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2 “Healthy” Foods That Are Underrated

Two of our registered dietitians were recently asked to contribute to an article geared towards diabetics on "healthy" foods that are underrated.

First, let's clarify that "healthy" is defined as the (1) the absence of disease or (2) promoting good health.  While food can certainly contribute to overall health, there is no single food that represents all of the nutrients the human body needs.  Likewise, there is no one food that can cause disease.  As dietitians, we often cringe when someone asks "what are the healthiest foods to eat?" or "this is a really bad food, isn't it?".  These questions are loaded and a direct result of the diet culture we live in fueled by the multi-billion dollar diet industry.  The truth is, there are so many different foods, all of which contribute to overall health.  In fact, variety is likely to have a greater overall impact on health than any singular food.  We dietitians also know the value in food extends far beyond it's nutrients.  Food provides taste and sensory satisfaction, social connection and comfort.  So here's what our dietitians had to say about some of their favorite "healthy" foods that are underrated .

Pasta

Pasta is a delicious and nutritious food that has really gotten a bad rap over the past decade. First off, there are so many types of pastas now.  We can choose from traditional pasta, whole wheat pasta, chickpea pasta, black bean pasta…the list goes on. I’m here to talk about the wheat variety since this is what is most readily available and the most common.

 
The two options are traditional pasta and whole wheat pasta. BOTH can be delicious and BOTH are nutritious, which means they can both be included in a healthy diet.
Traditional pasta is great for just about any type of recipe since it can easily take on the flavor of whatever you are cooking. Whole wheat pasta has it’s own flavor, a bit more nutty, and may also be used in any kind of dish though it definitely has a more distinct taste. And yes, there is a nutritional difference between the two but neither is bad for us. Generally, we hear whole wheat pasta has more fiber, and it does, so maybe you could add vegetables to a traditional pasta dish to add more fiber in the dish. Problem solved. Also, whole wheat pasta has more B vitamins and the minerals, potassium, magnesium and phosphorous. However, we can get those nutrients from other foods throughout the day including meat, dairy, leafy greens and potatoes.
 
The moral of the story is, both types of pasta are good and are good for you. If we try to include a variety of foods into our diets, we will surely be able to get enough nutrients that meet our needs.
-Nikki Vance, RD, LDN
 
Pizza
 
A few clients have asked "what food would you  choose if I were on a deserted island could only have one food?".  Without skipping a beat, I tell them that I would definitely pick pizza. Not only is pizza a favorite food (partly because it reminds me of Trenton style pies from my hometown in NJ, and mostly because it tastes scrumptious) but, in my professional opinion, it is one of the more complete nutritional options out there. Depending on the slice, you are hitting on all of the macro (and many of the micro) nutrient groups: cheese (protein and fat), tomato sauce (“vegetable”), crust ( carbohydrates), optional veg (vitamins, minerals), optional meat toppings (protein)…And these nutrients work SO beautifully together. For example, the fat and protein in the cheese helps to slow down carbohydrate breakdown and absorption which likely leads to lower post meal glucose levels (in those of us who are monitoring), and the vitamin C in tomato sauce helps to absorb the vitamin D in the cheese which helps us to absorb the calcium in the cheese. Yay for strong bones! Just to name a few of the exciting nutrient collaborations that emerge from pizza. The list goes on...
 
It is important to keep in mind that pizza composition varies- some slices offer more nutrient variety than others. Fear not! If you opt for a pie without veg, for example, and you are determined to get it ALL in there, maybe opt for a side salad. Or don’t. You are still likely cramming a lot of good into one meal.
-Anne Mittnacht, MEd, RD, CEDRD
 
While pasta and pizza are "healthy" and remain favorites in our book, they don't fit diet culture's ideals that lend to restriction, deprivation and "good" or "bad" of foods. Nikki and Anne's comments weren't included in the editorial.  While it may be a less sensational message, all foods really can fit into a healthy diet.... yes, even for diabetics. AND satisfaction is a crucial component to eating. We highly recommend the book Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Diabetes, a collaboration between Michelle May, MD and Megrette Fletcher, MEd, RD. Diabetic or not, you need not fear any food!

 

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