The Good and The Bad of 7 Foods

1 Chocolate

The Good

  • Antioxidant content. Dark chocolate is a potent antioxidant [7-8]. It is high in flavonoids such as catechin and procyanidin.
  • Protective effect on the cardiovascular system: dark chocolate induces coronary vasodilation, improves coronary vascular function, and decreases platelet adhesion (antiplatelet effect) [1-2].
  • Mood-elevating properties (short-term effect) [9]
  • Blood-pressure lowering effect [3]
  • High in potassium and magnesium

The Bad

  • High in fat, sugar and calories.
  • Chocolate cravings. Chocolate contains several pharmacologically active compounds (methylxanthines, biogenic amines, and cannabinoid-like fatty acids), which have addictive properties similar of other addictive substances [5-6].
  • Migraine. May provoke a migraine attack in sensitive persons [10-11]
  • Heartburn. May cause heartburn (adversely effects sphincter pressure) [12]
  • Kidney stones. Increases urinary oxalate excretion and may promote kidney stones (calcium oxalate calculi) formation [13-15]

The key: Eat in moderation. Avoid if you are sensitive to chocolate. Drink enough fluids to neutralize some negative effects (e.g. urinary oxalate excretion, thirst).


2 Red Meat

The Good

  • Minerals. Rich source of minerals such as iron and zinc.
  • Vitamins. Rich source of vitamins, particularly B vitamins, and vitamin D
  • Proteins. Excellent source of complete proteins.

The Bad

  • Cardiovascular disease. Red meat has a high content of saturated fat, which is associated with cardiovascular disease [24].
  • Colorectal diseases. There is strong evidence, that consumption of well-done red meat increases the risk colorectal adenoma (benign growths) and even more serious complications [17-19].
  • Arthritis. One prospective study showed that higher consumption of red meat was associated with increased risk for inflammatory polyarthritis [20].
  • Diabetes. High consumption of red meat increases the risk of type 2 diabetes [21-22]. Recent study demonstrated that higher consumption of red meat may aggravate hyperinsulinemia (too much insulin in the blood) and insulin resistance (condition in which normal amounts of insulin are inadequate to produce a normal insulin response) in non-diabetic people [16].

The key: Choose lean forms of red meat. Try to avoid high-temperature cooking methods, like frying and grilling. Cooking meat at high temperatures produces harmful chemicals (mutagens and carcinogens) called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) [17]. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are found in grilled, barbecued and smoked meat.



3 Nuts

The Good

  • Vitamins and Minerals. Excellent source of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin E, B vitamins, selenium, calcium, magnesium, copper, phosphorous, and iron.
  • Proteins. Best plant source of protein.
  • Nutritious. Rich in fiber, unsaturated fatty acids and phytochemicals. Walnuts are rich source of omega-3 fatty acid.
  • Cholesterol. Nuts contain low levels of saturated fats and high levels of unsaturated fats. Studies [4], [33-34] have clearly shown that consumption of nuts lowers total and LDL blood cholesterol levels.
  • Gallstones. Nuts are rich in several compounds that may protect against gallstone disease. Results of several studies [35-36] suggest that frequent nut consumption may reduce the risk of gallstones.
  • Cardio-protective benefits. Researchers found that people who eat nuts regularly have lower risks of heart disease [36-37]. The famous Nurses Health Study [32], which included over 86,000 participants, is an example of the heart-protective benefits of nuts. The participants in this study who ate nuts at least five times a week were found to have a 35% lower risk of heart disease compared with those who rarely ate nuts or avoided them.
  • Type 2 diabetes. Nuts appear to have a neutral effect on glucose and insulin and can be a part of a healthy diet for persons with diabetes or those at risk of diabetes [38]. Harvard researchers [39] found that women who regularly consume peanut butter and nuts have a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes compared to those who don't. Recent Canadian studies[40-41] demonstrated that almonds may decrease post-meal concentration of glucose in the blood (postprandial glycemia).
  • Eyesight. Nuts intake may reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration [42].
Nuts Facts
  • One common misconception about nuts is that peanuts are one of them. Peanuts are in fact legumes, like beans or peas (edible seeds that grow inside pods), and grow underground
  • Nuts and weight gain. Many avoid nuts for fear of weight gain. However, Spain researchers found that frequent nut consumption was associated with a reduced risk of weight gain (5 kg or more)[29]. In fact, people who eat nuts at least twice a week are much less likely to gain weight than those who never eat nuts

