If you watch your diet, there’s no doubt you’re pretty knowledgeable about what you’re putting in your mouth. You know the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ foods to eat for optimum health, energy and weight maintenance.
Or do you?
There are probably foods you don’t let yourself eat – those things you think are fattening, fat-laden or forbidden. You’re afraid that if you let them touch your lips, your healthy habits will be a thing of the past.
Wait – we’ve got good news for you. You can forget about all that (well, not exactly…We’re not saying cheesecake or banana splits are healthy). But there are some foods that were once considered forbidden that are not unhealthy, after all.
And, surprise! They may actually be good for you.
Recent studies show that eggs don’t deserve their bad reputation of being nutrition villains. They used to be considered to be a major contributor to high cholesterol and heart disease; but now, nutrition experts deem eggs perfectly fine to eat. In fact, they may even improve your health. Yes, eggs have a high cholesterol count – one large egg contains 213 mg. of it – but after many years of study, it’s been found that cholesterol is not the culprit in heart disease, but rather, it's saturated fat like full-fat dairy and fatty meats.
Eggs contain a number of nutrients that are hard to come by in other foods, and one contains just 75 calories and seven grams of high-quality protein, along with iron, vitamins, minerals and carotenoids (which may reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration).
Most healthy adults can enjoy an egg a day, guilt-free.
A few years back, a report came out from the Center for Science in the Public Interest on popcorn that sent people running away from it. A bucket of popcorn, it said, had as many calories as a hamburger plus a Quarter Pounder plus a Big Mac at McDonald’s. Yikes!
What many people failed to realize is that the report was referring to those oversized, large buckets of movie-theater popcorn that were popped in saturated oil and topped with loads of butter and salt.
It’s really all in the preparation: Popcorn, which is a 100% whole grain, is actually good for you. It contains lots of fiber and healthful polyphenols, which have been linked to a reduced incidence of heart disease and certain cancers. Just stay away from the movie theater-style popcorn, and beware of the microwave varieties, which can contain twice as many calories as the more healthful air-popped types.
For years, coffee got a bad rap from health experts who said it was an addictive stimulant and a culprit in higher rates of cancer and heart disease. Now there’s good news for all you coffee-lovers out there: no evidence exists to support these claims. In fact, coffee has a host of health benefits. Studies link it to lower rates of type-2 diabetes and some cancers. It might protect against Parkinson’s disease, improve memory, mood and energy levels and might possibly cut the risk of melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer.
Coffee is the number one source of antioxidants in the U.S. diet, making it a good bet for more than just that morning jolt.
4. Peanut Butter
This "all-American food" has also been a food that’s been shunned by those concerned with calories and fat. While peanut butter does contain a lot of fat – just two tablespoons has 3.3 grams of saturated fat – it also contains 12.3 grams of unsaturated fat, which can help reduce your LDL ("bad" cholesterol) and lower your risk of heart disease. A little saturated fat in your diet isn’t such a bad thing: the body responds to it by revving up the amounts of protective HDL (“good” cholesterol) it circulates. Peanut butter also boasts a combination of fiber and protein that will fill you up and keep you full longer, while supplying vitamins E and B6, plus potassium.
Finally, like dessert, we've saved the best for last. Don’t ignore dark chocolate; that’s the variety that has many health benefits like powerful antioxidants known as flavonoids. Flavonoids are abundant in fruits and vegetables, red wine and green tea. They’re associated with a decreased risk of many health ills including stroke, high blood pressure, cancer and coronary heart disease. The cocoa in dark chocolate may have favorable effects on cholesterol levels due to its beneficial stearic and oleic acids. Dark chocolate also boosts serotonin and endorphin levels in your brain, leading to an improvement in mood and pleasure. Don’t think this gives you license to indulge in unlimited amounts of the stuff; remember, it still contains fat and calories. A small piece of dark chocolate once in a while is a good thing. Choose varieties that have undergone minimal processing (which can destroy the valuable flavonoids) and contain at least 60 percent of cocoa solids. The darker, the better.