Healthy eating can often seem pretty overwhelming. There is an endless array of different diets and their accompanying rules, and it can be hard to determine what you should eat and what you should avoid. Many food fanatics know that a diet filled with fruits, veggies, and whole grains is the key to success, but you don’t need to limit yourself to just those foods. There are many foods that have a reputation for being unhealthy that actually provide you with a surprising number of vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants. Whether you want to lose weight or prepare more nutritious meals, eating these foods can provide you with some wonderful benefits. Here’s a list of 7 “unhealthy” foods that are secretly nutritious.
Bacon for breakfast is a tasty treat, but it’s gotten a bad reputation for being packed with salt and saturated fat. While that is true, bacon isn’t all bad news. Rachel Begun, a food and nutrition consultant, told Health that when used as a garnish, it can cause you to eat more healthy foods. “It’s got such a salty, smoky flavor that you can use small amounts to jazz up veggies — in fact, a little bacon can make you love veggies more,” she said.
Bacon is also high in protein, with one 3-ounce serving containing 20 grams of protein, according to SFGate. That same serving size also provides 1 microgram, or 42 percent of your daily recommended intake, of vitamin B12. This helps you metabolize fats and protein, plays a role in brain function, and protects you from nerve damage. If you’re going to eat bacon, follow Health’s advice and use it as an ingredient in a side dish or salad. It’s a good way to make sure you aren’t eating too much of it.
Potatoes often make the foods-to-avoid list. If you’ve still got the mindset that white potatoes are empty carbs with no nutritional benefits, it may be time to change the way you view them. A potato is filled with nutrients like vitamins C and B-6, in addition to folate and fiber, according to SparkPeople. It also is packed with antioxidants, which help fight free radicals; one potato has 20 percent of your recommended daily amount of potassium, according to Best Health.
The trick to keeping potatoes healthy is to avoid add-ons, such as sour cream and cheese, and practice portion control. If you’ve got a potato that takes up half of your plate, only eat one-third or half of it. Instead of using fatty foods to add more flavor, season it with garlic, herbs, and pepper, and bake it in the oven, SparkPeople suggests.
How many times have you heard that eating eggs, particularly the yokes, will clog your arteries and likely cause a heart attack, stroke, or diabetes? This is not the case at all. In fact, a Salon article says that eggs don’t contribute to heart disease or stroke, particularly in healthy people. Eggs do, however, help to raise your HDL (good) cholesterol and are high in iron, protein, and vitamins A and D.
When you eat eggs, you’re also getting a healthy dose of two antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthine, which help to protect your eyes against age-related disorders. As with everything, practice moderation when it comes to eating eggs. One to two eggs each day is perfectly fine, according to News.com.au. Try to pick eggs that are from free-range chickens and stay away from those that come from antibiotics-riddled, factory-farmed chickens.
For years, we’ve been told that whole-wheat must be our bread of choice. But in actuality, sourdough bread is healthier than whole wheat, Rachel Beller, author of Eat to Lose, Eat to Win, told Health. Sourdough is unlike any other type of bread, because it’s made with a lactic acid starter that undergoes fermentation, thus altering the bread’s starches. That process helps prevent your blood sugar from spiking because it releases its glucose more slowly into the bloodstream, reports Health.
Additionally, SFGate explains that it’s low in fat, contains no trans fats or cholesterol, and has a significant number of vitamins and minerals, including selenium, folate, thiamin, and manganese. A substantial selenium intake can decrease your risk of heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, infections, and cancer, while folate aids in energy metabolism. Thiamine helps your body metabolize proteins, carbohydrates, and fat, and SFGate writes that manganese helps the body regulate blood sugar levels and promotes the absorption of calcium. There’s no need to pass on the bread basket at dinner, as long as it’s sourdough.
Moderate coffee consumption can do a whole lot of good for your body. Coffee drinkers are less likely to have type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia, in addition to being linked to fewer cases of certain cancers, heart rhythm problems, and strokes, according to WebMD. “There is certainly much more good news than bad news, in terms of coffee and health,” Frank Hu, a nutrition and epidemiology professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, told WebMD.
Of course, most of us have also experienced what coffee can do if you consume too much too fast. Livestrong details the impacts of too much caffeine, which include nervousness, jitteriness, irritability, stress, and agitation. The lesson here? Don’t go overboard with the antioxidant-packed beverage. Livestrong suggests keeping your caffeine intake to less than 200 milligrams a day, the equivalent of about two cups of regular coffee.
Whole milk and yogurt
Years ago, a diet trend popped up that claimed full-fat foods were responsible for America’s obesity epidemic. However, an article in JAMA Pediatrics says that reduced-fat milk is high in sugar and is actually what’s contributing to the country’s obesity. Furthermore, recent research shows that children who consume skim milk are more likely to be more overweight than those who drink it whole, writes Salon.
The same goes for yogurt. According to Health, research shows that normal-weight women who consume whole-milk dairy products are less likely to gain weight with age. The full-fat version of yogurt also has a better flavor and will fill you up faster. If you’re ready to break free of the low-fat stigma, full-fat dairy products are a great way to do it — just remember to keep an eye on your portions. One cup of full-fat plain yogurt has 110 calories and 5 grams of saturated fat.
Contrary to popular belief, delicious dark chocolate is bursting with antioxidants and nutrients. WebMD explains that it has flavonoids similar to those found in fruits, veggies, tea, and red wine. In fact, when you sit down to savor a heavenly dark chocolate bar, it can improve your blood vessel flow and can reduce your risk of diabetes by improving your blood sugar and insulin sensitivity. A small amount of the heavenly sweet treat can also impact your blood pressure.
“Moderate regular dosages of flavanol-rich cocoa products such as dark chocolate may be part of a comprehensive lifestyle plan to optimizing blood pressure,” Karin Ried, the research director of the National Institute of Integrative Medicine, told CNN. When you’re choosing chocolate, aim for it to have a high percentage of cocoa — at least 70 percent — per WebMD. And remember, moderation is key. Dark chocolate still contains fat and sugar, meaning overindulging could quickly void its health benefits. Aim for small portions of the decadent dessert.