Fact Checked by

Ysabel Montemayor, RD

Surprising Food Myths

There is a lot of misleading information out there regarding certain foods. These foods have more health benefits than you may have realized.
Food myths: healthy vs unhealthy foods


Everything you thought about these foods may well be wrong. Here are the facts on some foods that are often misrepresented.

Every day, we get new research data regarding nutrition.

Sometimes the latest data conflicts with what we thing we know about a particular food.

In this article, we’ll take a look at foods that are more beneficial that you might have realized. 

Many people think these four foods are unhealthy. However, they have key health benefits. 

Unhealthy foods that are good for you

1. White potatoes

Ever since the Atkins Diet, the humble potato has taken a beating in the health world. Like other carbs, it has been vilified as the culprit in the American obesity, diabetes, and heart disease epidemics. Yet, white potatoes, like other starchy foods such as sweet potatoes, rice, and corn, contain dietary fiber, more potassium than bananas, and importantly, a low amount of fat.

Recent evidence shows that much of the link between potatoes and obesity is owed to the fact that chips and fries, the dominant ways in which potatoes as consumed, are covered in vegetable oil. In fact, the more whole unprocessed starch foods you eat, the fuller you will be, and your body will convert the glucose in carbohydrates into energy. So steer clear of added oils, and instead bake (without oil) or steam your spuds for a delicious, nutritious meal.

Better, yet, combine white potatoes with their cousin, the mighty sweet potato, which adds even more nutritional punch. Just be sure to add other vegetables too for nutritional variety. Also buy organic potatoes whenever you can, since spuds are often the most pesticide-laden products you can buy.

2. Wheat

Despite books such as Wheat Belly wheat is likely beneficial for most people, boosting immune function and improving your triglyceride levels. While it’s true that processing wheat into white bread robs it of its nutrients (and leads to potential prostate cancer risk and decreased cognitive function) and spikes insulin levels, true unrefined whole grains are associated with lower risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

With regard to gluten, the protein found in wheat, only a few people have true sensitivity and should avoid wheat. These include those with Celiac disease and others who have a gluten sensitivity. Before assuming you do, however, be sure to rule out other causes such as dairy, oils, and reactions to other additives in commercial bread rather than gluten itself.

Buy breads made from real yeast starters and containing as few ingredients as possible, ideally two: flour and water, and also ideally organic given the pesticides used to grow wheat today.

3. Soy

Soy has gotten a bad rap in the last few years over fears that it contains estrogens that are particularly harmful to men. Much of the conflicting advice about soy is due to how it is studied, with variations in type of study, type of population (e.g. ethnicity, hormone levels), and type of soy. Once again, it is best to buy organic to avoid GMO soy just in case (the jury is still out on GMOs).

As the Harvard Chan School of Public Health concludes: “Results of recent population studies suggest that soy has either a beneficial or neutral effect on various health conditions. Soy is a nutrient-dense source of protein that can safely be consumed several times a week, and is likely to provide health benefits — especially when eaten as an alternative to red and processed meat.”

4. Beans

Some of those in the Paleo and Ketogenic community are concerned about consuming beans due to their phytate content. This is in contrast to evidence from the longest-living populations around the world in the Blue Zones, who all consume large amounts and variations of pulses.

Phytate, or phytic acid, is a naturally occurring compound in food such as beans, grains, nuts, and seeds, and while in the past there were concerns that these compounds may reduce the absorption of minerals, in fact recent evidence finds that this is only the case with diets otherwise poor in nutrition.

In fact, legumes lower cholesterol and promote health in conditions ranging from cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Not only that, but they also provide a healthy source of plant protein.

So cut back on the unhealthy foods listed above, and instead load up on these health-promoting plant foods that have been wrongfully vilified in the nutrition world.

Nutritional advice is confusing as it is, but especially so when it keeps changing on what appears to be a whim. However, no matter your thoughts about healthy eating, the best rule of thumb is to eat as many whole, unprocessed plant foods as possible, and to exercise caution with the latest nutrition trend.

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