7 Surprising Foods a Nutritionist Says It’s Okay to Eat—and Why
Even the strictest of eating routines deserve a healthy exception. In these modern times where fad diets have become de rigueur, nutrition can feel as mercurial as fashion. Foods come in and out of style with a steady stream of new data suggesting what you should or should not be consuming. We caught up with nutritionist Renee Fitton of My Fit Foods to chat about which taboo foods actually deserve a place at the table. Keep scrolling to see her picks.
“Fat is very likely the most misunderstood of the macronutrients,” says Fitton. “Fats are essential to our health. While trans fats can cause serious health damage, other fats, like those found in butter, can be vital to proper nutrition.” Fitton recommends using grass-fed ghee, clarified butter, which is high in butyric acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that reduced inflammation. Made by boiling butter then pouring off the butter fat, ghee is significantly easier to digest and contains vitamins A, D, E, and K.
“Potatoes have definitely gotten a bad rap after the Atkins craze. You want to be eating carbohydrates that come from whole foods. Potatoes are a great source of carbohydrates for those who are celiac or gluten sensitive.” When they stand alone, potatoes are high in potassium, vitamin C and B6, and valuable phytonutrients and antioxidants. A fat-free, starchy carbohydrate, they should be avoided by diabetics or those sensitive to blood sugar spikes. The key is ultimately in the preparation. Baked is preferable, and go easy on the garnish. Loading them up with sour cream and bacon can easily outweigh any benefits.
“I am personally a meat eater. I was vegetarian for two years. Red can be a great source of nutrients and specifically provides a great source of iron, something often lacking in pre-menopausal women,” says Fitton. Red meat provides essential proteins for building muscle and bone. It also contains immune-boosting zinc and plenty of B12. Opt for ethically sourced, organic meats and sensible portion sizes.
Timothy Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Body, endorses replacing coffee with Yerba Mate tea, which contains thermogenic compounds to boost metabolism and burn fat. It also delivers fewer jitters than coffee and is super rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Try swapping your morning cup of joe for the South American tea.
Dark chocolate contains trace minerals like magnesium and can boost serotonin levels in the brain. Raw cacao beans are among the highest-scoring foods in oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC.) High in antioxidants, a little bit of the sweet stuff is entirely healthy from time to time. In fact, the flavonoids in dark chocolate may improve blood flow and lower blood pressure, so a little bit of the sweet stuff from time to time is completely healthy.
Ferriss also advocates a glass of red wine a day over white wine due to the lower glycemic index. “The residual sugar, meaning the sugar that’s left after fermentation, in white wine tends to be much higher than in red wine,” he writes. Steer clear of beer and cocktails. “The short and sweet of it is beer almost always contains maltose. And it triggers a tremendously high insulin response.”
When it comes to red wine, the dose makes the poison. “Once you exceed two glasses for most people, once you really start to place a burden on the liver, then yes there is an impact. But if you’re moderate and you’re doing one or two glasses to wind down at night, I don’t see any problem with it,” he says.
If you’re going to splurge on sweets, go ahead and reach for the full fat. Fat slows the rise in blood sugar, blunting your body’s absorption of carbohydrates. Low-fat alternatives can be packed with chemicals and artificial ingredients, including propylene glycol, aka antifreeze. You’re better off noshing on a five-ingredient full-fat ice cream that spiking your insulin with the low-fat, overly sugary option. A good rule of thumb: If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, skip it.
Opening Image: Julia Gartland
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What is your favorite healthy splurge food? Tell us in the comments below.