We all know the health benefits of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and eggs, but many healthy foods often go underreported. Following up from our article – Ten Foods That Have More Sugar Than You Think, here are ten foods that are healthier than you think!
1. 100% Nut Butters
Often given a bad reputation for the sugary, non all-natural types and their usage in desserts, 100% (all natural) nut butters are just about one of the healthiest non-vegetable foods you can eat. The trick is to avoid nut butters that are not 100% nuts, as they incorporate added sugars. With a mix of healthy fats, protein and carbohydrates, all natural nut butters are a perfect breakfast food. They’re also a high calorie food, which is something often needed for those prioritizing their physical health in the form of exercise and physical activity. Importantly, most have 3-4g of protein for a single tablespoon, which is just about as close as you can get without eating meat. As a result, it’s a perfect food for vegetarians and vegans, but also anyone looking to eat a healthy, balanced diet.
Suggestion: Try all natural peanut butter with a banana on a whole-wheat pita. You’ll never look back.
Underrated as a result of being a major component of the popular fast food dish – the burger, beef is much healthier than people give it credit for. It’s no chicken or fish, but beef has loads of health benefits. Probably unsurprisingly, beef has around 25g of protein per 100g, and 6g of monounsaturated fats. But what you might not know is that beef is incredibly high in iron, which is integral for athletes to perform. It’s also high in most B vitamins, particularly B12, which is crucial for helping the body function and preventing fatigue.
Suggestion: Use extra lean ground meat to make meatballs, then add to whole-wheat spaghetti and homemade tomato sauce.
Often given a reputation as a “starchy” product and sworn off by those who avoid carbohydrates, potatoes are the only vegetable to make our list, as they continue to be undervalued. Potatoes contain significant amounts of fiber, potassium and Vitamin C. Further, the “starch” in potatoes is actually one of its best qualities. Potatoes contain what is called a “resistant starch”, which have been shown to reduce excess sugar in the blood. When done right, even French fries can be healthy.
Suggestion: Mix potatoes with garlic, basil, salt and pepper, then add to chicken and fire roasted tomatoes for an amazing wrap combination.
4. Canned Fish
Probably more underrated for their taste than for their health benefits, canned fish products are one of the more under-utilized healthy foods. Other than the high amounts of mercury found in some types like tuna, they’re just as healthy as other preparations of fish…and often go better in salads and wraps. Furthermore, they often don’t include any breading or added ingredients that frozen fish might. All types of fish are loaded with healthy fats, like omega-3, and also have plentitudes of protein, iron, and vitamin D. Just beware of those that add things like mayonnaise to the mix.
Suggestion: Mix canned fish into a salad with leafy green vegetables and tomatoes. Or, mix with beans, chickpeas and rice.
Everyone loves pizza, but everyone assumes that pizza is bad for you. And when purchased at fast food restaurants, it usually is. However, when made at home, using whole-wheat flour and minimizing use of cheese, pizza can have incredible health benefits. Tomato sauce is far from bad for you, especially when low-sugar options are sought after. A whole-wheat crust with healthy toppings like chicken and vegetables, can be amazing for your overall health. Other than the cheese, which spoiler-alert – might make an appearance here, there’s nothing really unhealthy about homemade pizza. When buying from a restaurant, healthier options like “deluxe” or vegetarian can always be found as well.
Suggestion: Check out our whole-wheat pizza crust recipe. As for the toppings, include tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, chicken, goat cheese or skim-mozzarella for the low-fat content.
Sweetened applesauce is just as unhealthy as a dessert, but unsweetened applesauce is just as healthy as the fruit itself, and often more convenient. Like most fruits, apples contain antioxidants, and soluble fibers, which are crucial for lowering bad cholesterol levels and improving heart health. The trick for applesauce is to find ones that incorporate only apples (or other fruits mixed in). Obviously no added sugar, but also avoid those that incorporate juice and flavouring due to the extra sugars involved.
Suggestion: Make whole-wheat applesauce pancakes with banana and blueberries.
Coffee is by no means perfect, and, as we all know, contains high levels of caffeine. But as a result of its popularity and fast food appeal, coffee is given a bad reputation that it does not necessarily deserve. From the countless amount of studies conducted on coffee, we know that the drink can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, liver and heart complications, and mental health diseases as you age like Parkinson’s disease. On top of that, it’s a proven energy booster, helping you avoid unnecessary snacks like energy bars or energy drinks.
Suggestion: Skip the sugar and cream, and enjoy a cup of black coffee instead.
While tea doesn’t have quite as bad of a reputation as coffee, many lump it into that same sort of unhealthy, fast food-esque type of wrong opinion. Green tea is one of the healthiest drinks on the planet. It’s basically water, with antioxidants (and delicious flavours) mixed in. What’s not to love? What’s more is that tea works to improve brain functioning, while simultaneously reducing risks of cancers, heart diseases and bone loss. It’s also often used correctly as an immune booster for those feeling under the weather, and some studies point to it being even better for rehydration than water.
Suggestion: Find decaffeinated green tea with lemon in the grocery store.
I’ve often been one to be against cheese, particularly because of its trans-fat. But many cheeses can be found that do not have any trans fat at all. Also, certain types like swiss, goat cheese or skim-versions of various cheeses have low fat content in general. Like some others on this list, cheese needs to be rationed and portioned more delicately to take full advantage of the health benefits. But when kept to a minimum, cheese is a great source of calcium, protein and Vitamin A. For athletes looking to replenish their salt without eating salty snacks or energy drinks, cheese is also one of the safer options.
Suggestion: Add goat cheese to a salad for extra flavour, or a bean burrito with avocado and lettuce.
White bread is often thought of to be the enemy, but there are far worse things you can put in your body. Although whole-wheat products or freshly baked breads with no preservatives should always be preferred, all breads have health benefits. Bread incorporates the obvious nutrients and minerals that all grains do (carbohydrates and vitamin B’s). But it can also have surprising levels of iron, protein, calcium and fiber. Obviously there are individual foods that can be found higher in each category, but very few foods tick as many boxes. Just like we mentioned for cheese, bread also contains good salt content without going overboard, so it can be another great option for replenishing salt in favour of energy drinks and salty snacks.
Suggestion: Make a grilled chicken, tomato and avocado sandwich, using olive oil rather than butter on the pan.
So there it is! Ten foods that are healthier than you think. Be sure to share your thoughts on other understatedly healthy foods that we missed in the comments below or on Twitter @desmondrhys. Thanks for reading and see you soon!