7 “Bad” Foods That Are Good for Your Body
Do you avoid butter, milk and cheese in the name of eating healthy? You’re not doing yourself any favors. Don’t miss out on nutrients by declaring favorite foods off-limits. Your new plan:
No-longer-forbidden food #1: Cheese
Yes, many cheeses are high in fat and calories, but they’re also good sources of calcium, says nutritionist Gayle Reichler, author of Active Wellness.
Plus, cheese contains conjugated linoleic acid, a “good” fat that may reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. And this acid may help you lose weight by blocking the storage of fat in your body.
Strong-flavored cheeses, such as feta, blue cheese and fresh (not pregrated) Parmesan, all of which you can use less of without sacrificing flavor.
Fresh goat cheese, which you can find at your local grocery store. It weighs in at just 23 calories an ounce, compared to cheddar’s 114 an ounce.
Low-fat cheeses. “Reduced-fat cheeses still have about six grams of fat per ounce; and they’re not as flavorful, so we tend to allow ourselves to eat more of them,” says Atlanta nutritionist Chris Rosenbloom, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
Nonfat cheeses. Most of them aren’t very flavorful, and they don’t withstand cooking well.
No-longer-forbidden food #2: Chocolate
Forget what you’ve heard: Chocolate doesn’t cause acne or migraines. And it contains some of the very same heart-disease-and-cancer-fighting antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables. While it is high in fat, research has shown that stearic acid, the main fat in chocolate, does not raise cholesterol. If you reach for chocolate when you’re feeling down, you’re on the right track: Chocolate increases serotonin in the brain, which means it’s a mood booster.
Dark chocolate. More pure chocolate means it contains less fatty cocoa butter.
Godiva and See’s brands. These richer chocolates are packed with flavor, so you can satisfy your sweet tooth with smaller amounts – and fewer calories.
Chocolate bars filled with caramel, marshmallow and other fatty fillings.
No-longer-forbidden food #3: Beef
Break that grilled-chicken habit and have a steak. Beef is an excellent source of protein and nutrients that women don’t get enough of, such as iron, zinc and vitamin B12.
Lean cuts, which have 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat per three-ounce serving. Look for “round” or “loin” in the name (sirloin, tenderloin, top round, etc.).
Steak stir-fry or steak kebabs, which allow you to increase the size of your plate by adding extra vegetables.
Prime rib and T-bone, which can have as much as double the fat and calories of the leaner cuts.
No-longer-forbidden food #4: Milk
Milk is a terrific source of calcium, but many women avoid it in favor of diet soda, says Diane Quagliani, a registered dietitian in Western Springs, Illinois, and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. But drinking milk helps prevent the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis, reduces high blood pressure and may even fight obesity.
Nonfat milk, which has only 80 calories a serving. If whole milk is the only kind you like, try gradually switching to 2%, then 1%, then nonfat.
Substituting nonfat milk for water when making oatmeal and hot chocolate. “These foods will not only be much creamier tasting, they’ll keep you full longer,” says Quagliani.
Milk- and cream-based soups and sauces (such as bisque and Alfredo), which are high in fat and calories.
No-longer-forbidden food #5: Coffee
No need to quit coffee cold turkey: Recent studies have refuted caffeine’s link to heart disease, fibrocystic breasts and high blood pressure. Caffeine can relieve symptoms of allergies, make you more alert and improve your concentration, says Reichler.
Limiting yourself to two or three cups of java a day and going easy on the cream and sugar in your cup.
Extra-large fancy coffee drinks laden with cream, sugar, sprinkles and whipped cream, which can deliver as many as 300 calories.
No-longer-forbidden food #6: Eggs
Many women avoid eggs because they are high in cholesterol, but researchers now know that saturated fat – not cholesterol – is what’s most important when it comes to heart health. Eggs are low in fat (one egg has less than five grams of fat), and they contain lutein, a nutrient that may help keep your eyes healthy.
Poached, hard-boiled or soft-boiled eggs, which are low in calories.
Veggie quiche. The vegetables help make it more filling while giving you more nutrition in every bite. (Add spinach to your quiche to increase your lutein intake even more.)
Egg-white omelettes. Removing the yolk cuts out all the fat.
Eggs plus bacon, sausage and buttered biscuits. “Eating an egg a day can be healthy, but these side dishes that generally accompany them are not,” says the ADA’s Rosenbloom.
No-longer-forbidden food #7: Nuts
Yes, nuts are high in fat – but it’s the “good,” monounsaturated fat, which can reduce your risk of heart disease. They may even help you lose weight: In a study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, researcher Kathy McManus found that people who included monounsaturated fats (peanuts, for example) in their diets lost an average of 11 pounds in six weeks and kept it off for a year and a half! Since they are high in fat, nuts help you feel full longer. Need more proof? The magnesium in nuts has been shown to reduce symptoms of PMS, such as bloating, mood swings and headaches, says Bonnie Taub-Dix, a New York registered dietetian.
Having a small handful of nuts (about 170 calories) for a satisfying afternoon or evening snack.
Adding them to granola, salads, muffins and stir-fry dishes to boost flavor and nutrients.
Adding nuts to foods that are already high in calories and fat, such as cookies, brownies, and ice cream.
What About Alcohol?
Several recent studies have shown that one drink a day really isn’t bad for you. In fact, having a few drinks a week may reduce your risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. According to one study, drinking doesn’t lead to weight gain. When booze is bad: Three drinks a day or more and you up your risk of liver, mouth and throat cancer as well as of long-term memory loss.