How often do you google "is [blank] healthy?" You're certainly not alone in deferring to the internet for clarification—between marketing, conflicting studies, and different expert recommendations, deciphering which foods are actually good for us can be tricky business. With this in mind, the New York Times surveyed both a panel of nutritional experts and regular Americans to see which foods they considered healthy—and the resulting report, which was published last week, is quite eye-opening.
Take coconut oil, for example. Given that we hear about its multitude of uses and benefits on a near-daily basis, we might as well assume that it could solve the world's energy crisis and fuel us to Mars at this point, right? Yet shockingly enough, while 72% of the public understandably rated it as healthy, only 37% of nutritionists agreed. What?
Here are some other foods that saw a similar gap:
Granola bars: 71% of the public consider them healthy; 28% of nutritionists consider them healthy.
Frozen yogurt: 66% of the public consider it healthy; 32% of nutritionists consider it healthy.
Granola: 80% of the public consider it healthy; 47% of nutritionists consider it healthy.
Orange juice: 78% of the public consider it healthy; 62% of nutritionists consider it healthy.
A general theme among these deceptively unhealthy snacks is that they're actually quite high in sugar and calories. (Of course, choosing unsweetened granola and monitoring serving size makes the choice marginally better.)
On the flip side, there were also a handful of foods that nutritionists considered perfectly healthy, while the public disagreed. (Spoiler: That nightly glass of vino is A-OK.)
Quinoa: 89% of nutritionists consider it healthy; 58% of the public consider it healthy.
Tofu: 85% of nutritionists consider it healthy; 57% of the public consider it healthy.
Sushi: 75% of nutritionists consider it healthy; 49% of the public consider it healthy.
Hummus: 90% of nutritionists consider it healthy; 66% of the public consider it healthy.
Wine: 70% of nutritionists consider it healthy; 52% of the public consider it healthy.
As for the foods that both groups had mixed feelings about, popcorn, steak, and whole milk topped the list. Hamburgers, diet soda, and white bread were almost unanimously declared unhealthy, while both groups agreed that foods like apples, oranges, oatmeal, and chicken were smart, healthy choices.
Oh, and as for that whole coconut oil business? We had to defer to nutritionist Dana James for her take on the matter. "Coconut oil is a saturated fat, and so that's why it still has its negative reputation," she clarifies. But don't clear it out of your pantry just yet—used in moderation, she says that it's just fine. Better yet—move it to your medicine cabinet for its many beautifying uses, and start cooking with Now Foods MCT Oil ($28), which is the healthiest derivative of coconut oil (and even burns fat).
Want more healthy eating tips? Check out these nutritionist-recommended ways to make yourself crave healthy foods.
This post was originally published on July 11, 2016.