A popular t-shirt reads “Science doesn’t care what you believe.” What does that mean? It means that the world is what it is – although our perception and beliefs about it can change. For example, millennia ago the world was flat – until humankind discovered that it wasn’t. For centuries disease was caused by “bad air” – until Louis Pasteur connected germs to disease in the 1800s. In the 20th century, certain foods were “known” to be bad for us to eat – until now. Today we are giving you the A-OK, go-ahead to eat some previously “bad” foods.
GUILT FREE EATING
Scientific knowledge evolves as new discoveries are made. One of those new discoveries has to do with cholesterol. For decades we have “known” that high blood level of cholesterol is a risk factor for atherosclerosis, heart attacks and strokes. We’ve also “known” that to help keep our cholesterol levels down, we should be avoiding high-cholesterol foods (such as eggs) in our diets.
GUESS WHAT – YOU CAN EAT
GUILT-FREE EGGS AGAIN!
- Eggs. In 2015, the Food and Drug Administration’s Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee voted to end its longstanding recommendation that we avoid foods that are high in cholesterol. Eggs, shrimp, lobster and other foods are healthy foods again! That’s because dietary cholesterol is not directly delivered to the tissues, and is not directly packaged into LDL particles. The liver adjusts its production of cholesterol in response to your diet, in order to keep LDL cholesterol levels in normal range. You can safely switch from egg-white omelets to the real deal.
- Red wine. Since the 1980s, scientists have been studying the heart health benefits of red wine. Many studies have found a connection between red wine and lower rates of heart attack, stroke and death caused by heart disease. “The evidence is more firmly in place for red wine preventing heart disease, diabetes and a few other vascular (conditions) compared to cancer and dementia,” said Dr. Howard Sesso, associate professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Massachusetts. The key is moderation, with a recommended single small glass of red wine per day.
- Butter. The “war” against saturated fat was a false war based on incomplete information. We now know that butter is high in saturated fat and that saturated fats raise HDL (the good) cholesterol. Butter also has a host of vitamins and nutrients. Plus, it tastes really good. The key (as with red wine) is moderation.
- Coffee. This may be our favorite. Australian researchers looked at 18 studies of nearly 458,000 people. They found a 7% drop in the odds of having type 2 diabetes for every additional cup of coffee drunk daily. Yay! Coffee also has a very strong antioxidant capacity. Coffee has been linked to lower risks for heart rhythm disturbances (another heart attack and stroke risk factor) in men and women, linked to lower risk for strokes in women and also a lower incidence of liver cancer and cirrhosis of the liver. The caffeine can also increase your adrenalin so (like red wine and butter), moderation is a good idea.
- Chocolate. The scientific community has been up and down on this one, although it has been pretty consistent that milk chocolate isn’t great for you and dark chocolate is good for you. In 2011, a meta-study from Cambridge found that chocolate probably lowers stroke rates, coronary heart disease and high blood pressure. As with red wine, butter and coffee, moderation is key.
SCIENCE SAYS AVOID THESE FOODS
With every food or beverage that gets on the “good” list, a few get put on the “naughty” list. Here is the current wisdom.
- High fructose corn syrup. This is at the top of the list for a reason. Refined sugar has a lot of calories but NO essential nutrients. Data (science) links sugar to diseases that are killing people by the millions: obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Make sure you are reading your labels so you can stay away from this bad boy.
- Seed and vegetable oils. Soybean and corn oil are extremely unnatural for the human body to digest. They contain an abundance of Omega-6 fatty acids, and eating too much Omega-6 and too little Omega-3 can lead to inflammation, a leading cause of many modern health problems including systemic inflammation, cardiovascular disease and even cancer
- Margarine. Many people use margarine instead of butter. This is not always a good idea. Butter is made from animal fat, so it contains more saturated fat. Margarine often contains trans fats, especially hard stick margarine. According to the American Heart Association the best choice is soft, trans-fat-free spreads. Choose a blend with the least amount of saturated fat and zero trans-fat. If it says it has partially hydrogenated oil, that is code for trans-fat.
- Rice crackers. This staple of dieters is considered carb dense, which means it has a high ratio of carb grams relative to their weight. Carbohydrate dense foods can alter the balance of your gut flora and trigger inflammation. A plain rice cake weighs only nine grams but 80% of it is carbohydrate. Choose a small baked potato instead (23% carbs).
- Couscous. It looks healthy – but it is really just tiny balls of white pasta. Chose quinoa instead.
- Banana chips. A real banana has fiber, potassium, vitamin C and about 105 calories. One ounce of banana chips (not very filling) has about 150 calories.
- Bottle tea. Certain popular brands of tea sold in stores contain almost no ECGC (the antioxidant linked to cancer prevention and weight loss). If you are drinking tea to lower your risk of cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis and other degenerative conditions, brew your own.
One more thing about chocolate: In 2012 a study found that regular chocolate eaters are, improbably, thinner, and that chocolate makes snails smarter. If dark chocolate can make snails smarter – why not you?