Former Food Villains Get 2nd Chance


Maybe you think food experts flip flop as often as politicians seem to. Eggs are bad then they are okay. Drink eight glasses of water each day, the never mind that advice.

New discoveries about the composition of foods often cause these changes in nutrition advice. In Woody Allen's movie Sleeper, he wakes up in the future to discover that junk food is actually good for you. That’s not likely, but some once-demonized foods turn out to be better for us than we once thought.

Here are some former foods “villains” that researchers now say should be given a second chance.


The old rap: Cheese can be high in calories and fat, especially saturated fat.

New thinking: Cheese is a good source of calcium and protein. Newer studies indicate that cheese contains conjugated linoleic acid or CLA, a “good” fat that may help reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

Best way to enjoy: Many tasty reduced fat cheeses are availableTry strong-flavored cheeses that require only a small amount for satisfaction.

White Grains – Bread, Rice, Pasta

The old rap: They were seen as lackng nutrients compared to their whole-grain cousins.

New thinking: White grains are not empty calories; they are enriched with several essential nutrients that many of us lack, including folic acid, iron and B-vitamins. Studies also show that consuming white rice can be linked to overall healthier eating patterns, including increased vegetable consumption. Half our grains should be whole, but the other half can be white.

Best way to enjoy: Eat plenty of fiber from fruits, veggies, and beans. A whole grain white bread is now available. Introduce whole grain breads gradually. Combine brown rice with white rice and add to soups, casseroles, chili. Mix whole grain pasta with white.

Red Meat

The old rap: It became almost fashionable to say you avoid red meat because, depending on the cut (like a well-marbled steak), it can be a source of saturated fat.

New thinking: Beef is an excellent source of protein and vitamin B-12, and is one of the richest suppliers of three important minerals: iron, zinc and selenium. Portion size and cut of beef are what you need to keep in mind. Many lean cuts have less fat than a skinless chicken thigh.

Best way to enjoy: Choose the leanest cuts with “loin” or “round” in the name, such as tenderloin, sirloin or top round. Aim for a portion about the size of deck of cards or combine it with vegetables in stir-fries and kebabs.

Sweeteners — high fructose corn syrup (HFC) and aspartame

The old rap

: High fructose corn syrup is frequently mentioned in the media as a major culprit in the increased incidence of obesity among Americans. Many of the claims against high fructose corn syrup have suggested that this corn sweetener is metabolized differently than sucrose (table sugar). Negative allegations that aspartame may be associated with numerous ailments are not based on science. Unfortunately, urban myths about aspartame continue circulate over the Internet.

New thinking: Most scientific experts now agree that HFC and sucrose produce similar effects on humans. Aspartame's safety has been documented in more than 200 objective scientific studies and confirmed by the regulatory authorities in more than 100 countries.

Best way to enjoy: The American Dietetic Association (ADA) says that adults and children “can safely enjoy a range of nutritive and nonnutritive sweeteners when consumed in a diet that is guided by current nutrition recommendations as well as individual health goals."

Frozen and Canned Fruits and Vegetables

The old rap: With the emphasis on locally-grown fresh produce, frozen and canned items have been pushed aside.

New thinking: Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are picked and processed at their peak of freshness so nutrients are not lost. Studies have shown that the nutrient level is comparable to fresh produce. Plus, it’s hard to beat the convenience of having these foods stashed in your freezer or pantry.

Best way to enjoy: Buy varieties without added syrup or sauces. Give canned veggies a quick rinse to reduce the sodium content and rinse fruits to wash away added sugar.

Althea Zanecosky is a Philadelphia registered dietitian and national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.


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