Dr. Friedman’s Health Blog

Healthy Foods Turned Bad (or vice versa)

By: Dr. David Friedman

There’s no denying that food plays a vital role in our health. What we put into our mouths helps us to fight disease and live a healthful life. However, food can be a double-edged sword because what we put at the end of our fork can also cause disease. We need proper nutrition for our immune system to thrive and for us to function at an optimal level.  

Deciding what we should and shouldn’t be eating can get very confusing, especially with all the constantly changing opinions and advancements in food science. This was the entire basis behind my award-winning, #1 bestselling book Food Sanity, How to Eat in a World of Fads and Fiction. Many things considered bad for us years ago are now called the “superfoods” of today,  and vice versa.

Here’s my “Oops, they got it wrong” list:



EGGS

OLD BELIEF: BAD FOR YOU

In the early 1970s,  the American Heart Association advised people to avoid consuming eggs because they were linked to causing high cholesterol and heart disease.  A few years later, we were told to avoid the yolk and only eat the white of the egg. Restaurant chains all over the nation carried “cholesterol-free” egg white omelets and at the grocery stores,  Egg Beaters flew off the store shelves.


CURRENT: GOOD FOR YOU

In Oct of 2020, The British Medical Journal published results of the largest US cohort studies, systematic review, and updated meta-analysis ever conducted on eggs. They concluded that egg consumption is not associated with high cholesterol or increased risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact, consuming eggs may potentially lower cardiovascular disease risk!  Another study found that people who ate two eggs per day lost weight and reduced their cholesterol levels.  Egg yolk does contain cholesterol; however, science now shows us that it also contains lecithin, which is effective in preventing high cholesterol buildup in the blood vessels. The yolk of an egg also contains B12, which lowers homocysteine levels, linked to causing arterial damage and blood clots.

Eggs are a wonderful source of protein and healthy fat (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated). One egg contains 6 grams of high-quality protein, as well as all nine essential amino acids, and is one of the few foods that contain naturally occurring vitamin D, vital for a strong immune system and strong bones. Eggs have been shown to benefit the eyes due to their carotenoid content, specifically the nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin, and prevent macular degeneration and cataracts. Both nutrients are more readily available to our bodies from eggs than any other sources.



CHOCOLATE

OLD BELIEF: BAD FOR YOU

Chocolate was once considered the most fattening thing you could eat, and a major cause of obesity. Because chocolate is high in saturated fat, we were told that consuming it caused an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. People were warned that chocolate consumption could also lead to type 2 diabetes. 


CURRENT: GOOD FOR YOU

Dark chocolate can help you lose weight!  It contains theobromine,  an organic alkaloid, minus the sugar, which is an appetite suppressant.  Cocoa beans contain up to 1,200 mg of theobromine per ounce. Because it is the “feel-good” ingredient in chocolate, theobromine promotes healthy emotional well-being during periods of low energy and dieting.  Theobromine has been found to improve insulin sensitivity which, in turn,   improves glucose metabolism and reduces the risk of metabolic disease.  Theobromine may also have anti-obesity properties due to its ability to inhibit digestive enzymes   In addition,  research published in Discovery and Innovation  concluded, cocoa flavanols significantly reduce weight and fat gain, improve fasting blood glucose levels, and glucose intolerance. 

Dark chocolate has anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce oxidative stress, high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries.)   Chocolate is rich in minerals, including iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, and copper. To get your daily theobromine, eat 1/4 of  a dark chocolate bar (85% cacao.)   Or you can add some cacao nibs (crushed cacao beans) to your morning coffee.

 


RED MEAT

OLD BELIEF: GOOD FOR YOU

Whether you’re an athlete, a pregnant woman, or simply trying to lose weight, eating beef was touted as the #1 best food to eat if you wanted to gain muscle, speed metabolism, lose weight, increase energy, and improve your health. Beef was recommended by doctors and health experts for its high protein and iron content.


CURRENT: BAD FOR YOU

Pink Floyd told us, “You can’t have your pudding if you don’t eat yer meat,” but scientists now say you’re better off going straight for the pudding and skipping the meat! 

There is  strong evidence that eating red meat increases the risk of colon cancer (the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States.)  In fact, according to the American Institute of Cancer Research, forty-three percent of colon cancer could be prevented if people ate less red meat. The reason eating a hamburger for lunch or that steak for dinner increases your risk of cancer is because cows produce a unique sugar molecule called Neu5Gc, which triggers an immune response that in turn causes inflammation. When humans eat red meat, this sugar molecule triggers the immune system to produce antibodies to fight it off. This can lead to chronic inflammation, which has been shown to promote tumor growth that may lead to cancer.

Research also shows eating as little as one serving of red meat a day is associated with a 50 percent increased risk of type 2 diabetes, compared with people who eat it less than once a month. The reason for this could be because the high iron content of red meat increases inflammatory chemicals, which may destroy insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.  In addition, the nitrates in processed meats may also be toxic to beta cells, which could explain why red meat contributes to the risk of type 2 diabetes.

 



ORANGE JUICE

OLD BELIEF: GOOD FOR YOU

Orange juice is the most popular fruit juice sold in the US. I remember as a child being taught that drinking a morning glass of orange juice was the best way to boost my immune system and protect my body from getting colds. Then in college, I learned that drinking orange juice is better than eating oranges because just one glass is equivalent to consuming three oranges. 

