5 Foods You Thought Were Unhealthy But Are Actually Good for You (Says, Dietitian)

Are you ready to have your taste buds and health beliefs challenged? 

Below, I’m debunking the myths surrounding five seemingly unhealthy foods that are actually great for your body! 

I consulted two dietitians, Anastasia Gialouris and Jessie Hulsey, and I’m here to provide you with the latest research, so you can make informed choices about the foods you enjoy. 

Get ready to toss aside those outdated misconceptions and embrace a delicious, nutritious, and unexpected journey to better health.

1. Whole Milk

Whole Milk

Whole milk is often considered unhealthy due to its high-fat content, specifically saturated fat. 

Saturated fat has been linked to increased levels of LDL cholesterol (known as “bad” cholesterol), which in turn has been associated with a higher risk of heart disease. 

People often choose skim or low-fat milk to avoid these potential risks.

What Makes It Healthy? 

While whole milk does contain saturated fat, recent research has shown that not all saturated fats are created equal, and the saturated fat found in dairy products may not be as harmful as once thought. 

In fact, moderate consumption of dairy fat has been linked to a reduced risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. One study found that people who consumed full-fat dairy products had a 46% lower risk of developing diabetes compared to those who consumed low-fat dairy products.

In addition to its fat content, whole milk is a great source of essential nutrients, such as calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D, which are crucial for maintaining healthy bones and teeth

The fat in whole milk helps in the absorption of these fat-soluble nutrients. Fat molecules help transport these nutrients across the intestinal wall, making them more available for your body to use.

Moreover, whole milk contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has been associated with various health benefits. CLA has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, which could help support immune function. 

Additionally, some studies have suggested that CLA may help reduce body fat by increasing the rate at which your body burns calories, though more research is needed to confirm these findings.

How Much Should You Consume?

Aim for 1-2 servings per day, where a serving is equal to 1 cup (8 ounces) of milk. This should provide you with the necessary nutrients without overdoing it on calories or fat.

Unique Ways To Incorporate It Into Your Diet

  • Enjoy it as a beverage on its own or with your favorite healthy cereal.
  • Use it as a base for smoothies, adding fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious ingredients.
  • Prepare oatmeal, rice pudding, or other grain-based dishes using whole milk for a creamier texture and added nutrients.

2. Butter


Butter has long been considered unhealthy due to its high content of saturated fat, which, as mentioned earlier, has been linked to increased LDL cholesterol levels and a higher risk of heart disease. 

Many people have turned to margarine and other butter substitutes to avoid these risks.

What Makes It Healthy? 

Recent research has challenged the belief that all saturated fats are harmful. The saturated fat in butter, when consumed in moderation, may not be as detrimental to heart health as previously thought. 

One study found no significant association between butter consumption and heart disease or stroke, and even a small inverse association with type 2 diabetes.

Moreover, butter contains important nutrients, such as vitamins A, D, and E, which are essential for various bodily functions, including maintaining healthy skin, vision, and immune function. 

Butter is also a good source of butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that has been linked to numerous health benefits, including reduced inflammation and improved gut health.

How Much Should You Consume?

As with whole milk, moderation is key when it comes to butter consumption. Aim for 1-2 servings per day, where a serving is equal to 1 tablespoon. 

Unique Ways To Incorporate It Into Your Diet

  • Use it as a spread on whole-grain toast or bagels
  • Melt a small amount of butter over steamed or roasted vegetables to enhance their flavor.
  • Sauté vegetables, fish, or lean meats in a small amount of butter for added taste.
  • Stir a small amount of butter into cooked grains, such as rice or quinoa, to add flavor and creaminess.
  • Replace some or all of the oil in salad dressings with melted butter for a richer, more complex flavor.

3. Red Meat

Red Meat

Red meat, which includes beef, lamb, and pork, has been considered unhealthy for a couple of reasons.  Much like the foods prior, saturated fat is the main culprit. 

However, processed red meats, such as sausages, hot dogs, and deli meats, are also high in sodium and preservatives, which can contribute to health issues like high blood pressure and cancer. 

In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified processed meat as a Group 1 carcinogen.

What Makes It Healthy? 

Not all red meats are created equal. Lean cuts of red meat, such as sirloin, tenderloin, or round cuts, are lower in saturated fat and can be part of a healthy diet when consumed in moderation. 

Red meat is an excellent source of high-quality protein, which is essential for muscle growth and repair, as well as other essential nutrients like iron, zinc, and vitamin B12. These nutrients play vital roles in maintaining healthy red blood cells, supporting the immune system, and ensuring proper nerve function.

The iron found in red meat is a specific type of iron called heme iron, which is more easily absorbed by the body compared to non-heme iron found in plant-based sources. As such, consuming red meat can help prevent iron deficiencies, especially in populations at risk, such as women and young children

Studies have found that moderate consumption of unprocessed red meat as part of a balanced diet does not significantly increase the risk of heart disease or type 2 diabetes

How Much Should You Consume?

