I am willing to bet that you’ve been given the tip to “avoid white foods”. I hear it all the time and it drives me NUTS! I would like to be the first in line to tell you that white foods are good for you. Well…. some white foods are good for you anyway. 🙂
One of my my problems with the statement that you should avoid white foods is that many well intentioned health professionals didn’t include the adjective that should be included in that statement. It should be “cut back on processed white foods”. This would communicate to the person that processed grains (like white flour, white rice and white pastas) are less nutritious than the whole versions (whole wheat flour, brown rice and other nutrient rich grains).
My other problem with the statement to avoid white foods is that they never point out the nutritious white foods that are good to include in your diet. And many people were told to avoid white potatoes.
PLEASE!! There is nothing wrong with white potatoes!! My grandmother is beaming right now, because she loved potatoes! [And lived to 92, by the way]. She always said that she should have stock in Idaho with the number of potatoes she ate.
Anyway, I think potatoes receive a bad rap because they are used to make french fries and potato chips. I would argue that eating real, whole potatoes is perfectly healthy. You can make your own french fries or potato chips if you want and they would be tasty AND healthy.
Another reason potatoes get picked on is because they have a high glycemic index, which means they can cause a quick rise in blood sugar compared to other foods. However, the glycemic index is a measure of a food eaten by itself. I never eat a potato plain, do you? I love to put some plain greek yogurt, cheese, chopped tomatoes, chives and even some shredded lettuce. All those topings are going to slow the digestion and therefore reduce the glycemic index. And even french fries and potato chips have enough fat on them to slow the digestion.
What’s My Point?
The point is that there are many nourishing foods that happen to be white. And plenty of research showing that the nutrients promote health and fight disease, including cancer!
Here’s a list of a few particularly beneficial white foods:
- navy beans
- white beans
- potatoes (yes – eat the skin if possible)
- white grapes
Each food has a different nutrient profile, but the examples above provide a variety of nutrients including:
- vitamin C
- folic acid
- fiber (there is convincing evidence that fiber intake decreases risk of colon cancer)
In addition to the above nutrients, there are a few key phytochemicals that are found in white foods:
- Allicin is found in onions and garlic. Allicin blocks or eliminates certain toxins from bacteria and viruses.
Garlic is on the AICR’s list of Foods that Fight Cancer. Check out their information here. There is probable evidence that it decreases risk for colon cancer.
- Flavonoids are found in onions and beans.
- Indoles are found in turnips (part of the “cruciferous” vegetable family). They contain sulfur and activate agents that destroy cancer-causing chemicals. Learn more about cruciferous vegetables and their cancer fighting properties.
Obviously, a dinner that included white beans, roasted cauliflower and white fish over rice with banana for dessert with be a better alternative to fried chicken, mashed potatoes and french bread. with vanilla ice cream for dessert. But notice… they are both technically full of “white foods”.
Next time someone tells you to stay away from white foods, be sure to point out all the nutritious ones!