Health food crazes and diet fads come and go. It wasn’t that long ago when fat-free foods were all the rage, but it didn’t take long for us to realize that extra sweeteners had to be added to make up for the lost flavor from the lack of fat. Of course, this added unwanted calories making it counterproductive for dieting.
So besides fat content, we learned that there are other important things to consider in the healthy foods we eat, like sugar content (including table sugar, fructose, sucrose, and unhealthy sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners, etc.), salt content, saturated and trans fat content, artificial colors and preservatives, etc.
One thing we’ve learned is that virtually all processed foods contain unhealthy ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, and they tend to be high-fat, high-sugar, high-salt and high-calorie. They offer little in the way of actual nutrition and should be eliminated from your diet as much as possible.
But the news isn’t all bad when it comes to certain foods that you may have thought were bad for you but are actually healthy foods. Nutritionists now say these foods are good for you in moderation.
1. Popcorn: After it was discovered that a medium-sized bag of movie theater popcorn with a medium soda was nutritionally equivalent to eating three ¼ lb. hamburgers topped with 12 pats of butter, many people stopped eating popcorn altogether. But scientists recently reported that popcorn contains even more healthy antioxidant substances called polyphenols than fruits and vegetables. Polyphenols have been linked to a reduction in heart problems and other serious health conditions. Plus, popcorn is 100% whole grain and is a great source of fiber.
But don’t eat movie theater-style popcorn because it’s cooked in lots of oil and is topped with plenty of butter and salt. Some movie theaters pop their popcorn in coconut oil, which is one of the worst oils because it’s about 90% unhealthy saturated fat. Keep in mind that microwaved popcorn may have twice the calories of air-popped popcorn. Other concerns about microwaved popcorn include dangerous chemicals in the flavorings and ink on microwavable bags that may be toxic.
2. Chocolate: Chocolate generally gets a bad rap for containing high calories, sugar and caffeine and for causing acne. But dark chocolate is a healthy food because it contains powerful antioxidants called flavonoids—the same kind that are abundant in red wine, green tea, and fruits and vegetables. Flavonoids help reduce the risk of heart conditions, high blood pressure, stroke and other serious ailments. To get the health benefits of dark chocolate, you should only eat about six grams of dark chocolate per day, which is equal to about one square of a chocolate bar.
But don’t eat a slice of chocolate cake or a chocolate candy bar every day. Dark chocolate still contains lots of calories which can lead to weight gain, and being overweight increases your risk for heart problems and strokes.
3. Eggs: Eggs were once considered a dietary “no no,” especially for those with high cholesterol or a heart condition. But new research has found that healthy adults can eat one egg a day without raising their risk of heart problems. The American Heart Association says that the lutein in eggs may actually be protective against the progression of early heart conditions. Plus, eggs are a great source of protein, vitamin D and important vision and brain-supportive vitamins and minerals.
But don’t eat fried eggs or a three-egg omelet cooked in butter. The best way to cook eggs is in a non-stick pan with no oil or butter, or better yet, boil or poach your eggs.
4. Coffee: It used to be thought to stunt growth and cause spikes in heart problems. But new research on coffee has revealed that the health benefits far outweigh the health risks. Recent studies have found that coffee contains high levels of antioxidants that may help protect against Parkinson’s, dementia and type 2 diabetes.
But don’t drink too much coffee and beware of extra flavorings and toppings. Excessive caffeine consumption of more than four cups of coffee a day can increase anxiety, irritability and cause sleeping problems. Plus, beware of all the high-calorie and high-fat content in coffee flavorings and toppings, such as creamers, sweeteners and whipped cream. These extras can add hundreds of extra calories to each cup of coffee or latte.
5. Peanut butter: A two-tablespoon serving of peanut butter does contain about 15 grams of fat, but it’s the mono-saturated fat that is heart-healthy, similar to olive oil. And since peanut butter is full of fiber and protein, it helps regulate your appetite. It’s also a great source of vitamin E, potassium and vitamin B6. In addition, research has found that eating peanuts can lower your risk of diabetes, heart problems and other chronic health conditions.
But don’t eat just any peanut butter. Read the labels to compare sodium content, which ranges from 40 to 250 mg per tablespoon, and sugar content which is more abundant in low-fat peanut butters. The low-sodium, low-sugar variety is your healthiest option.
As with most foods, moderation is the key. Of course, these healthy foods should be including in a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and lean meats, and whole grains and fiber. To ensure you’re getting all the essential nutrients your body requires to maintain good health, take a daily multivitamin such as Healthy Choice Naturals Full Spectrum Daily Multiple. It provides a full spectrum of 56 powerful vitamins, minerals and nutrients that your body needs for clear vision, strong bones and a sound mind.