It can often feel like you can’t pick up a newspaper or switch on daytime TV without being informed of another food that is bad for you. Since around the turn of the century, there have been multiple developments in recommended diets, with articles telling us that the key to living longer and more healthily is to go gluten-free, or to switch to a keto diet, or to bin dairy foods. All of these pieces of advice suffer from the same shortcoming, which is that eating healthily is too complicated to be summed up in a few sentences – what’s good for one person may not be so great for another.
However, we’re all more or less aware of the things we’re really not supposed to eat, right? The “naughty” foods that are ideally to be cut out entirely, and only included in occasional one-off “treat” days. Surely at least this list is simple enough? No? Well, no. Some of the foods you’re actively warned away from have their health benefits, too, and it’s worth bearing them in mind – particularly if you’re one of the many people who finds certain nutrients hard to come by in their usual diet.
Whether it’s a tortilla wrap or a lettuce leaf that contains your preferred filling, we’re all supposed to have given bread a swerve in recent years because of its carb content. Don’t get us wrong, sliced white bread is still best avoided, but that doesn’t mean that handy, tasty bread can’t be enjoyed in line with a healthy diet. You should be aiming for whole grain bread, for sure, but options like sourdough are replete with healthy nutrients that are otherwise hard to come by – and they’re increasingly easy to find in supermarkets these days.
Its fat content has been cited as a major reason why so many people are switching to skimmed milk or swearing off all dairy options in favour of nut milks or soy options. However, whole milk contains fat-soluble vitamins that aren’t found in other forms, and studies are increasingly showing that it doesn’t lead to weight gain as much as low-fat forms. If you know how to make a milkshake the old fashioned way, the benefits can be even greater, as you can add healthy ice cream and fresh fruit. Of course, you don’t want to be drinking pints of the stuff, but if you find alternative options uninspiring, whole milk may well be just fine.
Caffeine has been blamed for insomnia in people who drink too much of it, and let’s be very clear about its supposed energy “boost”: it is simply borrowed energy you’ll need to replenish by other means. However, if you stop drinking coffee early in the afternoon, the caffeine impact on your sleep is negligible at most – and you shouldn’t be drinking it for energy anyway – it’s a short-term stimulant and does that job well. But more so than that, coffee can reduce absorption of glucose in the body, preventing people with pre-diabetic factors from developing full diabetes. A couple of cups a day can also boost your metabolism.