Leveraged ETFs have made all the headlines lately. But if you've concluded that all ETFs are toxic investments that simply don't belong in your portfolio, then you're throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

A hurricane has hit the ETF world, as controversy over the misuse of leveraged ETFs has prompted many brokers to curtail or even outright ban their customers from buying them. Of course, that's unfortunate for the companies that specialize in leveraged financial products, as the fallout from all the scrutiny they've gotten threatens their viability.

For investors, though, whether leveraged ETFs survive isn't nearly as important as all those headlines may have you believe. If you're a typical investor just looking for a tax-efficient, well-diversified investment vehicle that gives you access to just about any kind of stock, bond, or niche asset class you'd ever want -- well, ETFs could be all you'd ever need.

4 ideas for your ETF portfolio
Whether you're thinking about venturing into the ETF world for the first time or are already an experienced ETF investor, I've got some ideas you should think about. These four ETFs won't necessarily give you a complete portfolio by themselves, but they can give you a good start toward adding some diversification to your existing investments.

1. Vanguard Total Stock Market (VTI)
If you're planning to use ETFs as the core of your portfolio, then a good broad-market stock fund is essential. While SPDR Trust, perhaps the best-known ETF ever, provides you with plenty of diversification, Vanguard's offering brings some added benefits to the table at a rock-bottom price.

On its face, there's not a whole lot of difference between the two funds. Both give you exposure to stocks like AT&T (NYSE:T) and Chevron (NYSE:CVX) that make up the S&P 500. But the most important benefit of the Vanguard ETF over the SPDR ETF is that you'll get plenty of stocks that the S&P 500 leaves out -- which includes not just small-cap companies, but also stocks like Visa (NYSE:V) and Mosaic (NYSE:MOS). That complete coverage prevents you from having to find dedicated small-cap ETFs to round out your holdings.

2. SPDR DJ Wilshire Global Real Estate (RWO)
Over the past 10 years or so, real estate investments have really caught on, and many now see real estate as an important component of any asset allocation strategy. While we all know how far residential real estate has fallen, some see an even more significant hit to the U.S. commercial real estate sector as the next potential phase of the economic downturn.

The idea behind this SPDR ETF is to give you a wide range of real-estate investments not just in the U.S. but around the world. You'll find familiar names like Simon Property Group (NYSE:SPG) and Vornado Realty Trust (NYSE:VNO) among its holdings, but you'll also find companies based in Australia, Japan, Europe, and Southeast Asia taking prominent roles in the portfolio. And the fund's expense ratio of 0.5% is reasonable for an ETF making international investments.

3. iShares Barclays TIPS Bond (TIP)
To give your portfolio some stability and a bit of income, owning a bond ETF can help round out your investments. While you'll find a variety of different fixed-income ETFs out there, this iShares fund gives you inflation protection that other bond ETFs just can't match.

Unlike other bonds, TIPS automatically have their principal value adjusted for inflation. So if there's an inflationary spike in the future, then TIPS will hold their value or even rise in value while other bonds suffer. With a wide array of TIPS, this ETF makes it easy to own inflation-indexed bonds without the hassle of putting together your own individual bond portfolio.

4. Vanguard Emerging Markets Stock ETF (VWO)
Lately, international stocks have again started taking off, especially those of emerging-market countries. Although chasing performance is generally a bad idea, that doesn't mean you should skip investing abroad entirely.

This Vanguard fund owns more than 700 stocks in emerging markets, ranging from top holding China Mobile (NYSE:CHL) to hundreds of smaller, lesser-known companies. All in all, the mix of countries and company sizes makes this fund a reasonably priced way to add international exposure to your portfolio.

Not all ETFs are bad
If you're ready to dismiss ETFs as a universally bad idea, then taking a closer look at these four ETFs could change your mind. Although some ETFs use fancy bells and whistles to attract investors, there are still many funds that aim for the more basic goal of giving you the best investments for your long-term portfolio.

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Fool contributor Dan Caplinger certainly isn't giving up on ETFs. He owns shares of SPDR Trust. The Fool owns shares of iShares Barclays TIPS Bond and Vanguard Emerging Markets Stock ETF. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Fool's disclosure policy always keeps its balance.