These days, meal planning can feel an awful lot like navigating a minefield. After all, news outlets are constantly coming out with contradictory reports about which foods are good for you and which will lead to an early death.
While no one’s going to tell you that chocolate cake will help you lose weight or that a bag of potato chips will cure your acne, note that some of your favorite guilty pleasure treats might be less culpable than you think. From avocados to olive oil, a number of edibles have developed an undeserved rap over the years. Check out these seven foods that are healthier than you might realize.
7 Unexpected Healthy Foods
Creamy and satisfying, avocados are a favorite treat for good reason. These fruits are perfect when sliced in salads or sandwiches, added to eggs, or used to make a tangy dip for chips. And while you might worry that avocado contains too much fat to indulge in on the regular, the truth is that it’s a type of monounsaturated fat that’s good for the heart. Plus, this versatile piece of produce is rich in potassium—in fact, avocados have 60% more potassium than the famous banana. In addition, avocados contain substances known as plant sterols, which are proven to lower cholesterol. So the next time you make a sandwich or mix up a salad, don’t be afraid to toss in some of this treat.
Speaking of potassium, the famous banana is no slouch in that department, either. With studies showing that a diet rich in potassium can help lower blood pressure and cut heart disease risk by 27%, it’s only logical to incorporate bananas into your diet. Moreover, these sweet and conveniently portable fruits are also loaded with fiber, vitamin B6, folate, and magnesium. And with just 100 calories per banana, you don’t have to feel bad about indulging.
It’s true that bananas are high in sugar. As a result, eating too many may cause problems for diabetic individuals or those on a strict carb-free diet. However, most people can indulge in this sweet treat guilt free.
Once upon a time, steak and ground beef were staples on most of the kitchen tables in America. However, eating habits have adapted over the years, and these days you’re more likely to see lean white meats like chicken and turkey. Still, beef might not be the bad guy many of us believe. With grocery stores selling leaner cuts than they did a decade ago, it is possible to buy a healthier steak. Additionally, beef provides our bodies with a number of key nutrients, such as iron, selenium, and B12. So you can feel good about dishing up that serving of beef stew now and then; just be sure to opt for leaner cuts and limit your portion size to around 3 ounces.
From cheddar to feta, gruyere to mozzarella, cheese comes in delicious and seemingly endless varieties. And while it’s true that many types have a relatively high fat content, you don’t have to turn down the cheese plate just yet. Studies show that there are numerous benefits to sampling a slice, including the fact that cheese has a high calcium content. This perk is a particularly good one for women, who often suffer from osteoporosis and other calcium deficiency diseases later in life. Moreover, consuming calcium can reduce your risk of developing metabolic syndrome, a health condition that has been linked to heart disease and diabetes. When consumed in moderation, cheese also provides protein to build strong muscles and bones and natural fat to coat teeth and help prevent cavities, so don’t ditch the dairy just yet.
Wondering whether eggs are good or bad for your health? You’re not alone. Over the years, scientists and consumers alike have debated whether or not the incredible, edible egg is a help or a hindrance. Luckily, the latest news on this versatile protein source seems to be positive. Recent research reveals that eggs likely don’t raise cholesterol like previous generations believed. Moreover, eggs contain a number of vital nutrients, including zinc, iron, choline, and vitamin D, the latter of which may reduce your risk of developing heart disease and certain cancers. In fact, a 2018 study by Chinese researchers showed that eating just one egg a day could reduce your risk of cardiovascular problems compared to those who don’t consume eggs.
Need another reason to eat eggs? The sheer number of cooking options available is sure to keep you from getting bored. Eggs are delicious hard boiled, soft boiled, poached, or scrambled, so cook up a couple today.
Just because it has oil in its name doesn’t mean this product is bad for your health. On the contrary, cooking with olive oil—or consuming it drizzled over bread—has a number of health benefits. In fact, studies have shown that adults who ingest 2 tablespoons of virgin olive oil each day for seven days demonstrated a higher level of antioxidants and a lower cholesterol level. Further, olive oil has been proven to reduce inflammation, aid in heart health, and even decrease a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer down the line. In light of all these benefits, it makes sense to reach for the olive oil instead of the butter or vegetable oil the next time you’re cooking.
Those of us with high blood pressure have probably heard the lectures from our doctors: cut back on the salt or else. And while overdoing it on savory snacks can definitely put you at risk for cardiovascular disease, strokes, and other heart issues, some sodium is necessary to keep the body functioning at optimal levels. Along with preventing dehydration, sodium enables nerves to transmit signals and ensures proper cell function. Further, being sodium deficient can result in stress and depression. For best results, strive to keep your sodium intake around 1500 milligrams a day, as recommended by the American Heart Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Just because these food items offer some health benefits doesn’t mean you should eat them to excess. With the above items, it’s important to remember that a little goes a long way. However, if you keep consumption to a minimum, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy these treats as part of a healthy diet.