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Top 10 Foods You Didn’t Know are Actually Good for You

actually-healthy-foods-surprise

Each day, we face an ongoing dietary dilemma and are tasked with the never-ending question of which foods are “good” or “bad” for our health. It is essential, however, to keep in mind that while navigating the complex and confusing journey to a healthy lifestyle, we must not fall victim to the dangerous myths regarding these 10 foods that are surprisingly healthy choices.


Coffee

cup of coffee actually healthy foods

While many of us, as kids, were relentlessly reminded by our parents and pediatricians that coffee would stunt your growth, it turns out that coffee isn’t all that bad for you. This morning and break-time essential for students and working people everywhere have benefits other than getting you through that all-nighter and that progress report in by morning.

According to research done at UCLA, drinking coffee increases biological levels of a protein called sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) in the blood. SHBG is responsible for regulating the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone that are correlated with Type II diabetes.

In a study written in The European Journal of Neurology, caffeine intake was found to be directly correlated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, whereas several other possible factors such as family history, heart disease, smoking habits, and other health conditions were found to have no significant effect on one’s risk of Alzheimer’s.

       

Chocolate

chocolate or cocoa actually healthy foods

No, replacing all the fruits and veggies in your diet with candy bars and chocolate ice cream is not a good idea. However, studies show that while milk chocolate contains high sugar and fat content, a few pieces of dark chocolate a week can turn this guilty indulgence into a not-so-guilty treat after all.

According to a study published in The Journal of Nutrition, chocolate combats what we know as “bad cholesterol,” or, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. This is primarily due to the plant sterols (PS) and cocoa flavanols (CF) found in chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa and low-fat content. Lower levels of cholesterol can lead to a healthier heart and improve blood pressure or even prevent stroke.

Dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa also contains several antioxidants and even iron, which can be useful for athletes in need of a quick energy boost, or for pregnant women working to promote fetal growth and development.


Red Wine

red wine glasses and bottle actually healthy foods

We’re all familiar with the unparalleled power of a glass of red to help us wind down after a long day at work, or serve as the perfect pairing for an elegant “steak and potatoes” dinner.

Well, it turns out that the benefits of red wine may be even greater than you thought. Studies have proven that occasionally kicking back with a glass of red wine can help fight cancer, prevent weight gain, and even train your brain in ways that’ll lower your risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Red wine contains several antioxidants, with an especially high concentration of resveratrol, a compound that comes with a host of special powers. According to research done at the University of Virginia, resveratrol has a unique ability to inhibit cancer-promoting proteins, preventing cancer cells from growing. Additionally, research done at the Research Center for the Study of Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders showed that resveratrol also inhibits the formation of the beta-amyloid protein, a key player in promoting Alzheimer’s disease.

According to The Journal of Biological Chemistry, red wine also contains a compound called piceatannol, that when bound to insulin receptors of fat cells, inhibits their growth and maturation, keeping us slim as a result.

   

Popcorn

popcorn actually healthy foods

This junk food is a movie night favorite for families everywhere… but it may not be as unhealthy as it is made it out to be. If you pass on all the fattening butter toppings and flavorings, plain salted popcorn is one of the only classic snack foods that are 100% whole grain, high in antioxidants and fiber, which can aid in digestion and lower cholesterol.

Since popcorn is 100% whole grain, it is packed with vitamins and minerals that come from bran, a component of grain that is often absent in processed grain. The high fiber content in popcorn is key regarding digestion and keeping one’s bowel movements in check, but also has a regulatory effect on your blood sugar, lowering your risk of Type II diabetes as well as cardiovascular disease.

According to the health journal Nutrients, popcorn contained a high number of polyphenols, essential antioxidants present in many fruits but diluted because of their water content. The dry nature of popcorn maintains the pure polyphenol in the grain and allows us to reap all of its benefits – including the prevention of osteoporosis, cancer, diabetes and other degenerative disorders – that much more.


Potatoes

potatoes actually healthy foods

While the great debate ensues about whether potatoes count as a starch or vegetable, it is pretty safe to conclude that regardless of which team you stand by, this versatile, high-carb food has several health benefits, especially if you eat the skin, where all the nutrients, such as potassium and fiber, are stored.

Contrary to common belief, the British Journal of Nutrition asserts that potatoes do not have as high of a Glycemic Index (GI) as people think. In other words, they don’t have such a negative impact on your body’s blood sugar. Additionally, while many of us are repelled by the “pure-carb” nature of potatoes, they are actually a pretty low-calorie choice (average 150 calories/medium sized potato) and come with their fair share of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that make them a worthwhile investment.

