5 ‘unhealthy’ foods that are actually good for you

Permission to tuck into your favourite sworn-off foods.

chips, hot chips, french fries
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With so much conflicting information out there regarding what is good for our health, it’s hard to know what the right foods to eat really are.

The most recent Australian Health Survey shows that 63% of adults are now overweight or obese, with 28% classified as obese. Projections suggest that by 2025, the prevalence of overweight and obesity will increase to over 70%, with approximately one-third of the Australian adult population classified as obese. Obesity-related diseases include metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Heart disease is the number one killer of Australians.

With obesity and obesity-related diseases on the rise, perhaps we’re not making the right decisions. But since a different food group is blamed each week, it’s hard to know what those right decisions are. Below, Nutritional Medicine Expert, Fiona Tuck, reveals five foods you’ve been told were bad for you but actually aren’t.

5 Foods You Thought Were Bad For You (But Actually Aren’t)

1. Coffee

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If you’re feeling guilty about indulging in another flat white or decaf cappuccino, feel free to drink up. We were once told that drinking coffee could be harmful to our health but new research may suggest otherwise. Research from the University of Southern California Norris Comprehensive Cancer Centre found that regular coffee consumption decreases the risk of bowel cancer. The findings revealed that the more coffee consumed, the lower the risk.

Further studies also suggest that regular coffee consumption may reduce the risk of other cancers such as brain and breast cancer. In pre-menopausal women, the consumption of regular coffee (four cups a day) has been associated with a 38% lower risk of breast cancer. While we’re not suggesting you start drinking it like water, if you want to have a second, go ahead.

2. Fruit & Fructose

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Sugar has recently become public enemy number one. As a result, many people have cut it out entirely, even the natural kind found in fruits and vegetables. However, health complications such as obesity, fatty liver disease and diabetes arise from eating excess sugar. In particular, the nasty high fructose corn syrup which is added to sauces, chips, salad dressings, fizzy drinks, and processed goods.

On the other hand, fruits contain the natural plant sugar, fructose. They also contain minerals, vitamins and fibre that are important for our health. Eating fresh, whole fruits is extremely healthy and cutting fruit out of your diet increases the risk of a deficiency in essential nutrients.

Fruit and vegetable juices can also be a part of a healthy diet. Just make sure you choose freshly squeezed and avoid the processed, pre-packed ones that often have preservatives, colours and added sugars.

3. Butter & Full-Fat Milk

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New information is now emerging to suggest that there is no proven scientific evidence to link saturated fat with an increased risk of heart disease or obesity. Even top cardiologists such as Dr Ross Walker are affirming this. We need fat for vital functions within the body such as hormone production, nerve transmission, cell membrane function and brain health. In fact, our brain is made up predominantly of fat.

Butter contains fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, D, E and K, all of which are vital for our health. The reality is, we are not eating enough fat and are at risk of becoming deficient in vital fat-soluble nutrients which can further contribute to disease within the body. Including butter in your diet is a healthy choice.

4. Grains & Legumes

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Paleo advocates will tell you that rice, nuts and legumes are bad for you as they contain a substance called phytic acid which can bind and therefore inhibit mineral absorption. The reality is, many plant-based foods including vegetables contain phytic acid. It would also appear that phytic acid may not be the menace that Paleo-lovers make it out to be.

Phytic acid has in fact been linked to enhancement of the activity of our body’s natural killer cells and may even inhibit tumour growth. Colon bacteria have been shown to produce potentially damaging oxygen free radicals in appreciable amounts, and dietary phytic acid might suppress oxidative damage to intestinal epithelium and neighbouring cells. Legumes such as lentils, peas and chickpeas are full of fibre, protein and essential nutrients such as folic acid. These are necessary for healthy DNA replication, fertility and cell health.

5. Carbohydrates

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Carbohydrates have been deemed the enemy for years; the mere mention of the word sends many running for cover. But carbs come in many forms and not all of them are bad. Carbs or sugars occur naturally in fruits and milk and are also added to many foods in the form of cane sugar, honey and maple syrup. They also appear as refined carbohydrates, as with white bread, white pasta or many cereals. Refined carbs offer little nutrient value and quickly turn to sugar and – when eaten in excess – fat in the body.

Our cells rely on carbohydrates as an efficient energy fuel source, particularly our brains. Removing carbohydrates completely from your diet can lead to low energy, fatigue, brain fog and lack of mental alertness. The good carbs such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables contain fibre and provide slow-released energy throughout the day, helping you to feel mentally active, alert, full of energy and happy.

Recent research from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre suggests a high carbohydrate and low protein diet, may be the most effective for stimulating the FGF21 hormone which may be responsible for longevity.


About Fiona Tuck

Fiona Tuck is a Professional Skincare Expert, Nutritional Medicine Practitioner and an accredited member of the Australian Traditional Medicine Society.

Fiona believes that the majority of health conditions can be traced back to nutritional deficiencies. If these deficiencies are left undiagnosed they can eventually lead to disease within the body. With that in mind, she specialises in diagnosing and correcting nutritional deficiencies to assist her clients on the road to improved health.