."