FOOD

5 'Unhealthy' Foods Which Are Actually Good For You

For the last time, fruit is NOT unhealthy.

01/12/2016 10:58 AM AEDT | Updated 02/12/2016 12:25 PM AEDT
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Just eat the watermelon.

With so many fad diets and social media health 'experts' out there, the messages about diet and nutrition can become very skewed.

On a daily basis you read (and hear people say) that 'this fruit is bad for you' or that 'carbs are the devil'.

Not only is this offensive to these delicious foods, but it's also incorrect.

"There are so many misconceptions about what healthy eating really is. Our notion of healthy eating is getting lost in a mound of quinoa flakes, gluten free raw paleo bars and activated almond milk," nutritionist Fiona Tuck told The Huffington Post Australia.

Chloe McLeod, accredited practising dietitian and sports dietitian, agrees, saying that conflicting advice about food and nutrition is incredibly confusing for the public.

"It's not helping our population as a whole to become healthier -- there's so many mixed messages that people might not even bother. That's really disappointing when you hear those sorts of things from clients," McLeod told HuffPost Australia.

Avoid diet fads and only take nutrition advice from a fully qualified expert. Many bloggers, diet book authors and influencers are not qualified experts.

"I totally agree," nutritionist Pip Reed added. "It's a very confusing world out there and we add to this confusion by following these fads and unqualified health 'experts' who are more likely just regurgitating information that is inaccurate, non-evidence based, non-researched and possibly even dangerous for people to follow. Sadly there is no one-size-fits-all approach to health."

"If they had just been given a single message around healthy eating it would make it a lot easier," McLeod said.

So, what is the most important, helpful message about eating well?

"Eating a diet that is based on nutrient rich wholefoods, high in plant foods, low in processed foods and free from toxic chemicals is a good guide to follow and gives our bodies the necessary nutrients we need for health and longevity," Tuck said.

"Avoid diet fads and only take nutrition advice from a fully qualified expert. Many bloggers, diet book authors and influencers are not qualified experts."

"Listen to your body and, if you're in doubt, see a dietitian," McLeod said.

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Here are five 'bad' foods that are actually good for you.

1. Bananas

Good ol' bananas have copped a lot of flak recently for their fructose content. Good news -- they're nothing to be afraid of.

"Bananas are one of my favourite fruits to recommend. The reason being they are a great mix of carbohydrate and electrolytes, so particularly for physically active people, they're a great choice," McLeod said.

"A small banana only contains around 100 calories, so from a snack perspective for weight management it's perfect. Plus, they're rich in fibre so they will keep you satisfied.

"Anecdotally, I've also found bananas useful for managing afternoon sweet cravings. It's healthy, it's giving you nutrients, but it still has that sweetness people are often looking for."

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That's right, you can still find bananas apeeling. Geddit?

2. Fruit in general

It's not just the banana which has caused chaos in the online health world. Again, fruit is perfectly healthy for you, as long as it's in the whole form.

"Fruit has copped a bit of a bad reputation of late due to its sugar content," Reed told HuffPost Australia.

"We have to remember that fruit consists of natural sugars, antioxidants and, most importantly, fibre which slows the digestion of the sugars entering the bloodstream, as well as feeding the healthy bacteria in your gut. Eat it in moderation and reap the health benefits."

"With fruit in general, yes, fruit has fructose (we all know that, we're all well aware of that). However, in its whole form, fruit is a really great option," McLeod said.

Aim for two serves of fruit in the day, potentially three, as a whole fruit -- rather than as a juice or in a processed form.

"If you're eating huge quantities of it or many fruit juices, of course it becomes less healthy. A glass of orange juice, for example, has around 4-6 oranges' worth of sugar but it doesn't have the fibre, so it's going to be higher in fructose."

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Everything in moderation is key.

3. Carbs

For the last time, carbs are NOT unhealthy.

"Carbohydrates have the ability to send people into a state of panic of late due to their association with weight gain or stagnant weight loss," Reed said.

"But we have to realise that there are different types of carbs. Refined ones, which include your pasta, white breads, biscuits, cakes, lollies and sugars, will cause your blood sugar levels to spike rapidly followed by an energy crash, while simultaneously reaping havoc on your insulin production and body's ability to process insulin."

Then there's natural and unrefined carbs, including fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains, which provide a steady energy release and ideal food for the brain.

"Choose your carbs wisely and you'll be doing your health a huge favour," Reed said.

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Just make sure it's the good kind of carbs.

4. Fat

If you're someone who avoids nuts and avocado because you read somewhere that they make you fat, don't fret. Fat doesn't make you fat.

"We are living in a fat fearing society, but eating fat doesn't necessarily mean you'll get fat," Reed said.

"In fact, healthy fats such as those found in fish, flaxseeds, nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil and coconut flour will actually reduce inflammation, increase your body's ability to break down insulin, increase satiety so you feel full more quickly and for longer, and increase nutrient absorption."

Of course, not all fats are created equal. Animal products and some processed foods, especially fried fast food, are generally high in saturated fats, which have been linked to increased blood cholesterol levels.

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Yes, you can still eat your favourite nuts whilst standing in front of the fan.

5. Legumes (including hummus)

Perhaps it's the 'beans, beans the magical fruit, the more you eat, the more you toot' rhyme, but along the way, people really started hating beans for no apparent reason.

"That just comes down to not preparing them properly. Beans contain a compound called lectin and when the legumes have been prepared well, the amount of lectin in the food actually reduces to a point where it's not a problem anymore. There's nothing to worry about," McLeod explained.

"I don't like the term 'superfood', however if I had to give it to something it would be to that group of foods, purely because they're so great at managing inflammation, weight, appetite, blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and promoting gut health."

Reed agreed, saying the health benefits are far too great to miss out on.

"Beans are a fantastic source of fibre, protein and unrefined carbs which will keep you full and feed your digestive system with quality prebiotics," Reed explained.

"Being a carbohydrate-containing food can scare people off, but eaten in moderation improves all aspect of health and helps prevent chronic disease."

While some people cannot tolerate legumes due to allergies or IBS, McLeod said most people can tolerate some legumes to a degree.

"If you look at people who have been vegetarian long term, usually they tolerate them better. That tells us that it's about the gut being used to having to digest those types of food, and also maybe it hasn't been prepared properly previously," McLeod said.

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Mmmm, roasted chickpeas.

To prepare legumes properly, follow these simple tips.

"If you're using dry legumes, rinse them first and soak them, usually overnight. Red lentils don't need much soaking, whereas chickpeas will need to be soaked overnight," McLeod said.

"With canned legumes, you just need to drain and wash them really well before you use them as they've already been soaked and cooked."

There you have it, folks. Rest easy knowing you can safely eat that one banana with your breakfast.

"No food is bad unless you eat too much of it, then any food can potentially become bad for us," Tuck told HuffPost Australia.

"Variety is so important. Avoiding certain foods such as whole grains (carbs), legumes, nuts and fruits can put us at risk of nutritional deficiencies."

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