The Bad

  • Fats. Although nuts alone are low in saturated fats, many processed or flavored nuts are high in fat, sugar and sodium, and have added chemicals and preservatives.
  • Calories. All nuts are high in calories. 15 cashews, for instance, deliver ~180 kcal!
  • Allergies. Some people are allergic to one or more types of nuts. Nut allergies tend to be life-long, and are the leading cause of fatal food allergic reactions [31].
  • Oxalates and kidney stones. Nuts contain measurable amounts of oxalates. When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause formation of kidney stones [30].
  • Aflatoxin. Nuts may be affected by aflatoxin producing molds. Aflatoxin is a natural very toxic and carcinogenic substance produced by a type of fungus called Aspergillus. In the United States, aflatoxins have been identified in corn and corn products, peanuts and peanut products, cottonseed, milk, and tree nuts such as Brazil nuts, pecans, pistachio nuts, and walnuts. Other grains and nuts are susceptible but less prone to contamination [28]. The U.S. government tests crops for aflatoxin and doesn't permit them to be used for human or animal food if they contain levels over 20 parts per billion [27].

The key is not to add excessive calories to your daily intake. However, it looks like nuts do not promote weight gain, since they are filling and actually help curb the appetite. Nuts can definitely be a part of a healthy diet. The studies suggest that 30 to 60 grams (1-2oz) of nuts should be consumed daily to gain the maximum benefits seen. Eat a variety of nuts.



4 Coffee

The Good

  • Antioxidants. Coffee is a rich source of antioxidants [76] and melanoidins [74-75].
  • Parkinson's disease. There is evidence that coffee reduces the risk of Parkinson's disease[66-68].
  • Diabetes. Coffee consumption is potentially protective against the development of type 2 diabetes [72 - 73].
  • Liver cirrhosis. Coffee drinking may protect against liver cirrhosis [69].
  • Gallstones. Coffee drinking may be protective against gallstone formation in men and women [70-71].
  • Kidney stones. Coffee lowers the risk of kidney stones formation [64-65].
  • Gout. Coffee drinking may decrease the risk of gout in men [58].
  • Work performance. Studies [61-63] demonstrate the beneficial effects of caffeine in coffee on alertness, attentiveness, and wakefulness.
Coffee Facts
  • Folic acid supplementation decreases the homocysteine increasing effect of filtered coffee[55]
  • A water-soluble green coffee bean extract has a blood pressure-lowering effect[116]

The Bad

  • Heart disease. Most prospective cohort studies have not found coffee consumption to be associated with significantly increased cardiovascular disease risk [43, 47]. The strongest evidence for the suggestion that coffee is associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease comes from the case control studies [46].
  • Blood pressure. Caffeine in coffee produces unfavourable effects on blood pressure especially in people with hypertension [56-57].
  • Osteoporosis. Heavy coffee consumption can modestly increase the risk of osteoporosis[59-60].
  • Sleep. High amounts of caffeine produce negative effect on sleep[61].
  • Heartburn. Some people suffer from heartburn after drinking coffee.

All the above Pros and Cons and several other significant points in much more details are described here: The Pros & Cons of Coffee 



5 Eggs

The Good

  • Vitamins and Minerals. Vitamins that are present in eggs include: A, D, E, B1 (which helps properly release energy from carbohydrates), B2 (which helps release energy from protein and fat), B6 (which promotes the metabolism of protein), and B12 (known to be an essential vitamin in the formation of nerve fibers and blood cells). The only vitamin not present within eggs is Vitamin C. The minerals present in eggs include Iron, Zinc, Calcium, Iodine, and Selenium.
  • Protein. The egg is a highly nutritious and functional food. Eggs are about the best source of protein.
  • Eyesight. Eggs are rich source of two carotinoids, lutein and zeaxanthin. Lutein and zeaxanthin may significantly decrease the risk for eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataract[110-111].
  • Brain function. Eggs can improve memory and cognitive skills. Eggs are one of the richest dietary source of choline. Choline plays an important neurological role in the development brain and memory functions. It has also been found that prenatal deficiencies of choline have a negative impact on the development of areas of the brain related to learning and memory[112]. With 125 mg of choline, one egg provides at least 22% of an adult's daily requirement.
  • Inexpensive. Eggs are one of the cheapest forms of high quality protein available.

The Bad

  • Cholesterol. Eggs have been widely known for their high fat and high cholesterol content, providing about 200 mg of cholesterol per egg. Cholesterol from the egg comes exclusively from the egg yolk. Dietary cholesterol does not automatically become blood cholesterol. The extent to which dietary cholesterol raises blood cholesterol levels isn't yet clear. Many scientists believe that saturated and trans fats have a greater impact than dietary cholesterol in raising blood cholesterol.
  • Coronary artery disease. Epidemiologic studies do not support the idea that egg consumption is a risk factor for coronary disease. However, high egg consumption (more than 6 eggs per week) may increase the risk of coronary heart disease in people with diabetes[108-109].
  • Allergy. Egg protein is a leading cause of food allergies.
  • Salmonella. Raw eggs can contain Salmonella. Scientists estimate that, on average across the US, approximately 1 of every 20,000 eggs might contain the bacteria.

