9 “Killer” Foods That Are Actually (VERY) Healthy

After spending the last four years digesting anything on nutrition, biochemistry, physiology, and health, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the government, the mass media, and countless other dietitians, gyms, and coaches STILL propagate nutrition and health LIES … ahem, recommendations… that are huge contributors to the rise of obesity and disease in our modern societies.

No, no one forces you to overeat or make bad decisions. It’s definitely a personal decision, thank you Fat Head, but when lots of people truly want to make healthy choices about nutrition and follow what they hear – low fat foods, low calorie, high fiber, low fat, as-little-saturated-fat-as-possible, no cholesterol, lots of carbohydrates, Meatless Mondays, etc. – we get into the mess of disease and obesity that result in the same people telling us we must “move more” and eat less” to lose weight and get healthy because we obviously aren’t doing enough by following their stringent dietary recommendations.

So let’s do a Myth-Buster Monday for everyone out there who has ever thought some of their favorite foods were “artery-cloggers”, for all the beautiful people with Crohn’s Disease who believe the foods that actually make them feel better are the “worst foods” for them nutritionally, and for all the people whose diet and weight loss efforts continually fail to give them a real return on their HUGE investments of time, energy, and misery. This top 9 list is for you! I pray that it gives you peace instead of anxiety and guilt. 🙂

Drum roll, please…. It is with great pleasure that I present to you,

9 “Killer” Foods That Are Actually Healthy!

9. Mayonnaise

Everyone has heard that mayonnaise is an artery-clogger. What with those cholesterol-raising eggs (*gasp!*) and high fat oils, mayo is definitely THE heart-attack-in-a-jar. A great analogy if only that were true

The truth is that mayonnaise can actually be very healthy! BUT it all boils down to the quality of ingredients (remember that phrase). What’s most unfortunate is the fact that the government’s recommendations are the very thing that makes most store-bought mayonnaise unhealthy.

No major heart studies to date – including the most-famous Framingham Heart Study – have proven that high cholesterol causes heart disease. In fact, instead of demonizing the animal fats, further studies have shown the protective benefits of cholesterol from eggs and friends AS OPPOSED to deadly effects of the vegetable oils used in mayonnaise production, especially soybean oil, canola oil, and other vegetable oil blends. Read this very informative essay for more info.

The truth is that vegetable oils are not only highly processed, many deodorized, and chemically altered, but they are outrageously high in inflammatory omega-6 polyunsaturated fats. BECAUSE of their nature they are also HIGHLY UNSTABLE, meaning they can oxidize (free radicals, anyone?) in the presence of heat or even light. But mayo doesn’t have to be this way!

Some of the health benefits of (high quality) mayonnaise include:

  • The amino acid tryptophan that helps regulate appetite, mood, and sleep.
  • Enhanced immune system
  • Increased bone health
  • Improved cell membrane integrity
  • Antioxidants
  • Improved serotonin usage
  • Sex hormone production

How to enjoy healthy tasty mayo? Making your own mayonnaise takes all of 5 minutes from start to finish. It’s not difficult, hard to mess up and results in delicious goodness you can feel good about! Some use olive oil only (video demo) while others use olive oil and coconut oil.

A store-bought option is:

I was looking for others, but this seems to be the ONLY mayo I could find without soybean oil. A lesson in labeling: Don’t fall for the cover. A label may read “Mayonnaise with olive oil” or even “Olive Oil Mayonnaise” but then contain soybean oil as a main ingredient! Always read the ingredients label!

8. Chocolate

I know, I know. This one isn’t much of a surprise seeing how the media has honed in on the antioxidant properties, blood pressure lowering effects of dark chocolate recently, but chocolate being healthy is definitely worth repeating. 

The darkness of the chocolate, or the absence of the sugar, is what increases the health benefits. Buy dark chocolate that is at least 70% cocoa and higher as you adapt. I personally enjoy Lindt’s 90% bars (Lindt Excellence Supreme Dark Chocolate 90% Cocoa, 3.5-Ounce Packages (Pack of 12)) as the cheapest bar containing no soy lecithin, which I personally strive to avoid.

To ensure chocolate IS healthy for you, look at the ingredients label. A high quality chocolate will ONLY contain cocoa, cocoa butter, and a bit of sugar. Anything in excess of these few ingredients probably does more harm than good.

7. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil may be on of the healthiest foods on the planet. Although the tides are turning, several well-meaning physicians and heart specialists still charge their patients with the strict instructions to “Avoid coconut oil!” because of the high concentration of saturated fat. But this charge is not only flawed, but downright incorrect. Coconut has been consumed as a primary food source for ages without resulting in heart disease or any disease for that matter.

