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10 'unhealthy' foods which are not as bad for you as you think


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The McDonald’s double cheeseburger has been described as “the cheapest, most nutritious and bountiful food that has ever existed in human history”. With the help of a nutritionist, Daniel Johnson gives you 10 traditionally ‘unhealthy’ foods which may be better for you than you think
'The cheapest, most nutritious and bountiful food that has ever existed in human history' Photo: Getty Images



1 - Fish and chips


Heavily doused in salt and vinegar, a portion of fish and chips is rarely thought of as a good, nutritious meal. And although it is very high in calories and fat, the fish itself is very nutritious.

A portion provides vitamin C, vitamins B6 and B12, some iron, zinc and calcium, as well as iodine, omega-3 fatty acid and some important dietary fibre.

As Claire Williamson, a nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation, says: “Fish and chips can be eaten as part of a healthy diet, if eaten in moderation.

“Go easy on the chips though - or share a portion - and have some peas or salad with your fish and chips to make it more balanced.”

Unsurprisingly, Ms Williamson recommends you go easy on the salt.

The average portion of chip shop fish and chips has around 840 calories.


2 – Cheese


Cheese is high in fat, particularly saturated fat, and can contribute significantly to the amount of calories in a meal, even if just grated on top.

But some cheeses are particularly nutritious. Cheddar, for example, is high in calcium, zinc, vitamin B12, and is a source of vitamin A, riboflavin and folate.

Our nutritionist says: “Cheese should be included in the diet in moderation. It’s a great choice for children as it’s versatile and appealing while being nutritious.”

She also recommends adults eat more mature cheese, so you are tempted to eat less overall.

1oz of chedder holds 114 calories

3 – Baked beans

baked-beans_2631169c.jpg(Rex Features)

As a tinned, convenience food, surely baked beans cannot hold any nutritional value? According to Ms Williamson, baked beans – and other beans or pulses – are an important source of protein and fibre in the diet.

Baked beans also provide calcium, potassium and some iron. And in what will be music to the ears of many a late-night eater: “The combination of beans and toast actually provides a good balance of amino acids (the building blocks of protein), so it’s a good option for vegetarians.”

There are 164 calories in a 1/2 cup serving of Heinz Baked Beans.


4 – Alcohol


A Harvard study of more than 18,000 men found that those who had an average of two drinks every day had a lower risk of a heart attack than those who drink a lot, but less often.

Men also have lower levels of abdominal fat than those who drink only once or twice every two weeks but drink more than four drinks each time, according to researchers at the University of Buffalo.


5 - Pizza


While pizza is not exactly low in fat, if you choose your pizza carefully then there can be a lot of nutritional value. By sticking with a thin crust, whole wheat, half the cheese, either chicken breast or ham, and lots of vegetables, then there is plenty which is healthy.

The cheese gives you some calcium, although it does bring sodium and saturated fat with it. Tomato sauce gives vitamins A and C and the cancer-fighting chemical lycopene. There is also some fibre in the toppings of vegetables.


6 - Fried breakfast


According to research published in the International Journal of Obesity, a breakfast of bacon, sausages, eggs, and beans could be the healthiest start to the day.

Scientists believe that breakfast programmes your metabolism for the rest of the day, and a fatty meal will help the body break down fat later on. Dr Martin Young, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who lead the study, says: “The first meal you have appears to programme your metabolism for the rest of the day.

“This study suggests that if you ate a carbohydrate-rich breakfast it would promote carbohydrate utilisation throughout the rest of the day, whereas if you have a fat-rich breakfast, you (can) transfer your energy utilisation between carbohydrate and fat.”

A full English has around 977 calories.

7 – Curry


Eating a curry once or twice a week could also stave off dementia, research has suggested.

Tests on fruit flies found that those given curcumin, the key chemical in tumeric, lived 75 per cent longer. The research, carried out by academics at Linkoping University in Sweden, could explain why dementia rates are lower among the elderly in India than their Western peers.

Alzheimer’s is linked to the build-up of protein in the brain called amyloid plaques damaging the wiring.

Curcumin did not dissolve the plaque, but accelerated the formation of nerve fibres by reducing the amount of their precursor forms, known as oligomers, from which they were formed.


8 – Chocolate


Obviously a lot depends on the bar, because they are high in both fat and sugar.

But cocoa is rich in a number of minerals and polyphenols, mainly flavonols, the same compounds found in red wine and green tea which are good for your heart. It is particularly prominent in dark chocolate.

Our nutritionist says: “Although it is ‘energy-dense’ there is no clear link between chocolate consumption per se and increased risk of becoming overweight or obese. But choose dark chocolate if you can as it has a higher cocoa content and therefore polyphenol content.”

For those suffering from high blood pressure, chocolate could reduce your chances of having a heart attack or stroke by 20 per cent over five years, meaning a chunk of chocolate a day could have the same result as half an hour of exercise.

There are 546 calories in 100g of dark choclate.


9 – Eggs


Eggs have traditionally been considered bad for you because they are so high in cholesterol. However a number of studies have attempted to disprove the idea that there is a link between eggs and heart disease.

One in the 2011 issue of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that while a single yolk contains nearly the daily recommended limit for cholesterol, it is the most nutrient-rich part, with iron, zinc, vitamins A and D. The yolk also is extremely high in protein.

There are 66 calories in a medium egg and 78 in a large egg.


10 – Milk shake


Generally thought of as a high calorie treat, milk shakes are actually highly nutritious, largely due to the milk content, Ms Williamson says.

Semi-skimmed milk is a source of calcium and riboflavin and is high in vitamin B12, an important part of the diet, particularly for children whose bones are still developing.

Ms Williamson recommends: “Add bananas or other fresh fruit to make a smoothie and go easy on the sugar for a delicious, healthy treat.”






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Interesting read, I don't think we really understand the complex link between food and the effect on our bodies.

Every few months there seems to be some "new scientific" study that tells us something about food and health, then a few weeks later another study disproves it.


The best advice I imagine, is to practice moderation. Hmmm I feel like a big mac now :)

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