The key is not to prepare eggs in too much butter or oil. You may consider opt for scrambled, hard boiled or poached eggs.



6 Red wine

The Good

  • High content of polyphenols. The polyphenols originate from the skins, seeds, and vine stems of the grapes while some are formed during the process of vinification. In nature they exhibit a wide range of biological effects as antioxidants, antimicrobials, and modulators of various enzyme systems. These antioxidants come in two main forms: flavonoids and nonflavonoids. Other types of alcohol, such as white wine and beer, contain small amounts of flavonoids, too, but red wine has higher levels. Resveratrol is the nonflavonoid antioxidant that researchers are most interested in.
  • Coronary heart disease (CHD). One of most well-documented benefits of red wine is a heart protective effect. Moderate consumption of red wine on a regular basis may be a preventative against coronary heart disease[101]. The regular drinking of red wine has been suggested as the explanation for the "French paradox", the relatively low incidence of coronary atherosclerosis in France as compared with other Western countries, despite the generally high intake of saturated fat in the French diet. Scientists believe the red wine reduces the risk of coronary heart disease by reducing production of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and boosting high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and by reducing blood clotting.
  • Cholesterol. One of the most important benefits of regular wine consumption is an increase in levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the "good cholesterol"). One to 2 drinks per day of red wine have been shown to increase HDL cholesterol by about 11-17%[94-95]. This extra HDL cholesterol can then serve to remove some of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the "bad cholesterol"), from the circulation and lessen the amount of material available for fatty plaque formation. Plaque formation may be further hindered by the polyphenols in red wine that possess antioxidant properties.
  • Blood clots. Red wine produces anticlotting, or antithrombotic, action[96-98]. Light to moderate consumers of wine have lower levels of protein fibrinogen, that promotes blood clot formation. Recent study[97] demonstrated that in addition to alcohol, the polyphenols in red wine also promote anticlotting effect.
  • Atherosclerosis. Red wine may prevent the initiation and progression of atherosclerosis (hardening" or "furring" of the arteries). Atherosclerosis starts when blood vessels begin to lose their natural ability to relax, or vasodilate. Both the alcohol and polyphenols appear to favorably maintain healthy blood vessels by promoting the formation of nitric oxide (NO), the key chemical relaxing factor that plays a important role in the regulation of vascular tone[100].
  • Hypertension. Excessive alcohol consumption is generally considered a risk factor for hypertension. However, there is some evidence of red wine favorable effects on blood pressure. Two glasses of red wine (250 ml), taken together with the meal, lower post-meal blood pressure in hypertensive persons[93]. French researchers suggest that a moderate regular wine drinking may reduce the hypertension-related risk of death[92].
  • Risk of death from all causes. European researches suggest that moderate red wine intake has a protective effect on all-cause mortality. According to studies[101-104] from the UK, Finland, France and Denmark moderate consumption of wine is more beneficial than that of beer or spirits. In general, moderate daily intake of red wine (22-32 g of alcohol) is associated with a lower risk of death from all causes by 30% compared with abstainers. Sounds quite impressive!
  • Stroke. Red wine consumption may have a protective effect on the risk of ischemic stroke[105].
  • Kidney stones. Red wine intake reduces the risk of kidney stone formation[87].
  • Alzheimer's disease. Moderate wine drinking correlates with a lower risk for Alzheimer's disease. Resveratrol, a red wine polyphenol, was found to produce neuroprotective effects [106-107].
  • Smoking. Acute smoking significantly impairs vasodilatation. Red wine, with or without alcohol, decreases harmful effect of smoking on endothelium (layer of cells that provide a friction-reducing lining in lymph vessels, blood vessels, and the heart) [99].
Interesting Facts
  • Interestingly, grilled fish does not contain high level of carcinogens (heterocyclic amines) [25]
  • Drippings and grill residue scrapings, which are often used for gravies and sauces, contain significant amounts of carcinogens[25]
  • According to research[26], red meat and processed foods consumption negatively affect body odor attractiveness
  • Modest substitution of carbohydrate-rich foods with protein-rich foods (e.g. lean red meat ) may lower blood pressure in hypertensive persons[113]
  • Lean red meat, trimmed of visible fat, consumed as part of diet low in saturated fat, does not increase the blood cholesterol levels and the risk of coronary heart disease[114], [115]