Coconut oil consists of medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) that are easily digestible, do not require special lipoproteins or enzymes to be utilized in the body, and are the body’s preferred energy source. Instead of being stored as fat (like long chain fatty acids from vegetable oils), the liver immediately converts MCFAs into energy! Hello fat burning!

Coconut oil also contains lauric acid, the same MCFA fatty acid found in breast milk that boosts immunity! What I haven’t yet told you is that lauric acid is a saturated fat. But I thought saturated fats were bad?! Deadly?! Horrible?! Nope. Even mainstream folks realize the important benefits of lauric acid and call it a “neutral” saturated fat.

Coconut oil may also be used on skin, hair, and nails. Many elevate coconut oil to an almost “holy” status because of its multiple uses both topically and orally to treat, prevent, and cure all sorts of disease, from acne to AIDS (supposedly. I haven’t researched the AIDS claim, but it is a claim nonetheless).

What’s great about coconut oil is that it can be used to fry foods safely and effectively without the risk of damaging the oils in high heat. This makes coconut oil an ideal frying oil for meats, veggies, plantains, potatoes, and other goodies! People also use coconut oil to bake with, make smoothies, add to coffee, or simply eat alone!

QUALITY DOES COUNT so make sure you purchase an organic NON-HYDROGENATED coconut oil. See the below list for some of my favorites.

Buying in bulk is ALWAYS the way to go. My 1 gallon lasted over a year, but it all depends on how much you use.

6. Heavy Whipping Cream

Who has ever thought what a shame it is that homemade whipped cream is such a sinful, bad for you, gonna-eat-it-anyway food? Unfortunately, heavy whipping cream has been demonized for its high fat content, pushing the food industry to create low fat alternatives instead. Yes, heavy whipping cream contains mostly saturated fat and some cholesterol, but if you read this post (with research references) from #10 and this handy essay  then you already know that saturated fat and cholesterol are not the villains that the mainstream claims.

Heavy whipping cream is really very nutritious! In fact, heavy whipping cream is a FAR SUPERIOR coffee creamer to half-and-half and other cream blends. It contains close to nil lactose for those who are intolerant and provides a dense source of energy for those on-the-go. Try heavy whipping cream in your coffee in place of the sugar for a creamy, tasty, leave-you-wanting-for-more coffee delight!

Quality heavy whipping cream is a source of vitamin A, potassium, and calcium. Again, quality always counts! It is best to avoid ultra-pasteurized cream because of the damage it causes to the protein and mono- and poly-unsaturated fats through the high temperature heating process.

Below is a list of best to worst sources of heavy whipping cream:

  • Raw, unpasteurized cream from grassfed cows
  • Low-temp pasteurized cream
  • Organic cream
  • Store bought cream
  • Ultra-pasteurized

5. Whole Milk

Whole milk is the devil! Aaahhhhhhh! It makes you fat and your school-aged children fat, so EVERYONE needs to switch to skim milk NOW. The campaign against whole milk has been picking up speed lately, especially in schools. I know this because I worked as the Coordinated School Health Director in my hometown school system for the last year and a half and whole milk is being blamed for our epidemic of fat kids. It’s even a national government agenda.

But even my mom said she noticed a huge difference in how often we four kids got sick when she switched to low-fat milk in an effort to keep us “healthy”. You see, everyone said that low-fat milk was healthier than whole milk. Yet, again, the vilification of whole milk all began with the lipid hypothesis of dietary fat (esp. saturated fat) causing heart disease. Then came the hypothesis that eating fat makes you fat because fat provides more calories per gram than protein or carbohydrates. Although neither of these hypothesi-e(?) have ever been proven, the recommendation stuck.

Even in the Paleo camp that I began my real food journey in, many harp against dairy because of its relatively new addition into the human diet, its increased insulinogenic properties (e.g., it causes a disproportionately large insulin response in relation to the amount of carbohydrates), and its widely prevalent intolerance across civilization.

But I’m not against something JUST BECAUSE “the diet book said so”. I prefer researching, information-gathering, self-experimentation, and making my own decision. And what I’ve found is that dairy is a truly individual thing. And, yet again, it is the QUALITY OF THE MILK, not the milk itself that is beneficial or harmful.

If you drink milk at all, whole milk is by far, hands down, no questions asked, THE BEST OPTION. Period. All of those awesome vitamins found in milk – Vitamin A & Vitamin D* (*in fortified milk) especially – are useless without the FAT to allow your intestines to absorb them! These fat soluble vitamins depend on the fat.

Grassfed raw milk is also an amazing source of conjugated linoleic acid and omega-3 fatty acids. Cows fed a large percentage of grains cannot claim the same. Raw milk is not only safe, but it was recently deemed much safer than factory dairies by the USDA. The pasteurization process KILLs the beneficial enzymes in milk, the enzymes that help you digest the lactose, AND damages the proteins. Plus the homogenization process is responsible for turning healthy fats into trans fats! Check out this article for more info on milk.

