The “eat this, not that” philosophy is everywhere these days. Food purists have convinced many of us that avoiding certain foods altogether is the only way to be healthy. Turns out, some of these so-called “unhealthy” foods have far more benefits than we’ve been led to believe. Plus, if they bring a small amount of joy to our lives, that’s a benefit in itself. As long as we enjoy our “guilty pleasures” in moderation, there’s no reason to feel badly for indulging in them every so often.
Here’s a little something to sweeten your day: chocolate is packed with antioxidants, magnesium, heart-healthy flavonoids, and most important of all — chocolate! When choosing chocolate you want to feel kinda healthy about, go to the dark side. Make sure it’s made with at least 75% cocoa and that cocoa powder is the first ingredient. Milk chocolate is mostly sugar, and white chocolate technically isn’t chocolate at all!
No matter how you slice it, calling the wedge of hot, greasy goodness you grab from the gas station “healthy” is really stretching it. But not all pizza is created equal. Homemade thin crust pizza, loaded with veggies and light on the cheese, makes for a fiber- and protein-rich meal. The tomatoes in the sauce alone are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, potassium, folic acid, and lycopene.
Regular omelets are more nutritious than egg white omelets, and that’s no yolk. While it’s true the yolk contains all the fat and cholesterol, that includes healthy fats, and it also contains most of the health benefits of the egg. Yolks are an egg-cellent source of A and B vitamins, selenium, and lutein, which helps prevent macular degeneration.
Red meat has been demonized for decades for its association with coronary artery disease. But recent studies show the level of risk depends more on on how the meat is processed than the meat itself. If you’re opting for red meat anyway, a big juicy steak — which is rich in protein, iron, and vitamin B12 — is a much better dietary decision than a hot dog, cold cuts, or bacon.
The savory sandwich spread we all grew up loving has gotten a bad rap in recent years. The fat and calorie content in a one-tablespoon serving alone is enough to make any health nut put the jar back on the shelf. But while peanut butter is high in fat, about 80% of that fat is heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils. Studies show that peanuts, peanut oil, and peanut butter significantly reduce the risk of heart disease when consumed daily. Just make sure you stick to the natural stuff, with peanuts and salt listed as the only ingredients.
You probably think we’re hopping mad to add beer to this list, but believe it or not, it belongs on the “everything in moderation” list. For one, beer contains more protein and B vitamins than wine, and it has the same amount of antioxidants. Moderate alcohol consumption is also associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease. As long as you make beer a part of a healthy, well-balanced diet, a swig or two will do you no harm. Bottoms up!
The nut milks and other dairy alternatives that line the grocery shelves are ideal for people with lactose intolerance and those following a plant-based lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean cow’s milk is actually bad for us. Almond, rice, oat, hemp, and coconut milks offer up only one gram of protein per cup, while real dairy milk offers eight. You also get buckets of calcium and vitamin D out of the deal, two nutrients that aren’t easy to find naturally in other food sources. As long as your digestive system can tolerate dairy, milk is a single-ingredient whole food you can feel good about leaving on your shopping list.
Although most people eat them in potato chip or French fry form, white potatoes themselves aren’t as unhealthy as people think they are. In fact, these vitamin C-rich complex carb bombs are one of the cheapest, healthy whole foods out there. When paired with a protein or healthy fat, they’re also easy to transform into a complete meal that can stave off hunger for hours.
Better grab the popcorn for this one — no, really.The movie night staple has long been given two thumbs down by health critics as just another junk food, thanks to its high fat and salt content. Air-popped popcorn, however, is a different story altogether. At only 100 calories per three-cup serving, you’re getting loads of filling fiber and powerful antioxidants as you satisfy your crunchy snack cravings.Kernel of wisdom: make unseasoned popcorn in an air popper, then lightly drizzle with olive oil and a dusting of your favorite seasoning. You might find you forgot all about the butter-drenched version.
Chances are you’ve heard all the buzz around caffeine’s negative effects on sleep (true for some) and its amazing ability to stunt growth (not at all true), but that doesn’t mean you have to quit your coffee habit just yet. Black coffee is brimming with antioxidants and can even ward off cognitive decline and dementia. While ordering the mocha cappuccino grande with extra sprinkles will likely cancel out any health benefits from your daily joe, drinking moderate amounts of the black stuff before noon can be a healthy pick-me-up.