7 Foods You Think Are Unhealthy, But Really Aren't

(photo by Antonio Barroro)

Last week, I talked about conventionally known "healthy" foods that turned out to be not-so-healthy. So today, I'm doing the reverse. So many foods have been demonized over time, especially during the low-fat craze of the twentieth century. But we're here to break down those dietary barriers and get back to breakfasts full of butter and bacon. So here we go.

1. Butter & Lard
Butter has a bad name. Lard no longer stocks the pantries of our kitchens. It's a sad byproduct of the saturated fat and cholesterol demonization of the past several decades. High intake of saturated fat and cholesterol only clogs your arteries and lead to heart disease, right? Ehh, not really.
I've talked about how saturated fat is indeed, not detrimental to your health or heart. The infamous 1950's "Seven Countries Study" is likely one of the reasons why the public became so fearful of it. But it actually wrongfully correlated saturated fat intake with heart disease (ignoring countries such as France that consumes large amounts of saturated fat, yet have very low coronary heart disease rates). (Read more about the saturated fat myth here)
And to this day, many of us still haven't let go of those fears, despite so much science to back up the benefits of traditional fats. Lard has been a part of the human diet as far back as we go, in eras and cultures where heart disease was nearly nonexistent. And when produced from pastured hogs and cows, lard and butter are particularly high in vitamin D and full of fat-soluble vitamins. So eat up! I think we all would be a little bit happier with a pat of butter on top our food.
And in the words of the wise Julia Child, "If you’re afraid of butter, use cream." 

2. Bacon
Bacon is often looked down upon for the same reason butter is. Saturated fat. Too much and it'll kill ya, they say. But...nope. Bacon can be perfectly good for you when taken from pastured pigs that haven't been fed grains or given hormones and antibiotics, that doesn't have a long list of additives or sugar in its ingredient list. From the Weston A. Price Foundation:
Pork fat also contains a novel form of phosphatidylcholine that possesses antioxidant activity superior to vitamin E ... Bacon fat from pastured pigs also comes replete with fat-soluble vitamin D, provided it’s bacon from foraging pigs that romp outdoors in the sun for most of the year. Factory-farmed pigs kept indoors and fed rations from soy, casein, corn meal and other grains, are likely to show low levels of vitamin D.
Am I saying a side of bacon is a good idea with every meal? My heart wants to say yes, but no, probably not. But there's no reason to avoid it either!  So let's embrace bacon and its salty, fatty goodness with open arms and get back to waking up on Sunday mornings with the savory scent of bacon sizzling in the kitchen.

3. Fried Food
Fried foods typically get a bad rap. French fries, fried chicken, potato chips, deep fried Oreos. All junk food, right? Only to be indulged in occasionally, and cause you to feel guilt-ridden when you do.
But here's the thing. Fried food is literally just a form of cooking. That's it. It's not inherently evil. What we should be talking about is specific food being fried, and the oil it's being fried in. That's what people often seem to gloss right over.
Now, unless advertised as otherwise, any fried foods you'll find in a restaurant are cooked in vegetable oils (here's a good article on why vegetable oils are anything but healthy). So it'd be smart to avoid any commercially food that's fried. But frying at home and choosing your own oils can be perfectly delicious and nutritious!
Opt for using an oil with a high smoke point, like avocado oil, clocking in at the particularly high smoke point of 520°F. Or use animal fats like lard or tallow, which are heat-stable and have stood the test of time.
Here's some delicious-looking clean fried food recipes if you care to take the plunge:

4. Chocolate
Am I saying you should be packing Reese's? Probably not. But chocolate consumption has always been good for the heart. It's high in antioxidants and spans a wide spectrum of health benefits.
The health benefits of cocoa include relief from high blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity, constipation, diabetes, bronchial asthma, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome and various neurodegenerative diseases

Aim for dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa, but the higher the better). While dark chocolate still contains added sugar, the occasional trade-off for the benefits from the cocoa is fine. Or try a brand that replaces sugar for a natural, low-glycemic sweetener. And look for a brand that promises organic and fair trade practices.

5. Red Meat 
AGAIN WITH THE SATURATED FAT. I didn't realize this list would mainly be comprised of breaking down that long perpetuated saturated fat myth, but here we are. Red meat is not only not going to kill you, but actually is beneficial. Quality red meat is a great source of minerals, such as zinc and magnesium, and a prominent source of vitamin B12. Enjoy a grass-fed steak and move along!

6. Dairy Products 
The rising popularity of veganism has brought many things, one of them being the vilification of all things dairy. Milk, cheese, and butter will be the death of us. But it isn't as simple as that.
Many nutrients just aren't available to us when all animal products are eliminated from the diet. And animals and animal products can be consumed morally and sustainably. Just ask Joel Salatin.
I've also talked about the immense nutritional benefits of raw milk before. So organic, full-fat dairy products should be enjoyed without a wink of guilt. And for those who don't tolerate dairy well, milk kefir or goat milk may be worth looking into.

7. Mayonnaise 
Eggs, vinegar, and oil. Honestly, what's so bad about that? But, for some reason, we've learned to spread it thiiiiiin on our sandwiches, because, well, we just can't have too much of that. But when made with the proper ingredients, mayo poses no harm. Again, it's the quality of the ingredients we should be paying closer attention to. This brand, made with avocado oil and simple, clean ingredients is delicious. Or maybe look into making your own! It's as simple as can be.

And...what about Miracle Whip? Never has a name been more ironic. That's all I'll say.

Miracle Whip ingredient list ^ (source)

And that's it! Many more things nearly made this list, but maybe they'll end up in future posts.
But there's one thing I'd like to mention about the things on this list above: quality really does matter. "Butter is good for you" isn't just a black and white statement. Not all butter is good for you. The milk that the butter was made from matters. What the cow ate matters. Where the cow lived matters. There's no part of the production that doesn't affect a different part. So keep that in mind! And long live bacon :)


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