Guilty Pleasures That Are Good For You

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Meat, potatoes, eggs, bread, chocolate. At one time or another, each of these foods has been shunned in the popular media. Many might even appear on your personal “do not eat list.” The irony: Each of these foods—and many others that get a bad rap—can actually be good for you. And even truly indulgent foods can fit into a healthy diet in the right doses.

In fact, here’s my list of 7 surprisingly healthy eats you can consider adding back to your plate:

1. Chocolate milk
The rap: Chocolate milk is full of sugar and calories.
The reality: Not only is chocolate milk a good source of protein, it’s also loaded with calcium, vitamin D and potassium, which are all nutrients that most Americans don’t get enough of. A bonus: The extra carbohydrates from the chocolate will help muscles recover more quickly after a workout. In fact, many trainers say chocolate milk is an ideal recovery food.

2. Potatoes
The rap:
Potatoes fell prey to the “no white foods” movement, which suggested that white foods were high on calories and low on nutrients.
The reality: Potatoes are high in fiber, potassium and vitamin C. And without the fatty toppings (butter, cheese and sour cream to name a few), they’re actually quite low in fat and calories. Even potato chips have some positive qualities. Sure, they’re fried and come with salt, but they generally go through little processing. The only ingredients: potatoes, vegetable oil and a little salt. Of course moderation is key.

3. Coffee
The rap:
Coffee is just a means to get a jolt of caffeine.
The reality: The caffeine in coffee is sure to give you a boost, but the popular beverage is also a top source of disease-fighting antioxidants. That may be one reason why studies link moderate coffee consumption with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Just keep your consumption at or below 2 cups a day, and steer clear of caffeine at least 6 hours before you are going to bed so it doesn’t interfere with your sleep.

4. Red meat
The rap:
Beef is a dietary minefield, loaded with fat, cholesterol and growth hormones.
The reality: Beef is a great source of protein and iron, an essential mineral that helps red blood cells shuttle oxygen from the lungs to all of the body’s cells and tissues—and one many people, especially women of childbearing age, are lacking. Plus, beef provides other vitamins and minerals, including B-vitamins and zinc. The caveats: Keep portion sizes to 3 to 4 ounces and choose lean cuts, such as filet mignon, sirloin, strip or flank steak. The goal, of course, is to choose a cut with the least marbling (also called saturated fat!)

5. Eggs
The rap:
For years, health experts have dissed eggs due to their cholesterol content.
The reality: If you’re worried about cholesterol, keep in mind that saturated and trans fats are more damaging to blood cholesterol than dietary sources of cholesterol. Eggs are an inexpensive and easy source of protein. While it’s true the yolk contains fat and cholesterol, it’s also packed with important nutrients, including choline and lutein (choline helps bolster the brain while lutein reduces the risk of eye disease).

6. Nuts
The rap:
Nuts are high in fat and calories and can wreak havoc on a healthy diet.
The reality: Eating nuts has been linked to a number of health benefits, including a lower risk of diabetes and heart disease. In addition to good taste and texture, nuts also boast protein and fiber, and they’re jam-packed with inflammation-fighting monounsaturated fat. So even though they’re relatively high in fat and calories, studies do show that snacking on nuts—just a small handful at a time—may actually promote weight loss (their protein, fiber and monounsaturated fats help stave off hunger pangs). The key is – small servings.

7. Bread
The rap:
Bread is just a slab of empty calories.
The reality: Bread made from grains stripped of their nutrients is empty calories. However, bread made from whole grains contains a number of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and fiber. And since most bread in this country is fortified, you’ll get a hefty hit of B-vitamins, too. Just make sure to select 100% whole grain or 100% whole wheat bread to reap the benefits.

I’m a firm believer that all foods can fit within a healthy diet. In fact, when you label a food “off limits,” chances are good you’ll become fixated on it. Instead of denying yourself the pleasure of eating something you’re craving—even if it seems indulgent—consider how you can enjoy the food without overdoing it. After all, when your diet consists mainly of low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods, there’s room for occasional treats.


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Categories: EatWell