If you enjoy this starchy veggie in its unadorned form (including the skin!) rather than fried or loaded with fattening toppings such as butter and sour cream, you’re doing yourself a favor. One medium baked potato provides potassium, a crucial part of nerve and muscle function; phosphorus, an important player in energy production and Vitamin C, which helps solidify your bones. Potatoes are also known to be complex carbohydrates, meaning that they break down more slowly and are more sustainable than your standard, white, processed carbs do.


Pasta

pasta actually healthy foods

If you make the switch and opt for whole wheat or whole grain instead of white, this starchy choice is actually not a bad one. Available in dozens of fun shapes and sizes, pasta is a nutritious addition to so many meals, and an excellent meal on its own when flavored with sauce or melted cheese. However you prepare it, this traditional part of Italian cuisine comes with its fair share of health perks.

While pasta has long been considered a fattening and carb-y food to be avoided at all costs for weight watchers, a study published in Nutrition and Diabetes concluded that in fact, the opposite may be true. After analyzing the biological effects on individuals who consumed moderate amounts of pasta alongside those who didn’t, those who enjoyed the occasional pasta dish had lower BMIs than those who didn’t. Moreover, the leaner group reported eating a diet involving other foods associated with the Mediterranean diet, contributing to a healthier lifestyle.

Other than having a positive effect on your waistline, pasta is also a great source of fiber, potassium, calcium, and even protein. It’s a cholesterol-free choice that can do wonders for your cognitive function, heart, and of course, your taste buds.


Red Meat

red meat actually healthy foods

Red meat has been a vital source of human sustenance since the beginning of mankind. What is it about steak and burgers that have caused them to stand the test of time and become such a crucial part of our diet? Why have we come to rely so heavily on red meat and think of our meals as lacking without it?

While the vegetarian and vegan movements continue to gain traction and numerous propaganda continue to preach the negative impact of red meat on our health, it might not be wise to blind ourselves to the nutritious benefits of red meat and only focus on its high saturated fat and cholesterol content. Lean red meat is not only one of the best sources of protein available, but it is packed with vitamins and minerals. Red meat is an especially good source of heme iron, a natural source of iron that is easily absorbed by our bodies, as opposed to non-heme iron, found in plants, which requires acid for total absorption.

Research published in Public Medicine busted common myths about red meat consumption and concluded that a diet that incorporates trimmed, lean, red meat does not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease or raise cholesterol and that saturated fat is more of a concern in fast foods and oily snacks.


Peanut Butter

peanut butter actually healthy foods

For many of us struggling with weight loss and maintenance, peanut butter seems like it tops the list of foods to avoid, right up there with fudge brownies and cinnamon buns. However, peanut butter doesn’t deserve this reputation. Peanut butter is not only an excellent source of protein, but it also contains “good fat” and fiber that keeps us full for longer and prevents us from eating more later on.

According to a study done at Vanderbilt University, a diet that incorporates a sufficient amount of nuts is correlated with a lower overall death risk. The combination of healthy unsaturated fats, nutrients, antioxidants and protein in a serving of peanut butter lowers cholesterol, and wards off heart disease and diabetes. Additionally, peanut butter contains a compound called beta-sitosterol, a plant sterol that aids with stress relief and immunity.


Honey

honey actually healthy foods

While this sweet and sticky substance is the cause of tension among vegans everywhere, those of us who do incorporate honey into our diets reap all the benefits of this delicious superfood. Honey’s nutritional perks and healing powers demonstrate why it’s all the buzz lately.

According to an abstract found in Public Medicine, honey has various antibacterial properties that combat threatening E Coli. and salmonella. Some honey has even been found to be a more effective treatment than antibiotics for peptic ulcers, burns, inflammatory skin conditions, and more. The unique healing qualities of honey are commonly utilized to soothe a sore throat.

Additionally, a study done at the University of Memphis found that the unique type of glucose in honey is a much more effective energy-booster than regular sugar for athletes looking to improve performance and endurance.


Cheese

cheese actually healthy foods

This gooey indulgence is commonly associated with dietary disasters such as pizza, mac n’ cheese, cheesecake, or, in its purest and perhaps most frightening form, fondue. But if you take a second look at the nutritional benefits of this dairy delight, you may be pleasantly surprised… even if you do have to cut back on pizza and enjoy a veggie-packed cheese casserole instead.

According to a study published in Public Medicine, cheese contains a substance called butyrate that can prevent colon cancer by protecting the cells in your colon and reducing inflammation. Nutritionists have also highlighted the weight loss effect of butyrate, explaining that it boosts your metabolism and helps burn calories.

Cheese is also a good source of calcium, which is a major component of healthy bones, and whey, a protein found in most dairy products that aid in muscle development and functioning.

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