Are these foods really bad for you?

Jo Carlowe / 22 February 2016

From eggs to prawns, we learn the truth behind the scare stories about these nine nutritious foods.



1. Cows’ milk

‘Three glasses of milk a day linked to earlier death’ claimed the Daily Express in 2014, reporting a Swedish study that said more than a glass of milk a day raised your risk of heart disease and more than two glasses raised your risk of cancer. But experts say the results were flawed and do not tally with other findings. Cows’ milk is an excellent source of calcium, and rich in protein, vitamins and minerals.

Related: 'Unhealthy' foods that are OK

2. Coffee

A website recently ran the article: ‘19 horrible things that can happen if you drink too much caffeine.’ True, too much can cause restlessness and insomnia, but a 2015 study from Harvard, linked 3-5 cups of coffee a day to reduced risk of death from cardiovascular and neurological diseases.

Related: How tea and coffee affect your health

3. Eggs

The idea that eggs raise your cholesterol is old news, and US guidelines once limited people to four a week. Today, we know that saturated fat is more influential in rising blood cholesterol than dietary cholesterol and the restrictions have been lifted. Eggs are relatively low in saturated fats, and a great source of protein, minerals and vitamins.

Related: 10 healthy reasons to eat more eggs

4. Bread

Though 7% of British adults avoid gluten-filled products, true allergies to wheat or gluten are comparatively rare. For most people, wholegrain bread is a good source of fibre, which is associated with a lower risk of diabetes, stroke, heart disease and colorectal cancer.

Related: Find out more about allergies and intolerances

5. Red meat

Last October, the World Health Organisation listed red meat as a ‘probable’ carcinogen, but its classification was based on ‘limited evidence’. It follows earlier headlines: ‘Red meat linked to breast cancer’. Current health guidelines don’t advise cutting out red meat (which is rich in protein, iron and zinc) but to limit it to 500g a week (70g) a day.

Related: Learn more about how red and processed meat affects your health

6. Prawns

US guidelines warned people against consuming more than 300mg of cholesterol per day. Prawns, containing 200mg per 100g, came under the cosh. But now we know more about the causes of higher blood cholesterol, prawns can be enjoyed as a food low in saturated fats, rich in protein, minerals, vitamin E and omega-3.

Related: Learn more about cholesterol

7. Offal

Originally viewed as peasant food, and the only meat not rationed in the Second World War, it’s easy to see why people dismiss offal (organ meats and entrails) as unhealthy. But offal is low in saturated fats and a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals.

8. Tuna

‘Mercury in tuna is more dangerous than you think’, read the several online headlines. Mercury can affect the developing foetus, so limitations are set for pregnant women. But the Food Standards Agency says the mercury we get in food isn’t harmful for most people. Everyone should eat at least one portion of oily fish a week. It’s high in omega 3 fatty acids and good for the heart.

Related: 10 healthy reasons to eat more fish

9. Potatoes

The past 20 years has seen a 40% drop in our intake of fresh potatoes, with many reacting to Internet reports that the starch will make them fat. But half our dietary energy is supposed to come from starchy carbs, particularly those high in fibre, such as potatoes with their skins on. It’s smothering them in butter or frying them that causes the problem, not the potato itself.

Related: The truth about carbs

Find out more

Read our article ‘So What Can You Eat?’ in the March issue of Saga Magazine.   Subscribe to the print edition or download the digital edition today.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.