15 ‘Unhealthy’ Foods That May Actually Help You Live Longer

It’s hard to know exactly which popular foods are unhealthy. In reality, several foods have earned a bad reputation, but they have awesome health benefits when enjoyed in moderation. Here are 15 foods you don’t have to feel guilty about eating. (One alcoholic drink can actually help you live longer — on page 10).

1. Chocolate

A bowl with chocolate coated raisins

Dark chocolate is good for you. | Esdelval/Getty Images

When it comes to chocolate, the health benefits depend on the type you’re eating. While some people may think they need to swear off chocolate entirely, dark chocolate has excellent health benefits. It has more antioxidants than some fruits, plus plenty of fiber. And some studies showed it may lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels, which means it may prevent heart disease.

Next: This breakfast food is actually good for you. 

2. Eggs

Hard boiled egg breakfast

Eggs are a wholesome breakfast choice. | budgaugh/iStock/Getty Images

People once thought that eggs were a major way to increase your bad cholesterol, but research has proven otherwise. Eggs don’t have an effect on cholesterol, and they have some good health benefits. Eggs are a complete protein, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids, which are amino acids you need to get from foods. Eggs help you maintain a healthy weight, and experts say they have no connection to heart disease.

Next: This meat is packed with vitamins. 

3. Red meat

meat and vegetable

In moderation, red meat is healthy. | rez-art/Getty Images

Eating too much red meat has been linked to heart disease and cancer. But similar to many foods, red meat is actually very healthy in moderation. It’s loaded with vitamin B12, zinc, and protein, making it a great addition to the diet. However, consuming red meat every single day may put you at a greater risk of developing heart disease or cancer. But indulging in a steak once per week can actually offer several health benefits without putting you at a heightened risk.

Next: This tasty snack has plenty of calcium.

4. Cheese

cheese

Cheese is full of calcium. | fotek/Getty Images

Cheese is fattening, and certain cheeses are high in sodium, which has given this tasty snack a bad reputation. But snacking on an ounce of cheese each day actually improves your health. Cheese has beneficial amounts of calcium, protein, zinc, and vitamins A and B12. All of these work to keep your heart healthy, your bones strong, and your brain sharp. Eating a bowl of boxed macaroni and cheese isn’t the best option, but an ounce of sharp cheddar will give you all of these benefits.

Next: This starchy vegetable is healthier than you think. 

5. Potatoes

potato

Potatoes are a healthy starch. | YelenaYemchuk/ iStock/ Getty Images

Many people think starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, aren’t good for you. But potatoes are full of vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, vitamin C, and fiber. Plus, they contain simple carbohydrates, which are the healthy carbs your body needs for fuel. White potatoes are a great addition to any meal–you may want to steer clear of French fries, though, since they’re deep fried.

Next: Many people associate this with bad health. 

6. Olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil

Olive oil is full of healthy fats. | Dulezidar/iStock/Getty Images

Anything labeled “oil” is often regarded as horrible for your health, but there are exceptions. One tablespoon of olive oil actually contains heart-healthy fats, known as monounsaturated fats. It also contains anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to help prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s and diabetes. If you’re looking for a healthy way to incorporate olive oil into your diet, try adding it to your salad or a homemade sauce.

Next: Add some of this to your toast for a healthy breakfast. 

7. Peanut butter

Tasty peanut butter in a bowl

Spread some peanut butter on whole wheat bread for a healthy breakfast. | iStock.com/Alleko

Peanut butter is another food that gets a bad reputation for its fat content. But one tablespoon of peanut butter provides a good amount of protein, so spreading some on your whole wheat toast is a breakfast that will keep you full for most of the day — and you won’t have to regret it. It contains a good amount of vitamin E, magnesium, and potassium as well.

Next: This handy snack is healthier than you thought. 

8. Popcorn

Butter Popcorn

Plain popcorn is a healthy snack. | iStock.com/itakdalee

Salty, buttery popcorn isn’t the best choice if you’re trying to be healthy. But popcorn is a low-calorie, whole-grain snack that’s actually very good for you. Leave off the salt and butter, since that only adds fat and sodium, and enjoy plain popcorn for a healthy treat you won’t mind eating. Plus, research has linked popcorn to preventing cancer due to its polyphenols.

