Don't Exclude These 5 Foods From Your Diet

Bread, Oreos, Gouda, pasta, mangoes, Twix—I could list foods people avoid for days. While some foods are avoided due to health or allergy reasons, often times, people avoid specific foods because they feel that eating them will make them gain weight or be damaging to their overall health. However, those beliefs about why the food is unhealthy are unfounded and, in fact, many of those rumored "unhealthy" foods can have numerous nutrition and health benefits.

Working as a registered dietitian for close to 20 years, I've had many clients rattle off different kinds of foods they've eliminated from their diet when they meet with me. Besides missing out on tasty foods, being afraid of certain foods can diminish the enjoyment of dishes made with these foods (hello, banana cream pie!). Eating and food should be a positive experience, and, as long as you are eating them in moderation, there is no reason to avoid them. Of the foods people steer clear of, these five inspire the most fear among people trying to lose weight—I argue that you should keep them all in your diet.

1. Potatoes

Spuds are a nutritional powerhouse packed with more energy than most any vegetable. A medium (5.2 ounce) potato with the skin provides 110 calories and is filled with complex carbohydrate, potassium and vitamin C. It also provides three grams of protein and two grams of fiber.

A common complaint is that potatoes have "too many carbs," but did you know that carbs are a primary source of energy for your brain and is also a key source of energy for your muscles? While potatoes most often come to us deep fried or swimming in butter or sour cream, when cooked in a healthy manner, the starch includes key nutrients we need as part of a healthy diet. For example, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans identified potassium and an under-consumed nutrient for Americans. One medium potato provides 30 percent of your recommended daily amount of this important electrolyte, which aids in muscular and cardiovascular function. With the combination of complex carbs, potassium and energy, it's also a perfect food to help fuel your workouts.

2. Eggs

Over the past 40 years, eggs have gotten a bad reputation. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which concluded that consuming eggs can increase your risk of heart disease, effectively putting doubt in consumers once again. However, looking at the overall context of research, eating eggs in moderation is not associated with a higher risk of heart disease in generally healthy people.

Eggs are a perfect protein, making them a nutritious addition to a well-balanced diet. They provide 13 essential vitamins and minerals for only 70 calories. Many folks often toss the golden yolk, but nearly half the protein (more than 40 percent) is found in the yolk, along with fat-soluble vitamins A, D and E and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. Surprisingly, much of the fat found in the yolk is unsaturated, and helps with the absorption of important nutrients.

If you're worried about the cholesterol in eggs, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recently dropped the 300 milligram maximum cholesterol per day ceiling that was recommended for many years and no longer provide limits. This is because there was a lack of scientific research that showed that eating too much cholesterol raises blood cholesterol levels. The change doesn't mean you can eat as many eggs or cholesterol-filled foods that you want, especially because many foods high in cholesterol also contain saturated fat which has been strongly linked to raising blood cholesterol levels. When it comes to eggs, stick to a maximum of one whole egg per day as part of a balanced diet.

3. Bananas

This very handy portable snack often gets the cold shoulder for containing too much sugar. However, again, it's all about portion control. One medium banana provides 105 calories, 27 grams of carbs, 14 grams of natural sugar and three grams of fiber. It is also an excellent source of vitamin B6 and a good source of vitamin C and potassium. Research has found that vitamin B6 is beneficial for your heart as it can help reduce homocysteine, an amino acid that, when high, can lead to blocked arteries.

So what exactly is the size of a medium banana? It is between seven and seven 7/8 inches long. Although you may not go to the store with a tape measure, choosing smaller bananas can help you keep portions under control while allowing you to reap the many benefits bananas offer.

4. Canned Fruit

Unless you live in a tropical paradise, good fruit can be difficult to come by. And, yet, this convenient option that is available year-round gets frowned upon for being unhealthy simply because it comes out of a can. A recent study found that canned food in general provides an important source of nutrition for both adults and children. In the study, those who used six or more canned foods per week were more likely to have diets higher in 17 essential nutrients, including potassium, calcium and fiber, each of which is chronically under-consumed by Americans.

In addition, according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, all forms of fruit, including canned, count as a serving from the fruit group. While the heating process in canning can destroy a few important nutrients (many of which would be lost in the cooking process anyway), the heat used actually improves the quality and availability of other nutrients found in fruit. In addition, research shows that canned fruit has similar (or better) nutritional profiles compared to their fresh or frozen counterparts.

If you're worried about the sugar in canned fruit, know that only two percent of added sugar in the diet comes from fruit and vegetables, including canned varieties. To help control added sugar from canned fruit, choose canned fruit with no added sugar and opt instead for fruits packed in water or in their own juices.

5. Coffee

If the barista at your local coffee shop has your order ready before you step up to the counter, you're guilty of the main issue with coffee: overconsumption. While coffee in and of itself is not harmful for your health goals, drinking too much can be an issue. Adding tons of sugar and heavy cream can increase the calories significantly, even if you order that coffee black. If you tend to order the fancy coffee options with whipped cream, artificial flavors or creamers, you're likely unknowingly adding a hefty 500 or more calories to your diet.

All of that said, you don't have to turn your back on your daily cup of joe if you're looking to improve your health so breathe a sigh of relief. In fact, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans was the first time coffee was recommended as part of a healthy diet. According to the Guidelines, evidence shows that drinking between three to five cups of coffee per day (or up to 400 milligrams per day of caffeine) is not associated with increased long-term health risks. In addition, there is consistent evidence that shows that consumption may be associated with a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. If you're committed to skipping your caramel macchiato with a double shot of vanilla and whipped cream on top in favor of a black coffee with a splash of almond milk, you can still enjoy your daily caffeine boost without damaging your health goals.

News of foods to avoid or fad diets hit the front page and our inboxes every single day, so it's important to do your research before buying into any claim. If you're curious about a report's claims, start with a simple internet search and consider contacting your doctor or a registered dietitian if you have more questions. The fact is, most foods can fit into a healthy diet that is based on whole foods and moderation. The most important thing is to ensure that you are fueling your body with the right nutrients, vitamins and minerals so you can function and thrive.