Bad rep foods that are actually great for you

By Soha Mahmoud, for MDLinx
Published December 11, 2018

Key Takeaways

The average American aged 15 years or older spends approximately 67 minutes a day engaged in the primary tasks of eating or drinking, according to the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Cancer Institute. Secondary eating and drinking—or eating while performing another task—constitute an additional 23.5 to 63.5 minutes.

Poor nutrition and poor health have always had a longstanding relationship. Poor nutrition can lead to many health complications, including obesity, tooth decay, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, type-2 diabetes, osteoporosis, eating disorders, depression, and the list goes on.

So, while an average of an hour a day spent on eating may seem short, it can have a significant impact on health and well-being. We need to make that 1 hour of eating each day really count, and include as many nutrient-rich foods as possible.

One way to do this is to incorporate some of these unexpectedly nutritious foods into your diet, some of which have gotten a bad reputation:


Sardines may not have made it onto anyone's cravings list, but they do offer a tremendous benefit in promoting heart health. They offer one of the most concentrated sources of omega-3 fatty acids, EPA, and DHA, which have been shown to reduce triglyceride and cholesterol levels. One serving of sardines provides greater than 50% of the daily requirement of these fatty acids. Vitamin B12 deficiency, which can cause hypoproliferative disorders such as megaloblastic anemia, can be prevented by eating sardines because they are a tremendous source of vitamin B12. In fact, sardines rank as one of the World's Healthiest Food in regards to vitamin B12 content.


Its anti-vampire and anti-date night powers aside, garlic possesses tremendous health benefits. It is rumored that builders of the ancient Egyptian pyramids consumed garlic daily to enhance their strength and endurance. The sulphur-containing compounds found in garlic, such as allicin, have anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-oxidant properties. In addition, the germanium found in garlic is an anti-cancer agent. Garlic possesses more germanium than any other herb. Garlic also regulates blood pressure, defends against allergies, and expels parasites from the body. It is rich in vitamins A, B, B2, C, calcium and zinc. In fact, in a 12-week, double blind, placebo-controlled study, administration of allicin powder derived from garlic was found to reduce the incidence of the common cold by 50%.


Unfortunately, movie-theater popcorn loaded with butter and salt doesn't make the cut. Rather, its more prim-and-proper cousin, air-popped, lightly salted popcorn, does. In a study performed by researchers at the University of Scranton and presented at the meeting of the American Chemical Society, popcorn was found to contain more antioxidant polyphenols than fruits and vegetables. In addition, researchers pointed out that popcorn is the only snack that is truly 100% unprocessed whole grain, providing over 70% of the daily intake of whole grain with minimal calories, if cooked correctly.


Avocados are always invited to the party and rightfully so—they are both delicious and nutritious and contain more potassium than bananas. Avocados are also rich in fiber. They often get a bad reputation for being a fatty food, but the fat they contain is a monounsaturated fat (oleic acid) linked to reducing LDL and minimizing risk for heart disease and stroke when consumed in moderation.

Dates (not the kind that pay for your dinner)

The fruit of the date palm was awarded the title of "possible fruit of the future," and for good reason. The elemental fluorine found in dates protects against tooth decay. In addition, dates contain selenium, another anti-cancer agent. Dates sometimes get a bad rep for being too high in sugar, but their high fiber content actually helps regulate blood sugar. Studies on diabetic patients have indicated that dates are a low glycemic index food source. Moreover, the protein found in dates contains 23 different amino acids, some of which are missing in popular fruits like apples and bananas.


People may avoid pomegranates because of the tedious process involved in removing the seeds from the fruit. But, this fruit's nutrition profile makes it well worth the effort. They're super rich in antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fiber. The antioxidants found in pomegranates help reduce the risk of oxidation-associated diseases, including cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative disorders. In addition, these antioxidants also help remove free radicals, which prevents cellular damage and reduces inflammation.


Seaweed is certainly packed with nutrients. Seaweed, especially red seaweed, offers 50 g of protein per 3.5 ounces, and is rich in vitamins A, C, D, E, and B. It also contains a significant amount of vitamin K, which is important in coagulation.


Liver is high in bioavailable nutrients, which are ready-to-use and easily absorbed by the body. In general, organ meats offer much more valuable nutrition than muscle meats, although they have fallen out of favor with the general masses. Liver is rich in vitamin A, iron, copper, and B vitamins. The iron in liver helps in brain function and hemoglobin formation, both of which are essential for energy production. The copper in liver helps produce collagen and supports bone, joint, hair, skin, and nail health.

Goji berries

You may not have known this, but goji berries are classified as a superfood, which essentially means that they offer limitless benefits. Aside from being a complete protein source, one of the most interesting benefits is their contribution to longevity. Goji berries are high in sesquiterpenoids, which possess anti-inflammatory properties. These also stimulate the pituitary and pineal glands and increase production of human growth hormone (HGH), a master hormone that affects all other hormone levels. As we age, we produce less and less HGH, which is necessary for longevity. Goji berries are a confirmed secretagogue, or a compound that stimulates HGH.


Maca is a root vegetable that belongs to the outcast family of unloved cruciferous vegetables that includes broccoli, turnips, radishes, and cabbage. But, like kale, maca is classified as a superfood and is considered an adaptogen or a compound that has the ability to balance and stabilize the glandular-hormonal system, nervous system, cardiovascular system, and musculature. It is known to improve anemia, infertility, lack of libido, menstrual discomfort, symptoms of menopause, and poor memory.

So, during the 67 minutes or so you spend eating each day, consider incorporating one or more of these 10 foods. They may not be the most popular, but, they are truly good for you.

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