Below is the list of milk options from best to worst. Choose a healthy option for yourself and your family today!

  • Grassfed Raw Milk – depending on your state, raw milk is available for sale in stores, in “cow shares”, and as “Pet’s Milk”. These labeling laws are per USDA stipulations and state regulations. Check out this site to find real milk in your area.
  • Raw Milk – check with local farmers, Amish families, etc. to purchase
  • Low-Temp Pasteurized/NON-homogenized whole milk
  • Cream diluted with water
  • Organic whole milk
  • Ultra-pasteurized (Avoid this altogether)

4. Potatoes

Potatoes have been on the “NO-List” for years, beginning with Banting and most recently with the Atkin’s Diet, Paleo Diet, and Sugar Busters, for example. But is it that simple? And is all sugar just sugar? Perhaps not…

Depending on how much fat you have to lose, how disregulated your metabolism is, and how systemically inflamed you are, potatoes could be a hindrance OR a useful, cheap, nutritious addition to your diet. Several researchers and bloggers in the real food, Paleo-sphere are rescinding their dislike of whole food starches like potatoes because they do not seem to produce any harmful effects, provide quality nutrition, and are well-tolerated by most people. They are even termed “safe starches“. In fact, these “safe starches” help our guts out tremendously by promoting healthy microflora production in the intestines. Check out these articles here and here for more info.

The inflammatory, damage-causing antinutrients in potatoes are found in the skin, which is easily removed and discarded.

Potatoes are a great source of ‘safe starch’, potassium, vitamin C, and manganese. They are quite delicious cooked in coconut oil, topped with ghee or butter, and a touch of salt. Sweet potatoes provide carotenoids in addition to the above nutrients.

So, feel free to enjoy potatoes, especially homemade potato chips (fried in bacon grease, coconut oil, ghee, or tallow)! If you have an autoimmune disease, you may want to avoid potatoes, or at least peel and cook them thoroughly. If you have a significant amount of fat to lose, I would avoid potatoes on a daily basis until you reach your desired body fat percentage.

 

3. Butter

Noticing a trend by any chance? Butter is another product long-demonized by the low-fat, no-animal product crowd BECAUSE OF the lipid hypothesis (See #10 for relevant articles on this). Butter contains saturated fat and cholesterol, but as we have already covered in length, these nutritious foods should not be feared!

Click here for the 7 Reasons to Eat MORE Saturated Fat!

Butter is yet another food in which higher quality butter yields more nutrition. Butter made from cows fed grass exclusively tend to have much higher concentrations of vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamin K, and carotene. In addition, grassfed butter contains conjugated linoleic acid an lots of healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Some of the benefits of high quality butter include:

  • Radiant, glowing skin
  • Improved cellular communication
  • Antioxidant superpowers
  • Preserved and/or improved eyesight
  • Improved ability to fight off viral infections
  • Improved bone health
  • Improved liver functioning
  • Improved blood clotting
  • Reproductive health
  • Improved cognitive functioning
  • Improved immunity
Doesn’t sound like a poison to me! As a rule, ALWAYS choose raw, grassfed butter for improved nutrition, less water content, and better farming practices. Avoid choosing ultra-high temperature pasteurized butter as the high heat damages the quality.
Some of my favorites are:

Improve your health by eating butter! Top potatoes, veggies of all sorts, and eggs with plenty of butter for delicious, nutritious meals and improved usage of those fat-soluble vitamins. For fat loss results, limit the sugars, sodas, refined sugars, and grains you eat with butter and other fats.

 

2. Beef

High quality beef may be one of the healthiest foods on the planet. It’s not only nutrient dense, but one could eat beef ONLY and never experience a nutrient deficiency (Not that I recommend doing that, by the way). That’s pretty awesome. Following the trend in the above foods, beef began to be looked down upon with the advent of the lipid hypothesis and then T.Colin Campbell’s “China Study” that showed some correlations between Chinese populations who ate meat and incidence of heart disease. As both have been discredited (lipid hypothesis – above, China Study here), it is time to reexamine the health benefits of beef without throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

The fact is that we reap the benefits or suffer the consequences of what the cow we eat eats. Cows raised in a feedlot exclusively on grains are known to diminish their stores of omega-3s AND readily increase concentrations of deadly E.coli. See this article for a compare/contrast of feedlot meat vs. grassfed meat.

High quality grass-fed beef contains CLAs, carotenoids, omega-3s, vitamin B-12, and other important and essential nutrients. In other words, that steak is nutritious and “heart-healthy”!

