Bad Foods Gone Good?
Bad Foods Do Time at a Health Reform School

Saturated fats have been thought for years to be unhealthy. Nutrition experts have been warning us about how they are fattening and bad for our health, but believe it or not, recent research shows that some of the nearly 15 types of saturated fats are actually heart healthy.

Saturated fats are classic examples of good foods gone bad, but there are other examples as well. Here is a list of five foods with an unwarranted bad reputation.

  1. Beef Jerky
    Although beef jerky can contain a lot of preservatives, it is high in protein and won't raise your insulin levels, which is good because insulin is a hormone that signals your body to store fat. Because of this, beef jerky makes a great between-meals snack, particularly if you are trying to lose weight.

    Although it is true that some brands of beef jerky have high sodium ingredients like MSG and sodium nitrate, there are some brands that are chemical free. If you are seeking lower salt foods or you have high blood pressure, look for brands that are made from all-natural ingredients, as this will reduce the total sodium content. Research shows that grass-fed (as opposed to grain-fed) beef contains the same healthy omega-3 fats found in fish.

  2. Coconut
    Since coconut has more saturated fat than butter, health experts have warned us that it can clog arteries, but it actually seems to have a beneficial effect on heart-disease risk factors. More than 50 percent of its saturated-fat content is lauric acid. A recent analysis of 60 studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that even though lauric acid raises LDL (bad) cholesterol, it boosts HDL (good) cholesterol even more.

    Overall, this means it decreases your risk of cardiovascular disease. The rest of the saturated fat is almost entirely composed of "medium-chain" fatty acids, which have little or no effect on cholesterol levels.

    A handful of shredded, unsweetened coconut is a great snack anytime, but don't pig out; it's still high in calories. It'll be filling, and won't spike your blood sugar.

  3. Chocolate
    Although chocolate is high in sugar and fat, cocoa is rich in flavonoids -- the same heart-healthy compounds found in red wine and green tea. Its most potent form is dark chocolate. In a recent study, Greek researchers found that consuming dark chocolate containing 100 milligrams (mg) of flavonoids relaxes your blood vessels, improving blood flow to your heart. What about the fat? It's mostly stearic and oleic acids.

  4. Pork Rinds
    These deep-fried puffy chip-like snacks are cut from pigskin. Even though they may sound horrible to some people (particularly to vegetarians) they are actually not bad for you at all. A 1 ounce serving contains zero carbohydrates, 17 grams of protein and 9 grams of fat. That's less fat than in a serving of potato chips and nine times the protein.

    Amazingly enough, 43 percent of the fat is unsaturated, and most of it is oleic acid -- the same healthy fat found in olive oil. Stearic Acid accounts for 13 percent of the fat content. Stearic Acid is a "harmless" saturated fat because it doesn't raise cholesterol levels.

    To make this food choice even better, try microwave pork rinds. Because they are not deep-fried, they contain less fat and fewer calories and they are less greasy than the usual pork rind fare.

  5. Sour Cream
    While it is true that 90 percent of the calories in sour cream come from fat, and that at least half of that fat is saturated, the total amount of fat per serving is not very high. A 2 tablespoon serving has only 52 calories. That is half of the amount in just 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise, and is actually less saturated fat than you'd get from a 12-ounse glass of 2 percent fat milk. Consider eating regular sour cream rather than the fat-free. Not only will it taste richer, but the fat will help keep you full longer.

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