Next: Don’t feel bad about consuming this every day. 

9. Coffee

A person pours some coffee.

There’s no need to skip your morning coffee. | Sasha_Suzi/iStock/Getty Images

If you load your coffee with cream and sugar, it becomes unhealthy. But black coffee can actually be good for you. CNN reported that people who consumed four cups of coffee daily had a 64% lower risk of early death than those who did not consume coffee daily. Coffee has also been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes, dementia, liver disease, and certain cancers. Adding a few cups of joe to your diet isn’t a bad idea, especially as you age.

Next: You don’t need to swear off alcohol. 

10. Red wine

Wine in glass

One glass of red wine each night is beneficial. | Plateresca/iStock/Getty Images

Red wine contains resveratrol, which is a compound found in the skins of red grapes. It has been shown to lower cholesterol and contains heart-healthy antioxidants. But experts stress that you shouldn’t drink more than one glass per day to reap the optimal benefits. And if you have a history of alcohol abuse, don’t use it as an excuse to start drinking. But for those who love to sit back and enjoy a glass each night, you can do so without much worry.

Next: This food doesn’t have the same effect as white bread. 

11. Pasta

dry Italian pasta

Pasta doesn’t have the same effect as white bread. | Anna Kurzaeva/Getty Images

Pasta is often lumped into the same category as white bread because it contains simple sugars. But pasta actually doesn’t give you the spike in blood sugar that white bread does, so it shouldn’t be included in that category. It’s often paired with healthy foods, such as meat and vegetables, adding to a well-rounded meal. Whole wheat pasta is common, too, which offers complex carbohydrates and gives you the health benefits of whole grains.

Next: The word ‘chocolate’ makes people think this is unhealthy. 

12. Chocolate milk

chocolate milk

Chocolate milk is healthy in moderation. | Handmadepictures/Getty Images

Depending on the type of chocolate you use, chocolate milk can be high in sugar, which makes a lot of people assume it’s unhealthy. But drinking chocolate milk gives you all the benefits of milk (calcium, potassium, and other vitamins and minerals) in a way that tastes delicious and doesn’t have to be unhealthy. There are certain options, such as Ovaltine and Nesquik, that are healthier than traditional chocolate syrup.

Next: It’s mostly the toppings that make this treat unhealthy. 

13. Frozen yogurt

Frozen Yogurt with fresh fruit and chocolate chips

When it comes to frozen yogurt, the toppings play a big role. | iStock.com/TraceRouda

Frozen yogurt is a healthier alternative to ice cream, but with the ability to add a bunch of sugary toppings, it’s no wonder people don’t always see it as healthy. But getting vanilla frozen yogurt and adding fresh fruit and nuts makes it a wholesome treat that is packed with vitamins and minerals. Add a sprinkle of dark chocolate, and you’ll have a healthy, flavorful dessert.

Next: In moderation, this ingredient isn’t bad for you. 

14. Butter

Margarine

Butter is healthy in moderation. | YelenaYemchuk/iStock/Getty Images

Butter is not usually labeled a healthy food. The biggest problem with butter is that people eat too much of it, and since it’s high in fat, too much is a bad thing. But in moderation, butter actually has some great health benefits. It’s high in vitamins A and E and actually contains healthy saturated fats the body needs. Stick with just one tablespoon of butter, and you’ll reap these benefits without going overboard.

Next: Not all bread is created equal. 

15. Bread

Sourdough Bread

Try sourdough bread instead of white bread. | janetleerhodes/Getty Images

It’s true that white bread contains simple carbs that create a spike in blood sugar. Over time, it may increase one’s risk of diabetes. But there are plenty of other breads besides white bread; sourdough, rye, and whole wheat are all much healthier alternatives. There is no need to  cut bread out of your diet if you want to lose weight. Simply test a few other types of bread to find out which you like best, and stick with that kind.

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