You may have heard that you should avoid certain foods at all costs.
However, this type of advice sometimes stems from outdated research or studies that are too small to be significant.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 often consider unhealthy can offer health benefits if you consume them in moderation.
This article looks at 11 demonized foods that may be good for you.
1. Whole eggs
The nutrients 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.
In fact, whole eggs may help protect your heart health by changing the size and shape of LDL (bad) cholesterol. At the same time, HDL (good) cholesterol levels and insulin sensitivity increase.
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.
Eggs also contain easily digested, high quality protein. They can help you stay full and satisfied for hours so that you consume fewer calories later in the day.
Egg yolks are also high in lutein and zeaxanthin. These may help protect against common age-related eye diseases, such as cataracts and macular degeneration.
Summary: Rather than increasing heart disease risk, eggs may benefit the heart. Eating eggs may also help lower blood sugar and insulin levels, decrease hunger, and protect eye health.
2. 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, some research has suggested the type of saturated fat found in coconut oil may benefit 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.
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. Animal research suggests the body may be less likely to store MCTs as fat, compared with longer-chain fats.
MCTs can also help reduce hunger and promote fullness. This can make you less likely to overeat and decrease your calorie intake. They may also increase your body’s metabolic rate more than other fats, according to some studies.
In one study in 80 healthy young men, taking 15–30 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.
Indeed, some small studies suggest that adding coconut oil to your diet helps you lose weight and belly fat.
However, whether coconut oil and saturated fats are healthy remains a controversial topic. Nutritionists disagree on the effects of fat and how much a person should consume.
The American Heart Association (AHA) points out that, unlike some saturated fats, coconut oil does not contain cholesterol. However, they advise people to limit their overall intake of saturated fat to a maximum of 120 calories a day, or 5–6% of their daily calories.
It’s best to consume any fat in moderation.
Summary: Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides, which may help protect heart health, suppress appetite, increase metabolic rate, and promote weight loss.
3. 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. Butter intake, on the other hand, can raise LDL (bad) cholesterol and may increase the risk of heart disease.
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.
Full fat dairy products also contain conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). One review of several studies found that CLA supplements may help promote fat loss.
However, full fat dairy products can be high in calories and saturated animal fats. People should consume them in moderation.
Summary: Dairy intake may protect heart and bone health and decrease the loss of muscle mass and strength during aging. Full fat dairy may provide additional benefits like vitamin K2.
Legumes include beans, lentils, peas, and peanuts. They’re rich in protein, minerals, and fiber.
However, some people believe they’re unhealthy. This is because they contain phytates and other antinutrients that prevent the body from absorbing minerals like zinc and iron.
This only seems to be a concern for people who don’t eat meat, poultry, and fish. Those who consume meat absorb enough of these minerals from animal foods, and legumes don’t inhibit their.
At any rate, there are ways to reduce the antinutrients in healthy plant foods.
Legumes are also rich in potassium, magnesium, and other minerals. Several studies have found they reduce inflammation, decrease blood sugar and promote heart health.
What’s more, beans are an excellent source of fiber, including soluble fiber. Studies suggest soluble fiber may reduce appetite, promote fullness, and decrease calorie absorption from meals.
Summary: Phytates and other antinutrients in legumes pose little concern for people eating a balanced diet. Studies suggest that legumes may reduce inflammation and promote heart health and weight loss.