Oh no!
It looks like you aren't logged in to the Ethel community. Log in to get the best user experience, save your favorite articles and quotes, and follow our authors.
Don't have an Online Account? Subscribe here

5 ‘Healthy’ Foods: Their Benefits and Misconceptions

The items that may truly benefit your health and even your longevity.

Comment Icon
photo collage of grocery bag with health foods, fish, chocolate, honey, salmon, coffee, oats, bread
Ethel Staff
Comment Icon

It’s confusing to sort out information about which foods are healthy. Eggs were once a no-no because of cholesterol count, but now the American Heart Association sees them as a rich source of protein and vitamins. They even contain organic pigments that have been found to reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.        

The most consistent tips have been to lower sugar and salt intake and adhere to a Mediterranean diet, rich in plant-based foods, fish, nuts and olive oil.

Here are five foods that can benefit our health and even our longevity.

Whole grains: Not all ‘whole’ wheat is alike

Would you give up refined grains if whole grains may extend your life? White bread and pasta eliminate B vitamins, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium and antioxidants. Whole grains help “lower ‘bad cholesterol,’ triglycerides and blood pressure,” according to a 2019 article in Harvard Health.

Harvard Health cites one large study published in JAMA Internal Medicine showing that people who regularly ate fiber-rich foods had up to a 22 percent reduced risk of overall mortality due to cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Whole grains take longer to digest, reducing snack cravings. Eat 6 ounces of grain foods daily, at least half of them 100 percent whole grains: bread, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, oats, corn, spelt, rye or barley in grain form.

Beware: “Whole wheat” labeling is not necessarily true whole gains. Examine the package ingredients; “whole grain” should be listed first, with just a few additional ingredients. Avoid products that list added sugars among the first three ingredients.

Go fishing: For your health and our planet

Eating fish and seafood is associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association. Fish is a lean protein source with omega-3 fats, good for your heart and brain, lowering blood pressure and triglycerides.        

Reports from the Food and Drug Administration express disagreement with some experts that antibiotics and pesticides found in farmed fish can be harmful, but environmental organizations warn against bluefin tuna, orange roughy, farmed salmon, mahi-mahi and wild-caught halibut. Sustainable fish low in mercury includes wild-caught salmon, Atlantic mackerel, wild-caught sardines, herring, cod and rainbow trout.        

So, eat heart-healthy fish two servings or more a week. And you can mix up recipes, throw the fish on the grill or bake it with fancy glazes, as the best cookbooks feature diverse and delicious recipes for foods from the sea.

Coffee: Don’t ditch java for tea            

Despite warnings that coffee is bad for our health, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health cite studies that prove coffee is “chock full of antioxidants that may help guard against conditions more common in women, including Alzheimer’s and heart disease.”

I can’t start my day without a cup of freshly brewed coffee. My cutoff for a second cup is before noon; caffeine can linger in the bloodstream for 10 hours, affecting sleep. It can also have adverse effects on people with anxiety disorders, and it’s not recommended for pregnant women or children. You may like jumbo cups of your joe, though watch out for sweet grande-sized drinks that can compute at upwards of 500 calories! And always talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.

Bone Broth: Today’s trend of did grandma know best?

My grandmother’s long-simmering chicken soup was what we now call “bone broth.” Referred to as “Jewish penicillin,” it’s found in many cultures from Japanese ramen to Vietnamese pho. Chefs use stocks that simmer all day as the basis for sauces. Although it takes 12 to 24 hours to simmer a true bone broth, a crock pot does the job in four hours.

Many have claimed the broth provides collagen for joints and amino acids that build muscles and bones. Others report in a 2020 publication from Cedar Sinai Medical Center that there isn’t enough scientific evidence, though they agree the broth works for electrolyte imbalance.        

There are plenty of studies on the benefits of glutamine and other amino acids, which are found in bone broth. “There’s a logical connection,” says Marco Canora, a James Beard Award-winning chef who created Brodo, an organic bone broth he launched in a tiny New York City takeout window in 2014 that has exploded into national distribution. There are lots of imitators; true bone broths form a gel-like texture on top when refrigerated.          

“Well-made broth is low in calories, high in nutrition, nourishment in the form of protein and amino acids,” says Canora, who suggests trying a daily dose for a month to reap the benefits of better digestion and improved gut health, which drives your immune system.        

Canora sends quarts of bone broth to his aunt, in her mid-80s. “You sip it like tea. It’s comforting, soothing, you get the protein you need that doesn’t weigh you down. One of the most important levers to your well-being is what you eat and drink.”

Chocolate: Bitter may be better

After having a wisdom tooth pulled, I told my dentist I’d recover by eating chocolate pudding without guilt. She responded, “Why say ‘guilty pleasure’ when eating foods that make us feel good?”        

An article in Johns Hopkins Medicine titled “The Benefits of Having a Healthy Relationship with Chocolate” notes: “Women who associated eating chocolate cake with celebration had more successful weight maintenance,” and were less likely to binge.        

Among the antioxidants in chocolate, a flavanol has been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, increase blood circulation to the heart and brain, and lower risks of stroke, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The right chocolate can even lower your body mass index (BMI), according to a National Library of Medicine article on sarcopenia, or the decline of skeletal muscle tissue that comes with age. This condition leads to increased fragility, falling and broken bones.        

Health benefits are found in minimally processed dark chocolate with 70 percent or higher cacao. Check labels to avoid cocoa butter equivalents, hydrogenated oils and vegetable oils; ideal bars should have no more than four ingredients. Sprinkle cacao powder in your morning oatmeal or coffee. Rather than grabbing chocolate when you feel stressed, savor an ounce, knowing this tasty treat can improve health. That’s what I’m doing right now!

Photo collage credits: Shutterstock (6); Getty (5); Stocksy; Gallery Stock.

What are a few healthy foods you try to eat regularly? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Health
Editor's Picks
Find money-making endeavors that are personally satisfying.
, July 18, 2024
Here are the ones that top the list.
, July 18, 2024
It's incredibly welcoming, especially for older women travelers.
, July 18, 2024