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'Bad' Foods That Are Really Good

5 much maligned foods are making a nutritional comeback.

WebMD Feature

When a good food goes bad, can it ever make good again? The answer seems to be yes.

Many of our favorite foods that nutrition experts once warned us against eating for the sake of our health are now making a comeback and may deserve a spot at your next meal.

These nutritional underdogs may have gotten a bad rap in the past, but new research shows that they may not be bad for you as once thought. In fact, they may even be better for you than what you're eating now.

Dark Meat: It's the New White

White meat chicken breasts have been the mantra for health-conscious carnivores for years, but now experts say you shouldn't feel guilty about wanting to go over to the dark side.

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are often a cheaper and tastier alternative to chicken breasts and only contain marginally more fat and calories than white meat.

"You're getting some nutritional pluses with dark meat too," says registered dietitian Joan Carter, an instructor at the Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor University. "It's moister, because it is a little higher in fat. But it also has more flavor and iron because that's what makes that meat dark."

The important thing is to take the skin off, where most of the fat in poultry lies.

Carter also says that today's pork really is the other white meat and has much less fat than in years past.

"Pork tenderloin is now a low-fat meat and should not be vilified as it was at one time," says Carter.

Lean cuts of beef, such as flank steak, have also become even leaner in recent years, but fatty cuts like rib eye steaks with visible marbling (i.e. fat) should still be reserved for only special occasions.

Margarine vs. Butter: Which is Better?

First came butter, and it was good, very good. When more economical margarine came along, butter became bad. But butter lovers were redeemed when the news came that margarines were high in a new type of artery-clogging fat called trans fat. Yet butter appears to be falling from nutritional favor again.

"The healthier choice is one of the soft margarines, without a doubt," says Alice H. Lichtenstein, DSc, professor of nutrition at Tufts University.

"Butter is extremely high in saturated fatty acids, and saturated fatty acids are the most potent in terms of increasing ["bad"] LDL cholesterol levels," Lichtenstein tells WebMD. "A lot of margarines are now trans fat free, and you can tell by the consistency, the softer the better."

Trans fats are created when manufacturers turn liquid fats such as oils into solid ones, like traditional margarine. Research has shown that trans fats raise LDL "bad" cholesterol levels, and this can contribute to the buildup of fatty plaque in arteries.

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