Stop Hating: The Ugly Stepchildren of Natural Foods

16 Sep

Do you know what is so irritating to me? Listening to someone rattle on and on about why they would NEVER touch a potato with a 10 foot pole, while they pull an Atkins bar out of their bag for lunch.  It totally gets under my skin.

Hi, I have a little news flashy for you: your fat-free cream cheese and diet Cokes are making you way fatter than a potato ever will.

I’m sorry to sound mean, it’s Monday, not you. It’s not really our fault that we’re so confused. Over the years dozens of fad diets have infiltrated our lives, most of which have vilified various fruits, vegetables, and legumes (presumably in order to distinguish themselves from the last fad). While the diets themselves have slipped into obscurity, the associations with the poor scapegoat foods that were blacklisted have found their forever homes in our consciousness.

Here are a handful of foods that have developed particularly bad but undeserved reputations, and you’re totally missing on out by omitting them from your diet.



The misconception:

 Carrots first came to a negative light when the low-carb craze took off, mostly because they’re a root vegetable.  They’re associated with being high in sugars and carbohydrates.

The Reality:

First of all, complex carbs are necessary for a s-load of reasons, but that’s irrelevant because raw carrots actually has less sugar than strawberries (per serving) and a lower glycemic load than a large grapefruit.  Secondly, the amount of carrots you need to consume to reap the health benefits is incredibly low: you can get an entire day’s supply of Vitamin A from a measly 1/4 cup of grated carrots (which is like, 3 grams of sugar. NBD.). Know the expression “eat the rainbow?” Well of all the orange/yellow foods, carrots are the most protective against cardiovascular disease. Simply put, they help fight heart disease (and cancer, btw). The dreaded carrot is an excellent source of soluble fiber, beta-carotene, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, C, B6, potassium, and a laundry list of other phytonutrients. Relax, bunny!


The Misconception:

Even more so than the carrot, the poor potato was totally and completely demonized by the Atkins diet and its lookalikes. Additionally, the association with french fries and loads of salty toppings have really dragged the potato’s reputation through the dirt. No pun intended.

The Reality:

Potatoes are an essential source of brain fuel- and complex carbs help keep you both full and satisfied. A medium potato has half your daily requirements of Vitamin C! Potatoes are high in fiber, iron, potassium, copper, and  contain blood-pressure lowering molecules in potatoes called kukoamines.  Potatoes are extremely rich in Vitamin B6, which your body needs to produce seratonin and dopamine production.  Potatoes really do make you happy! Like many nutrient dense foods, potatoes are somewhat calorie-dense (about 270 calories in a medium spud), so if you’re watching your calorie intake skip the high calorie toppings and lighten it up with Greek yogurt or salsa.


The Misconception:

 Bananas should be avoided because they are high on the glycemic index, high in sugar, and packed with calories.

The Reality:

First of all, the glycemic index is widely accepted at being flawed, confusing, and mostly irrelevant. So let’s move on from that. Sure, bananas are higher in sugar than some other fruits, so perhaps don’t go stuffing your face with them (I actually think that’s a pretty good rule of thumb in general). However, they’re super rich in antioxidants and important minerals. Bananas are one of the best sources of potassium (467 mg, to be exact) which is essential for maintaining normal blood pressure. They produce a digestive enzyme that greatly improves our ability to absorb nutrients which is a pretty big deal, and they lower risk of colon and kidney cancer.  They’re also the bomb for endurance athletes looking for the perfect food to fuel a workout.


The Misconception:

Poor, poor peanuts. Everybody knows they pale in comparison to the mighty walnut and almond (not a fair comparison, don’t even make me tell you that peanuts are legumes, not nuts) and have come to be considered a “bad” nut as a result.

The Reality

While almonds and walnuts kick ass in general, don’t shelf your peanut butter (just buy freshly ground natural peanut butter, please)!  At least five major studies confirm that eating peanuts can lower risk for coronary heart disease, are good sources of Vitamin E, niacin, folate, protein and maganese. Peanuts also contain resveratol – sound familiar? That’s the same antioxidant that we use as an excuse to pour ourselves that nightly glass of red wine. They contain more antioxidants than an apple. Truth.  If that’s not enough, peanuts protect against Alzheimers disease. So if you just can’t let go of your love for PB, at least let go of the guilt.

Egg Yolks

The Misconception:

In recent decades, eggs’ high cholesterol content has been thought to play a role in increasing “bad” cholesterol.

The Reality:

We learned a while back that cholesterol in food doesn’t  cause heart disease (trans fat and & saturated fat do) but we still cling to the notion that eggs are bad. While high in cholesterol (184 milligrams in the yolk) they’re relatively low in saturated fat — about 1.6 grams in the yolk. So don’t skip the yolks. because whole eggs are a nearly perfect food. The yolk contains almost every essential vitamin and mineral our bodies need! It’s one of the only natural food sources of vitamin D, contains perfect protein, Omega-3 fatty acids, B6, B12, riboflavin, folate, and choline, L-arginine and important amino acids. So think twice before ordering that egg white omelette: skipping the yolk actually means missing out on most of the nutrition and protein.



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