Focus on consuming lean cuts and limit your intake to 1-2 servings per week, where a serving is equal to 3-4 ounces of cooked meat. 

It’s also essential to avoid processed red meats as much as possible.

Unique Ways To Incorporate It Into Your Diet

  • Prepare a lean beef stir-fry with plenty of colorful vegetables and serve it over brown rice or quinoa.
  • Use ground lean beef, pork, or lamb to make homemade burgers, meatballs, or meatloaf. Be sure to include whole grains and vegetables in the recipe for added nutrition.
  • Replace high-fat ground beef with lean ground beef, pork, or lamb in recipes like tacos, spaghetti sauce, or shepherd’s pie.

4. Popcorn


Popcorn is often thought to be unhealthy because of the way it’s typically prepared and served. 

Movie theater popcorn, for example, is usually loaded with unhealthy fats, artificial flavorings, and excessive amounts of salt. 

Microwave popcorn, another popular variety, often contains unhealthy additives like trans fats and artificial ingredients. 

These factors contribute to the negative perception of popcorn as an unhealthy snack.

What Makes It Healthy? 

In its natural form, popcorn is a whole grain, making it a nutritious snack option. Whole grains, including popcorn, are a great source of dietary fiber, which can help maintain healthy digestion, regulate blood sugar levels, and support heart health. 

A study found that individuals who consumed the most whole grains had a 29% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those who consumed the least.

Popcorn’s high fiber content can also help you feel fuller for longer, which can aid in weight management. 

As Registered Dietitian Jesse Hulsey says: 

“Popcorn is a rich source of fiber, providing a filling snack that can help satisfy hunger cravings”.

A 3-cup serving of air-popped popcorn contains about 3.5 grams of fiber, which contributes to the daily recommended intake of 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men.

Popcorn also contains antioxidants, specifically polyphenols. Polyphenols are plant compounds that help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.  

Free radicals are produced naturally in our body during normal processes, but can also come from external sources like pollution, cigarette smoke, and radiation. When there are too many free radicals in our body, they can cause harm to our cells, which may weaken our immune system and cause chronic diseases

A study found that popcorn has a higher polyphenol content than some fruits and vegetables on a per-serving basis. These polyphenols, in conjunction with popcorn’s fiber content, can contribute to its potential health benefits.

How Much Should You Consume?

Focus on consuming air-popped or homemade popcorn, which is lower in fat and free of unhealthy additives. 

Aim for 3-4 cups of popped popcorn per serving, which provides a good amount of fiber and nutrients without overdoing it on calories. 

Remember to keep your popcorn toppings healthy and moderate in salt and fat to maintain their nutritional benefits.

Unique Ways To Incorporate It Into Your Diet

  • Experiment with different healthy toppings, such as a light drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor, or a dash of your favorite herbs and spices.

5. Egg Yolks

Egg Yolks

Egg yolks have often been considered unhealthy due to their cholesterol content. 

It was previously believed that consuming dietary cholesterol could raise blood cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease. 

As a result, egg yolks have been unfairly labeled as a “bad” food, with many people choosing to eat only egg whites.

As Registered Dietitian Anastasia Gialouris says: 

“It is actually a misconception that the cholesterol in food raises cholesterol levels in our blood”,

What Makes It Healthy? 

Recent research has shown that dietary cholesterol has a relatively small impact on blood cholesterol levels for most people, and the relationship between egg consumption and heart disease risk is more complex than initially thought. In fact, egg yolks are packed with nutrients that contribute to their health benefits.

Egg yolks are a rich source of essential nutrients, including vitamins A, D, E, and K, as well as B vitamins like choline and biotin. 

Choline is particularly important for brain health. A single egg yolk provides about 115 mg of choline, which is roughly 25% of the recommended daily intake for men and 32% for women.

Egg yolks also contain two important antioxidants, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which are beneficial for eye health. These antioxidants help protect the eyes from age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Studies have shown that consuming egg yolks can increase lutein and zeaxanthin levels in the blood, which may help reduce the risk of these eye conditions.

Furthermore, egg yolks are a source of high-quality protein, which is essential for muscle growth and repair, as well as overall health.

How Much Should You Consume?

For most individuals, consuming an average of one whole egg per day can be part of a healthy diet without increasing the risk of heart disease.

However, some people are more sensitive to dietary cholesterol, so it’s essential to monitor your individual response and consult with a healthcare professional if you have concerns about your cholesterol levels or heart health.

Unique Ways To Incorporate It Into Your Diet

  • Prepare a vegetable omelet or frittata with whole eggs for a nutrient-dense breakfast or brunch option.
  • Boil or poach eggs and serve them on a mixed green salad or avocado toast.
  • Make a nutrient-packed smoothie by blending pasteurized liquid egg yolks with your favorite fruits, vegetables, and milk or yogurt.


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About The Author

Avi Silverberg

Avi Silverberg is an author, coach, and the Founder of FeastGood.com. Avi has a Master of Science in Exercise Science and has published over 400 articles on the topics of health, exercise, and nutrition.

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