The Bad

  • Migraine. Red wine may trigger migraine headaches in some sufferers.
  • Dehydration. Alcohol is a dehydrating agent.
  • Impairment of driving-related skills. Even low amounts of alcohol can adversely effects attention and motor skills. In fact, many serious accidents are alcohol related.
  • Interactions with medications. Alcohol may interact harmfully with a great number medications: anticoagulants, medication for diabetes, beta blockers, antihistamines, antibiotics, antidepressants, pain relievers, sleeping pills.
  • Intoxication. Alcohol is a downer that reduces activity of the central nervous system. High amounts of alcohol can turn into intoxication and hangover. The alcohol intoxication causes loose muscle tone, loss of motor coordination, slower reaction times, lowering of caution and other negative effects.
  • Pregnancy. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause a number of birth defects, ranging from mild to severe. Alcohol is quickly transferred from the mother's bloodstream to the baby's. Researchers have not been able to determine the exact amount of alcohol that is "safe" for the development of the baby. (The truth is we don't really know what a safe level of alcohol consumption is for a pregnant woman).
  • Liver. Over time, large amounts of alcohol can contribute to the build-up of toxins and other harmful materials in the liver, permanently damaging its function known as liver cirrhosis.
  • Alcoholism. Heavy drinking can develop into an addiction. Excessive alcohol use can lead to a great number of serious diseases.

The key: The key to benefit from red wine consumption is Moderation and Regularity. Heavy drinking (>131 g/day) of any alcoholic beverage significantly increases the risk of death.



7 Beer

The Good

  • Source of Vitamins, Minerals and Flavonoids. Beer is rich in many vitamins of the B group and in such minerals as magnesium. Barley and hops used in the production of beer are rich in flavonoids, which have powerful antioxidant effects.
  • Coronary heart disease (CHD). There is quite strong evidence that light-to-moderate alcohol consumption has cardio-protective properties. Many research studies [80-83] demonstrate a lower coronary heart disease incidence among moderate beer drinkers. Moderate drinkers are at lower risk of CHD-related mortality than both heavy drinkers and abstainers. Vitamin B6 in beer seems to prevent the alcohol-induced rise in blood homocysteine, a probable heart disease risk factor[79]. Also, beer intake decreases blood coagulation activity (inhibiting the formation of potentially dangerous blood clots) [83].
  • Cholesterol. Moderate alcohol intake affects many processes in the body, one of which is the significant increase in HDL cholesterol - the good cholesterol. There is supporting evidence for beer's cardio-protective effect and for its help in altering the ratio of beneficial high-density lipoprotein cholesterol to the low-density cholesterol [84].
  • Kidney stones. Beer consumption may reduce the risk of developing kidney stones[87]. Finnish researchers [86] found that there was a 40% lower risk of kidney stones in beer drinkers.
  • X-Rays radioprotection. Japan researchers found that beer helps reduce chromosomal damage from radiation exposure [89].
Alcohol Facts
  • Moderate drinking is defined as no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men[85]. A drink is considered to be 12 oz regular beer, 5 oz wine, or 1.5 oz 80-proof distilled spirits. According to the United States definition, a standard drink contains approximately 0.5 fl oz (or 12 g) alcohol. The limit for men is higher because men generally weigh more and have more of an enzyme that metabolizes alcohol than women do.

The Bad

  • "Beer belly". Heavy beer drinking may promote abdominal obesity in men [78].
  • Heartburn. Beer may induce gastroesophageal reflux and cause heartburn [88]. Beer contains powerful stimulants of gastric acid secretion.
  • Blood pressure. Daily beer consumption (approximately 40 g of alcohol) may increase blood pressure [90].
  • Gout. Beer contains much higher amounts of purines than other alcoholic beverages. Researchers found that regular beer intake increases the risk of gout [91].
  • Dehydration. Alcohol is a dehydrating agent.
  • Intoxication. Alcohol is a downer that reduces activity of the central nervous system. High amounts of alcohol can turn into intoxication and hangover. The alcohol intoxication causes loose muscle tone, loss of motor coordination, slower reaction times, lowering of caution and other negative effects.
  • Impairment of driving-related skills. Even low amounts of alcohol can adversely effects attention and motor skills. In fact, many serious accidents are alcohol related.
  • Interactions with medications. Alcohol may interact harmfully with a great number medications: anticoagulants, medication for diabetes, beta blockers, antihistamines, antibiotics, antidepressants, pain relievers, sleeping pills.
  • Alcoholism. Heavy drinking can develop into an addiction.

The key: Again, moderation and wisdom. Growing evidence supporting the nutritional and health benefits of moderate beer drinking is NOT a permissive license to drink in excess. Moderate beer consumption appears to improve health. However, remember, alcohol abusers are at higher risk for all types of disease. Also, abstinents should not be advised to begin to drink solely to protect against heart disease.



Copyright 2006-2017 HealthAssist.net. All rights reserved.
Products mentioned are trademarks of their respective companies.
All information is for educational purposes only.
For medical advice and diagnoses consult your doctor.