See this website for an awesome resource for All Things Grassfed.

Some resources for grassfed beef include:

  • Local farmers (BEST & cheapest option) – ask them to raise a cow for you per your specifications. Most are happy to do so!
  • US Wellness Meats
  • Trader Joe’s
  • Whole Food’s
  • Some Kroger’s, Costco’s, and other large-chain stores

And the #1 “Killer” Food that is Really Healthy IS>>>

1. Animal Fat

I wonder if there is any association between the drop in animal fat consumption & intake of saturated fat and the rise in heart disease & obesity? Wouldn’t it be interesting if there were research demonstrating the numerous health benefits of animal fats – lard, tallow, lamb lard, schmaltz, duck fat, etc.? Oh, goodie! There is! Check out this article and all of the lovely references for more info.

The fact is that we have been eating animal fats for thousands of years without harmful effects. But all of the sudden, in the past 30 years, they are suddenly unhealthy and our ancestors are stupid for not noticing it sooner? (You may now come back at me with this same argument about grain consumption but I’ll be a step ahead with my answer. More on that in the future!)

BECAUSE animal fats contain mostly saturated fats they are the ideal fats to cook with. Saturated fats are very stable, meaning they do not oxidize into free radicals, unlike oils that are mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats – hello ALL types of vegetable oils (soybean oil, corn oil, olive oil, canola oil, etc.). Vegetable oils contain disproportionate ratios of omega-6 fatty acids, highly inflammatory fatty acids that wreak havoc in the body. Animal fats, however, do not contribute to this omega-6:omega-3 imbalance that most modern populations suffer from. (By the way, simply taking a fish oil supplement DOES NOT combat this.).

Some of the protective benefits of saturated fats include:

  • Enhanced cell wall structure and integrity
  • An optimal & efficient energy source
  • Improved bone health
  • Lowered concentrations of lipoprotein(A), a tell-tale sign of impending/existing heart disease
  • Optimal heart functioning
  • Necessary components for optimal fat metabolism
In addition, high quality animal fats provide Arichodonic Acid, which plays an important role in brain health

Again, QUALITY IS KING when it comes to animal fats. AVOID hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated lard and other animal fats like the plague!

Some great sources for high quality animal fats are:

  • US Wellness Meats – I purchase all of my tallow, lamb lard, and sometimes butter from here.
  • Grassfed steak drippings
  • Leftover bacon drippings (from pasture-raised pork)
  • Prairie Pride – healthy lard source
  • Local farmers – some still make lard in “stands”. Lard, by the way, was the go-to for all things baking before Crisco came on the scene.
Otherwise, experiment! Enjoy! Delight in the wonders of cooking with healthy animal fats! You may be surprised at how filling, satisfying, and effective animal fats are in promoting health, burning fat, clearing your skin, and providing deliciousness to your diet!

I hope you will feel less guilt and more freedom as you add some of these tasty treats to your diet. To reap the most benefits, eat these foods in absence of refined carbohydrates, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, processed foods, breads, pastas, cakes, and all grains.

If you liked this post and thought it was informative and helpful, go ahead and forward it to your friends, share it on Facebook, and tweet it to spread the word that some of the most most thought “unhealthiest” foods are really the “healthiest”! You might also like my free weekly ezine that gives more nutrition tips and inspiration on your journey. Use the form below to sign up for it now.

And if you ever want to go deeper to harness the power of real food in your individual nutrition, consider working with a Nutrition Coach to create a specific plan for your needs and goals. Send an email to info@gerilynburnett.com for more information on the Nutrition Coaching services that I provide.

May you bloom into your full potential, sparkle your light to the world, and be a blessing!

4 Comments

  • Sara J

    Reply Reply January 31, 2012

    Sad day. We are doing a “Biggest Loser” challenge at one of the schools I work at. Obviously I can’t participate since my goal is to gain weight (in muscle mass, preferably). But I offered a “primal” diet challenge to my coworkers that were interested. Even wrote up a 2-page info sheet. And the other morning one of the women who asked for it began apologizing profusely. She couldn’t do it. Thanks for providing information, but she just couldn’t do it. I have a feeling the eating more fat is partially to blame for that. I know a number of the participants are cutting calories to lose weight and it worries me.

    • gerilyn

      Reply Reply January 31, 2012

      I know, right?! And what puts the ‘icing on the cake’ 😉 is that the low-calorie/low-fat NOT ONLY causes retention of fat & less results, but truly keeps leptin, insulin/glucagon disregulated, therefore INSURING further problems. It’s truly a ‘catch-22’ that saddens me as well. Props to you, though. Keep at it! Heretics are eventually recognized for their value, but it’s usually only after they are dead and 400+ years later! 😉

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