5 'Bad' Foods That Are Actually Good for You

CC BY 2.0. Flavio Ensiki

These unjustly maligned foods are making a comeback, hopefully to your kitchen.

Dietary advice is notoriously fickle. It is constantly evolving, sometimes based more on fads than actual research, and it has an unfortunate tendency to slot foods into 'good' and 'bad' categories. Many foods, however, are not so black and white. They can be part of a well-rounded diet when eaten in moderation. The following foods may have bad reputations in your eyes, but deserve reconsideration for some good reasons.

1. White potatoes

Long seen as a starchy food with little nutritional value, white potatoes are actually quite healthy. Russet potatoes have the highest glycemic index, while red and new potatoes have moderate scores. And when cooked potatoes are eaten cold, their GI index plummets even further; in this form they have lots of resistant starch, which is good for your gut.

"One medium baked russet potato, with skin, supplies twice as much potassium as a banana (952 mg, one-fifth of a day’s worth), along with fibre (4 g), protein (4.5 g), vitamin C, B vitamins, calcium and magnesium. All that for only 164 calories." (via Globe and Mail)

2. Eggs

You can say goodbye to insipid egg-white omelettes; yolks are now where it's at. Eggs have traditionally been criticized for being high in cholesterol, but the yolks are actually packed with nutrients:

"Choline (the nutrient in egg yolk) is a belly-fat fighter that promotes cell activity, liver function, and the transportation of nutrients throughout the body." (via Eat This, Not That)

From an ethical standpoint, eggs are a great source of protein that does not require the death of an animal, so long as they're taken from hens that are cared for properly and allowed a normal, free-range life. Keep your own (I do!) if you're doubtful.

3. Pasta

You might be scratching your head at this one, but even white pasta can be part of a healthy diet. Dietitian Leslie Beck told the Globe and Mail that, "Surprisingly, white pasta made from semolina flour scores low on the glycemic index scale" and "a meal of pasta with marinara sauce is an exceptional source of lycopene, an antioxidant believed to guard against heart disease and certain cancers."

Of course, this doesn't mean you should start eating it twice daily as I once did while living in Italy years ago (and gained 30 lbs in the process), but if eaten in moderation alongside sources of protein and lots of vegetables, it doesn't hurt. I'd also add that it's a great way to eat vegetarian and to get homemade food on the table fast.

4. Nuts

Nuts used to be condemned for their high levels of saturated fat, but now a number of dietitians and researchers have changed their stance on saturated fat, saying there's insufficient evidence to conclude that it's linked to heart disease. Plus, it is silly to eliminate an entire food category when it has so much else to offer. New York-based nutritionist Lisa Mosokvitz wrote:

"While nuts and seeds do contain some saturated fats, they're also chock full of nutrients from heart-healthy fiber, MUFAS (mono-unsaturated fats), omega-3s, bone-building magnesium, calcium and energizing iron."

5. Chocolate

This happy pronouncement is based on the fact that dark chocolate (not the super-processed, sugar-loaded bars next to the cash) is rich in flavonoids, which are stress-reducing, fat-blasting antioxidants. Additional research has even found that habitual dark chocolate intake is related to improved cognitive performance; in other words, it makes you smarter. For best results, stick to dark chocolate that's at least 74% cocoa.