 

CURRENT: BAD FOR YOU

We now know that drinking a glass of orange juice isn’t the healthiest way to start the day and is not a good source of vitamin C!  One orange contains approximately 30 MG of vitamin C, but if you make orange juice with that same orange,  the juice will contain only 18 MG of vitamin C. Not to mention, orange juice contains as much sugar as soda! For example, a 12-ounce glass of orange juice contains nearly the same amount of sugar as a can of Coke, around 10 teaspoons of sugar! This can spike your blood sugar and lead to obesity and liver damage. The reason for this is because the juice of an orange doesn’t contain fiber and it’s easy to consume the juice of multiple oranges at once without feeling full. Eating an orange, on the other hand, does not cause this spike in blood sugar because it contains lots of pulp and fiber. Eat your oranges, don’t drink them.





MILK

OLD BELIEF: GOOD FOR YOU

For decades schools made milk available for children because it was needed for their growing bodies. Adults were told that cow’s milk is a rich source of quality protein for strong muscles and contained the calcium needed to build strong bones and protect them from osteoporosis (brittle bones.)  This liquid from a cow’s udder was praised for its ability to reduce age-related muscle loss and promote muscle repair after exercise.

 

CURRENT:  BAD FOR YOU

Milk does a body bad!  Research now shows kids who drink milk are more prone to getting chronic ear infections, allergiesobesity, and at greater risk of developing diabetes and at risk for early puberty.  Adults drinking milk for strong bones, research actually shows milk is a lousy source of calcium and may cause brittle bones (osteoporosis.)

Cow’s milk contains a sugar called lactose. Seventy-five percent of the world’s population is lactose intolerant, meaning they have an inability to digest the sugar in cow’s milk. This can lead to digestive issues like bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea, as well as sinusitis and skin issues such as acne. 

Cow’s milk also contains an inflammatory protein called casein, which is also used to make glue to hold together wood. Consuming it produces histamines, which causes mucus production that can lead to a plethora of bad health conditions. Many people believe seeing “Fat-Free” on the milk label means it’s healthier. Actually, when fat is removed from milk, it contains more casein

With so many great alternatives that don’t contain casein (almond, cashew, oat, coconut milk) there’s no need for cow’s milk in the diet.

 

COFFEE

OLD BELIEF: BAD FOR YOU

When I was learning about diet and nutrition in college, coffee was considered public enemy number one! Doctors warned their patients to get off of java because it caused high blood pressure, heart disease, and increased risk of stroke and cancer. Many doctors considered coffee to be an “addictive drug” in the same category as cocaine!

 

CURRENT: GOOD FOR YOU

Current research  shows coffee is now a “superfood” and actually reduces your risk of getting type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, and colon, uterine and liver cancer!   That morning cup of Joe may also protect you from getting dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Coffee can also enhance physical and mental performance and extend your lifespan.

Coffee is loaded with several vitamins and minerals and is considered one of the best sources of antioxidants in the modern diet. However, if you have gut issues like irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease, you may need to cut back or eliminate coffee. Drinking coffee creates peristalsis, which is the involuntary muscle constriction of the colon.  Having a spastic colon may not be the best thing if you suffer from gut issues.

 


AVOCADOS

OLD BELIEF: BAD FOR YOU

For decades, grocery stores wouldn’t carry avocados because no one would buy them. We were told avocados contain a lot of FAT and eating them will cause obesity, increased risk of heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

CURRENT: GOOD FOR YOU

The avocado is now considered a “superfood” since scientists discovered the difference between “good” fats and “bad.”  Avocados are high in the healthy kind of fat, called oleic acid — a monounsaturated fatty acid (also a component of olive oil.)  Oleic acid has been shown to help in the prevention of cancer.  

The avocado is loaded with gut-healthy fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins.  This fruit (yes, avocado is a fruit) is one of the best sources of potassium,  an essential mineral that helps regulate muscles, healthy nerve function, and fluid balance. Approximately 98% of Americans do not consume the recommended potassium intake. 

Avocados contain compounds that support cardiovascular health, blood glucose regulation and have anti-inflammatory benefits. Eating avocados can also help significantly reduce total cholesterol levels, reduce triglycerides, lower LDL cholesterol and increase the HDL (the "good") cholesterol.  In addition, avocados are high in lutein and zeaxanthin which support eye health and lower the risks of macular degeneration and cataracts.

Avocados help with weight loss  because they keep you fuller longer, which means eating fewer calories. They're also high in fiber and low in carbs, which may also help promote weight loss. While one avocado contains 9 grams of carbs, 7 of these are fiber, so there are only 2 "net" carbs, making this a healthful low-carb plant food.

 


NUTS

OLD BELIEF: BAD FOR YOU

Nuts are high in saturated fat, which increases your risk of heart disease and stroke! They are very bad for the lining of the gut. 

CURRENT: GOOD FOR YOU

Nuts are loaded with antioxidants, fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and unsaturated fats.  They contain omega-3 fatty acids [prevents heart disease,] selenium [ may help prevent cancer], calcium [bone health,]  zinc [immunity,]  and vitamin E [a powerful antioxidant.]

Journal of Nutrition showed how eating nuts may help to reduce blood pressure and raise ‘good’ cholesterol levels. Nuts also help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes,  and colorectal cancer.  The old belief that nuts are bad for the lining of the gut has been debunked! A study was published last year that showed nuts improve the gut microbiome, the collection of trillions of microbes or bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, which may the reason behind some of their health benefits. 

Not all nuts are created equal!  To learn which nuts are the healthiest, read my article,  Top 10 Nuts Ranked By How Healthy They Are

About the Author

Dr. David Friedman is the author of the award-winning, #1 national best-selling book Food Sanity, How to Eat in a World of Fads and Fiction. He's a  Doctor of Naturopathy, Chiropractic Neurologist, Clinical Nutritionist, Board Certified Alternative Medical Practitioner, and Board Certified in Integrative Medicine.  Dr. Friedman is a syndicated television health expert and host of To Your Good Health Radio, which has changed the face of talk radio by incorporating entertainment, shock value, and solutions to everyday health and wellness issues.
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